The San Francisco 49ers open phase 3 of their offseason workout program on Tuesday, which means more extensive drills. Phase 3 involves organized team practice activity, also known as OTAs. Teams are allowed to have offense vs. defense drills, which means even more playbook implementation. The team cannot run one-on-one drills, but they can get plenty done with offense vs. defense.
The 49ers will run four sets of OTAs, and close things out with a mandatory minicamp. OTAs will run May 17-19, May 24-26, May 31, and June 1-2. They will have their mandatory minicamp June 7-9. That means the coaches get a little bit closer to figuring out who fits where on the roster. Training camp is when the roster crunch really steps up, but there is plenty to watch over the next three weeks.
We won't see things live (Jennifer Lee Chan will be on hand Tuesday this week), but we can keep an eye out for what reports have to say about practice. With that in mind, what are you looking for in camp? Here are a few things on my mind as OTAs get started:
1. Who's out of shape?
Honestly, this is the biggest thing for players on the field. Without full pads or contact, it's not like we are seeing full steam workouts. We aren't going to be able to figure out much regarding the pass rush or blocking. The running backs can't exactly show everything they've got. The secondary can't get physical in defense. So basically, the most important thing in my mind at the start of camp is how players are looking from a conditioning perspective. I imagine this year is a little different since they are getting used to Chip Kelly's "Go! Go! Go!" style, but conditioning is something of note.
2. What players are held out due to injury?
The 49ers have a handful of players who finished last season injured. They include Colin Kaepernick, Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams (well, with the offseason surgery), Antoine Bethea, Carlos Hyde, and DeAndre Smelter. Kaepernick is expected to be cleared in the next few weeks, with some hope that he can be cleared in time for the mandatory minicamp. Dorsey is rehabbing a torn ACL, and my guess is he will primarily focus on rehab work. Williams is questionable to be ready for Week 1, so I don't imagine he will be doing much on the field.
All indications are that Antoine Bethea is healthy at this point after suffering a torn pectoral. Chip Kelly said late last week that Hyde is doing everything at this point, so it sounds like his foot is in good shape. Smelter spent last season on the NFI list, but he has been active in the offseason workout program, and hopefully his ACL is good to go at this point.
Will Redmond is the notable rookie, coming off a torn ACL last season. Redmond and Trent Baalke have both said the cornerback will be ready to compete in training camp, so we'll have to wait and see what OTAs bring in terms of participation.
3. Depth chart and formations
We're certainly not going to know the full depth chart at this point, but it will be worth noting who gets work with ones, twos, and so forth. And Chris Biderman made a good point with regard to the pass rush. Even without pads and contact, how the 49ers rotate their pass rushers will give us a better handle on things. This particularly applies to Tank Carradine.
The depth chart will be something to track in particular for cornerbacks, wide receivers, and inside linebackers. We know Torrey Smith will be one of the starting wide receivers. My guess is Quinton Patton gets the work initially, but that could change. At cornerback, Tramaine Brock and Dontae Johnson were the starters by season's end, but who knows what the new defensive coaching staff will want to do. At ILB, Michael Wilhoite and Gerald Hodges are competing to start next to NaVorro Bowman. I am very curious to see who gets the nod in practice.
I realize this last one is pretty broad, but the big thing right now is figuring out who is getting what work. There is certainly some value to the drills they'll be running, particularly if any of the receivers or tight ends are dealing with drops. But otherwise, it's more about figuring out who is competing for what. Once we get to training camp, we'll get a much better idea of the fallout from those competitions.