The San Francisco 49ers have two practices under their belt, and Sunday brings the first padded practice of training camp. The 49ers have been practicing without pads dating back to April, and while it is valuable for implementing the offense and defense, it does not show us nearly enough about how players will look once they can get physical.
Elvis Dumervil and Rashard Robinson both had great comments about their excitement for getting into pads. Dumervil said, “When the pads come on, we separate the men from the ‘t-shirt guys.’” He is getting work almost exclusively as a nickel pass rusher. Padded work means he’ll get a chance to work one-on-one against guys like Joe Staley and Trent Brown. Dumervil was complimentary of both tackles, saying they each offered a little something different to test the pass rushers.
Robinson is excited to be able to start getting particularly physical with his jamming. The 49ers are looking to a more physical press coverage style, and Robinson seems suited for it with his combination of length and confidence.
“I get to jam more. I get to jam, thud up. It’s going to be more juices going. You might hear some loud collisions, but we gonna be here. We’re balling. The defense is ready, I know the offense is going to be ready, and I know the coaches can’t wait.”
The evaluation process has been going on since the spring, but pads will take it to a new level for the coaching staff. One position that will get particular help with pads going on is at running back. Kyle Shanahan talked about it in his Saturday press conference. He was asked about what he was seeing from rookie running backs Joe Williams and Matt Breida, and what Sunday will bring with pads.
“Yeah, I think the running back position as much as any position, you can’t, you really can’t develop an opinion until the pads are on. You can’t play in this league if you don’t run through arm tackles and break through arm tackles and you really don’t even know that until you get the pads on. You don’t truly know that until you get into these preseason games also. So, that’s a constant evaluation. We never try to get too high or too low on anybody. We kind of let the process take care of itself and make sure they get the full opportunities in every facet.”
The 49ers noted that one of the drills padded practices bring is running back blitz pick-up. For rookie running backs, blitz pick-up is one of the primary tasks that can prevent a player from getting significant snaps. A running back has to be able to help protect the quarterback, and that has cost plenty of 49ers draft picks in recent years. The spotlight will be on Williams and Breida to show they can handle that key aspect of being a running back.