I'm going to practice today and it turns out that I have an extra ticket. The website won't let me release it, but they will let me forward it by email. Soo, anybody want it?
Also, I'm going to designate this the "official" fanpost for anybody attending today's practice to leave their observations in the comments. I will have my own recap up at some point this evening.
Oh yeah, and is there anything in particular you guys want me to be watching out for today?
All right, my first ever 49ers practice in the books! Before I get to the recap, let me just say that going to the live practice is the coolest thing ever. Personally, I almost like it more than the games. You are WAY closer to the players than you would ever get in a game, they actually hear the things you yell, parking is a breeze (and free!), 49ers gear is on sale (I got a nice hat for 40% off!), the weather is far better there than in San Fran, and the lines for the food and bathrooms are practically non-existent. Sweet!
Soo, observations from the day (in no particular order):
- Aldon Smith is a beast. He is clearly head and shoulders above the rest of our OLBs when it comes to pass-rushing. He flat-out owned the opposing lineman at least once with an inside move (one of the young guys...possibly a UFA?).
- Thaddeus Gibson has a wicked swim move, but I didn't see much else from him
- Ahmad Brooks likes to bullrush, he has some speed around the edge and he is fierce. However, he is definitely lacking in the department of actual technique or pass-rush moves.
- Applewhite looked good
- I didn't really notice much from the others and that is not good. They weren't even going up against our best linemen!
- Boone looked ok, but I wouldn't call it great. He got a lot of coaching up. To be precise, the coaches didn't seem to be too happy with him and he didn't seem to be too happy with himself. He must've made some mistake with technique or leverage or something because he didn't get beat outright.
- One thing you have to know when reading the reports from the beat-writers: they are being VERY objective. When they say stuff like "Aldon Smith looked really good but remember he was only going against a nobody", you have to know that he is going against the same competition as the other OLBs. Yes, he is only beating up on some poor guy who's never going to make the roster, but guys like Haralson AREN'T doing this. To be precise, they aren't doing anything in the pass-rush department.
- Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams returned punts with Ginn getting most of the work. It seemed pretty obvious that the job is Ginn's with Williams as his back-up
- Ginn looked solid. Bobbled one but otherwise looked good.
Wide Receiver Drills
- Braylon Edwards really is the size of Vernon Davis. Seriously. He is the only receiver on the field that looks like he would scare me. All the others (with the exception of Morgan) look like quick, small, shifty guys. They've got good speed but they look like they would have trouble fighting off jams at the line. Braylon is the only guy who really creates a mismatch. Oh yeah, and his hands are huge too. The word "mitts" comes to mind.
- None of the receivers really stood out. There were some basic drills with a trainer throwing balls to them as they ran some basic routes. All of them more or less struggled with a drill where the trainer threw the ball at their shoelaces. They all looked pretty good catching the ball, but the sound told the difference. When some of the guys catch the ball it makes a pretty loud sound while others catch it with little or no noise. I'm certainly not an expert but I think this is part of what people talk about with the phrase "soft hands".
- There was a lot of time and emphasis spent at the beginning of practice working on specials teams (punt drills mainly). As I mentioned above, Ginn got most of the work with Williams trotting down to take one or two here and there.
- There seemed to be some good pressure in Lee's face during these plays. We'll hope it's just because our guys are really good at it.
- Brad Seely is a very vocal coach. He does lots of yelling, whether it's adjusting something, rotating someone in, or berating someone for a mistake.
- Larry Grant got called out on at least one occasion. I heard Brad Seely telling him (remember, he was pretty much yelling) that he should never "Go(lean? something like that) towards this side! That's the fullback's job!" It was hard to tell if he was actually making abnormally large mistakes or whether the coaches simply expected more out of him as a veteran.
- Brad Seely expects perfection and he doesn't want to hold his players' hands. He likes to see if they can figure it out for themselves first.
It took a while before the QBs actually did much. They all looked pretty good during warm-ups and when throwing simple routes with the receivers. It was the team drills that set them apart from each other.
- Harbaugh really does spend most of the practice with the QB's. He mimics a pass-rusher during the QB drills to get the qbs used to having hands in their faces, he jogs the first part of a route while the qb throws to a guy over his head: he pretty much does it all. He's very hands on and it's awesome to watch. Best of all, it's good to see him sticking with what he actually knows and trusting the other stuff to the respective coaches.
- I guess the team period is what the pros call "7 on 7s". I think that name is lame and deceiving and I'm not going to call it that. If this bothers you, go post some cat pictures in McWagner's community threads to make yourself feel better.
- What 7 on 7s really is...? It's the full on offense vs. defense. The 49ers ran one set of these after the specific unit drills (O-line, pass rush, special teams, etc) and another one later on. The first set seemed to be more casual. For the first set, the 1st team offense went against the 2nd team defense on one field while the 2nd team offense went against the 1st team defense on another. Well, it was mostly that. It was kind of a conglomeration of both teams, but whatever.
- During the first period, Masoli looked better than McBLT. McBLT looked pretty much completely lost, but I'm not sure whether or not that was due to the failures of the guys around him. Masoli on the other hand looked pretty good. From the little I saw (they were on the far field from us) Masoli didn't seem too anxious to leave the pocket, he didn't make dumb decisions (unlike McBLT who panicked and threw it 2 yards in front of him into the scrum of linemen), and he made some nice passes (including a gorgeous deep ball right on the hands of the receiver, who simply let it bounce right off. Kinda a Josh Morgan "it came down like a punt" moment. If the receiver had held on it was a sure touchdown as the receiver could have easily caught it in stride and then there was nobody between him and the goal-line).
