The San Francisco 49ers have wrapped up their first four days of practice at training camp. Monday marks their first off day, which affords us an early opportunity to break down some winners and losers thus far. Plenty can and will change, but here is who is standing out.
Early reports are proving that the 49ers’ most improved unit on defense might be their pass rush. Defensive linemen Solomon Thomas, DeForest Buckner, and Cassius Marsh have come on strong during the first few days of camp, racking up would-be sacks and dominating the offensive line.
Newly signed linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu has quietly racked up a sack in every practice, including two in Sunday’s session. The ex-Charger can definitely come on strong during training camp and prove to become a valuable piece on the 49ers this upcoming season.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s supporting cast dramatically improved during the offseason, with the additions of wide receivers Dante Pettis and Richie James.
While Pettis didn’t sign until the first day of training camp, he’s drawing a lot of “oooh’s” and “aaah’s” from the crowd, due to his sharp route-running ability. Numerous clips have surfaced of Pettis beating defenders and creating a huge throwing window for the QBs.
In addition, seventh-round pick James is quietly developing a strong rapport with Garoppolo, making a plethora of catches during practice. Similar to Pettis, his quickness and decisive routes are allowing for easy completions.
RB Joe Williams
After a disappointing rookie season, running back Joe Williams seems to have found his stride during training camp. During the first few days, Williams has already broke off two 20-yard runs and a 65-yard house call to finish practice.
Williams was a major contributor at Utah, but was put on the IR in 2017 after dealing with injuries. With Jerick McKinnon replacing Carlos Hyde, and Matt Breida continuing to blossom, Williams will need to impress in order to find snaps on the field. So far, so good.
DB D.J. Reed
Another day three pick for the 49ers that may turn out to be a home-run selection. Versatile defensive back D.J. Reed has been playing multiple positions on defense and impressing the coaching staff.
Reed caught a difficult interception, as he was diving and completely extended on the field. The ex-Kansas State defender was guarding fellow rookie Dante Pettis and stole the pass from QB C.J. Beathard.
The hybrid defender should be on the fast track to make the 53-man roster after creating a highlight reel during the first week of practice.
Former first-round picks
A pair of ex-first rounders have been no-shows in training camp thus far and that should concern fans. DB Jimmie Ward has been on the receiving end of positional changes, resulting in second-team snaps.
Ward has been the primary backup to Sherman, but hasn’t shown his value, as he’s been routinely beat by the likes of WRs Marquise Goodwin and Kendrick Bourne. The 49ers’ coaches were effusive in their praise of Ward, but he’s yet to back it up.
On the flip side of the ball, offensive guard Joshua Garnett hasn’t lived up to his draft expectations either. In a heated battle for the starting guard job, Garnett was unable to practice on Sunday after banging knees with another player. It’s not expected to be a serious injury, but with Jonathan Cooper opening camp on the PUP list, every lost snap is a lost opportunity for Garnett.
Both Ward and Garnett will need to start gaining momentum for a roster spot, otherwise they could be on the outside looking in.
WR Pierre Garçon
Remember, it’s only the first week of practice. That being said, the one connection that’s been lacking chemistry is one version of G-squared — QB Jimmy Garoppolo and WR Pierre Garçon. This was the first time that the two players will find the field together, as Garçon landed on the IR with a neck injury after eight weeks last season.
During the first two days, Garoppolo didn’t even look to Garçon, but the connection struck a home-run play on Sunday. G-squared will need to work on their chemistry as training camp progresses, as their combination could open it up for the other receivers.
Sunday morning, a video emerged from the 49ers’ one-on-one drills, featuring WR Marquise Goodwin and CB Richard Sherman. Without any context, Goodwin put it into a higher gear and blew past Sherman, who could only watch as QB Jimmy Garoppolo dropped the pass in.
As expected, social media ran with it, claiming Sherman’s downfall and adding that the new 49ers’ cornerback won’t return to All-Pro form after his Achilles injury.
That’s the sad and lazy take, because the one-on-one drills are supposed to highlight the receiver’s speed. The defender has no safety help and in most defensive backs’ case, absolutely no shot of catching up with Goodwin’s 4.27-second 40-yard speed.
The ex-Seahawks’ defender was never known for his speed and I’m confident Robert Saleh won’t put Sherman in a position to have to single-cover the opposing team’s fastest pass catcher.