The San Francisco 49ers held their first open practice on Thursday, which meant the media got a chance to check out how things are progressing. We cannot draw many conclusions three days into OTAs, but there is one area where we are getting some good context: tempo.
According to the various practice reports (Barrows, Inman,), the tempo was at a strong level, with the offense getting out of the huddle and to the line of scrimmage as much as 22 or 23 seconds left on the play clock. That has been a notable problem the last few years, dating back to when Alex Smith was the quarterback. The team would burn timeouts or take delay of game penalties, and that doesn't even factor in plays that were unsuccessful because they had to be rushed at the line.
Jim Tomsula addressed it briefly following practice, but did not focus on the slowness of the past
"I mean, just the way we're practicing for us, not anybody else, but for us, number one you are getting your conditioning part of it. Number two, trying to add the pressure to it so you have to think in a fast paced, stressful environment offensively. And defensively, that helps you in these critical times in games, the two-minute stuff. So just everything having to operate at a fast pace."
The big question is if they can maintain this into the regular season when it actually matters. The players recognize this, with Joe Staley in particularly commenting on the problems of recent years. He talked about clock management being "pretty miserable" and it being "a point of emphasis" this season.
The offense still needs to improve overall efficiency, but it's good to see improvement in this critical area of the game. Getting to the line is important not just for timeouts and penalties, but for giving Colin Kaepernick time to assess the defense and complete his pre-snap reads. I have to think that was a problem in recent years when the team was hustling to the line, so faster progression will be a plus.