- Kaepernick and Smith looked pretty even.
- Smith, however, mostly continued his reputation of "Captain Checkdown". Yeah, they were beautiful checkdown passes, but unfortunately beauty doesn't mean diddely-squat when it comes to scoring points. There was one play where it looked like he locked onto Moran Norris right from the moment the ball was snapped. To be fair though, he did have some nice down the field passes.
- Harbaugh/Roman are AWESOME! They started off the 14 period (see what I did there?) with a quarterback draw. It actually worked too! Smith's worked better than Kaepernick's attempt at it, but that might've been because Smith's was first and the defense wasn't expecting it. The crowd loved it though. There was one great moment when the guy sitting behind me commented on the play after Smith's attempt. Regarding Harbaugh, he said "He's practicing getting Smith killed so he can put Kaepernick in".
- During this first team period there were several things that really stood out:
- Numbers 22 and 29. I kept asking who the heck these guys were because they were really standing out in a good way. If I remember correctly, these guys are Carlos Rogers and Chris Culliver respectively.
- Carlos Rogers had a SPECTACULAR leaping/diving interception. The WR ran a sideline route and Rogers dove in front of the wide receiver (body completely off the ground) and with both arms stretched out in front of him he made a gorgeous two-handed pick. It was really a thing of beauty and the crowd loved it. I'm pretty sure that at least some of the beat writers missed it because they didn't seem to be paying too much attention at this point. However, I'll be checking their recaps tonight to make sure that it wasn't somebody else who made the pick and that he actually held on all the way through impact. But if I'm correct, it sure seems like the "stone hands" reputation that Rogers has is purely a mental issue. If he can take some of VD's medicine I betcha he can fix it.
- Madieu Williams might of looked good too. Can't remember for certain though as it was hard to make out names and numbers.
- Braylon Edwards and Josh Morgan looked good.
- Edwards is (as reported) definitely out of football shape. He didn't have the energy of the other receivers and he was always the first to jog instead of run, take his helmet off, or kneel on the ground. I put this largely on his immaturity. He really does just seem like a big kid. I think mentally he is still back in college. Hopefully Harbaugh can grow him up a little.
- On the positive side, Edwards had some really nice catches throughout the day including a beautiful one for a TD. One of the beat writers said something on Twitter(?) about him catching a 4 yard fade for a td or something like that. It was actually much more than that. Brock was draped all over him with his hands up by his face but Edwards used his long arms and big hands to reach over him and catch it off his back. It was really something special. That's the kind of play that other teams do to us and it drives us nuts but our receivers never do it. (Welcome to SF Braylon!)
- Speaking of Brock, he saw a lot of Edwards. It was interesting to note that Brock seemed to always cover Edwards, Philip Adams seemed to usually be on the other side (hard to tell though as I couldn't really see over there), and Carlos Rogers was on the slot guy. Anyway, Brock did a really good job. He was right up there with Culliver. I could actually see him potentially winning a starting spot (especially if Spencer is out much longer). You could well see Culliver, Rogers, and Brock as your top 3 corners on Friday. Not bad for an undrafted second year player! Oh yeah, and he played very physically too. He really isn't afraid of contact. In fact, I'm a little afraid of possible pass interference calls because he plays with a feistyness and a closeness that could lead refs to pick on him. I mean, this sounds horrible, but it almost looks like he's trying to rape the receiver (and the receiver is trying to run away and fend him him off). I know, I know, I'm off my nut. But seriously, watch him in the pre-season and see if you notice it. It really does kind of look like that.
- As I mentioned above, Culliver looked really good. I wasn't ever really able to pick him up before a play, but I kept noticing myself after plays being like "Man, who is 29?? He's really good!" He made a lot of really nice plays. He seems to have wonderful instincts, finds the ball really well, closes well, and seems to bring a physical presence when he closes. The best way I could describe it is that he wants either the ball or the WR's head on a stick. That's just the kind of way he showed up. If it had been a real game he would have seriously blasted guys on more than one occasion (and not in a bad form, Taylor Mays way either, but in a good tackling way). It seems like he just likes to make his presence known. I'm going to go out on a limb and start suggesting nick-names for him along the lines of "The Silent Assasin". I mean, he kind of just shows up out of nowhere and makes big plays. Most importantly, I don't remember Culliver ever standing out in a bad way.
- Speaking of standing out in a bad way...Philip Adams seemed to get picked on a lot. He was usually in the vicinity, but the receiver either had a step on him, he couldn't locate the ball, or he was flat-out beat. It wasn't a disastrous day for him, but he definitely wasn't living up the level of Culliver and Brock.
- Carlos Rogers mostly looked pretty good but there was definitely some Nate Clements to him. He seems to have all the natural ability in the world, but he has mental lapses. There were one or two occasions where the receiver slipped right out behind him and he just stood there staring at the quarterback. The D might've been in a zone coverage at the time, but one time the guy behind Rogers ended up with two guys to cover. I'd call that a mistake on Rogers part, but maybe that's just the football noob in me. Maybe Roger's assignment was to keep the QB from escaping, who knows. He did make that beautiful interception though.
- Our safeties didn't really stand out to me one way or the other. Whitner seemed to be doing pretty well, Taylor Mays closed on the ball pretty well, and Spillman continued to see some significant action. The one thing I will say is that none of our safeties showed natural instincts towards the ball. I noticed a couple of occasions where the safety was in coverage and the ball came their way and they were like "Oh, is that the ball? I didn't realize the QB had thrown it. Oh yeah, I should probably tackle the guy." Hopefully Reggie Smith will come back and bring some ball-hawking to our secondary.
I'm still adding more...
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