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Practice notes: Some good battles in the trenches, but the defense dominated

Kentavius Street and Solomon Thomas were active, while the secondary got their hands on a ton of passes today

San Francisco 49ers Training Camp Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Thursday’s practice saw the offense and defense win their fair share of battles. Friday’s practice was lopsided. The San Francisco 49ers defense flexed their muscles and showed why they’re one of the best units in the NFL. The offensive skill players struggled, while the secondary had their best practice to date.



Friday was rough for the quarterbacks. I thought Jimmy Garoppolo did a great job handling the pressure and getting rid of the ball to his “hot” receiver whenever the defense brought pressure. Jimmy G did an excellent job of climbing the pocket and not panicking with bodies flying around him.

His decision-making and accuracy left plenty to be desired, however. It’s practice, and I appreciate when a quarterback is aggressive and takes chances, but Garoppolo could’ve easily thrown four interceptions today. Richard Sherman had a pick-six on Garoppolo. The one throw that was frustrating to see happened when Jimmy rolled to his right, threw the ball across his body and the field, trying to hit Kendrick Bourne on an “over” route, but the pass sailed on him and landed in newly signed Jonathan Cyprien’s hands. There was another pass where Garoppolo was late on an out route to Trent Taylor. The pass was behind him, and Jamar Taylor had the ball right in his numbers, but couldn’t hold on, and eventually, Trent made the reception. Jimmy got away with another throw as well.

Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard were far worse today. The most significant difference was how both backups were affected by the pressure of the defense. Mullens had a bad read where he threw it right to Marcell Harris down the seam. He also held onto the ball far too long.

Beathard...nope. He’s not accurate enough to play. I’ll leave it at that.

Running backs

The running backs were swallowed up a bunch of times today thanks to the defensive line, so there wasn’t much to glean from the position today. Jerick McKinnon can get open against just about any second-level defender. He had a beautiful route against Kwon Alexander, but he dropped it. McKinnon would have scored on a seam throw, but he had to make a diving catch. Beathard threw the pass.

On a swing pass, JaMycal Hasty made two guys look silly.

Wide receivers

Today looked like a day where the lack of a veteran presence showed up. Kendrick Bourne, Brandon Aiyuk, and Trent Taylor were exclusively running with the starters. Bourne had a drop over the middle early on during the team period. Later, he beat Richard Sherman on third down to move the sticks.

Taylor was open underneath on timing routes, but the quarterbacks couldn’t seem to find Trent accurately. Taylor also had a contested-catch situation where Jaquiski Tartt poked the ball out. That’s a play 15 will watch and want to make.

Dante Pettis ran with the 2’s today and saw many targets, though the backups struggled to connect with him. Speaking of struggling, Pettis was again impacted by contact at practice. On one play, it was a clear pass interference down the sideline against Ahkello Witherspoon. There were two other plays where the DB broke up a pass or hindered Pettis’s route because they were able to jam him. As he did today, Pettis will run a route where he’ll turn you around and make you look bad. He’s still a work in progress against contact, though, and that’s why he remains with the 2’s. Pettis did have some good blocks, which will help get him on the field.

Tight ends

George Kittle is still George Kittle. He did fumble a screen and dropped a pass down the field, but Kittle also beat Tartt on a nice “stick-nod” route. On the drop, Kittle created separation on a corner route against Fred Warner. During 1-on-1’s, the tight ends block the safeties. I feel sorry for the safeties that have to go against Kittle. They don’t stand a chance. I want to see Kittle versus the defensive line.

Charlie Woerner looked great during the 1-on-1 blocking drills.

Offensive line

During team periods, the offensive line faced a ton of different pressure looks, and I thought they were excellent upfront against the pass. They created a pocket for each quarterback to step up and throw in. They won the battle in the passing game today, which is a huge compliment considering who the 49ers have on the other side of the ball.

Against the run, as a unit, the offensive line has struggled two days in a row to create running lanes.

I’m going to continue fawning over Trent Williams. He’s spectacular. During 1-on-1’s, the edge rushers throw the kitchen sink at Williams, and they’re not having any luck. Williams cut off Nick Bosa’s speed rush on one rep. Jonathan Kongbo tried to bull-rush Williams and ended up on the ground. Time and time again, Williams made it look easy.

An alternate headline for this article: Is Trent Williams...too good?

Colton McKivitiz has struggled both days. Both at right guard and tackle.


Defensive line

While this unit struggled to generate pressure against the pass today, they were stalwarts against the run. Javon Kinlaw had a tackle for loss on the first play from scrimmage. He made a few stops today. But it was Kentavius Street, Solomon Thomas, and Kevin Givens that did the damage today. Yes, you read that right.

Street looks great, honestly. He made McKivitz look bad during 1-on-1’s. It’s crazy what confidence can do for a player. Solly is lining up primarily inside, and when the defensive line slants or is on the move, that’s when Thomas’s athleticism shows. He made a few plays in the backfield today, as did Givens. I still think we’re a year away from Givens making an impact, but he’s not going anywhere.

Arik Armstead saw some action during team periods today, though it was with the second-team.


It’s evident that Kwon Alexander is better than Dre Greenlaw. He’s more consistent, aggressive, and confident in his reads. Greenlaw blew a coverage where he was supposed to guard McKinnon, but had his eyes caught in the backfield. Consistency will be what Greenlaw needs to improve on, though he’s a fifth-rounder who has already exceeded expectations.

Speaking of aggressive, Fred Warner had a nice play where he beat Mike McGlinchey to the spot and made a play at the line of scrimmage. Kittle did beat Warner twice in coverage. One route Warner knew what was coming, and Kittle still got him. Those are probably some of the most fun battles to watch. Warner was visibly frustrated with himself. Warner versus Kyle Juszczyk during 1-on-1’s are also must-see.


Jason Verrett ran exclusively with the starters today. He didn’t allow a reception over five yards. With the second team, Emmanuel Moseley was primarily guarding Pettis. Moseley won most of those battles, though Pettis got him once. It was interesting to me as Moseley played in the slot with the second team occasionally.

Taylor looks fine inside, but he’s not K’Waun Williams, and that could be why the team is giving Moseley a chance inside. Also, Tarvarius Moore played a little slot cornerback today. He had two pass breakups when playing inside. That’ll be something to monitor moving forward.

Tim Harris still has a ways to go. He gave up a back-shoulder play to Tavon Austin with the 3’s. That was the lone target, but Harris isn’t playing as fast as you’d like to see.


This was the best position group or at least the most opportunistic bunch. Marcell Harris had a pair of interceptions, though they were gifts that fell in his lap—as did newly signed Johnathan Cyprien. I liked how both were coming downhill and aggressive today.

Speaking of coming downhill, Tartt had a few pass breakups where he was just late jumping the route. He probably would have liked to intercept at least one of the passes his way. Tartt was excellent during Friday’s practice.

Jimmie Ward would jump down into the slot when the offense ran trips. He had one pass breakup. Ward had another one, but he missed the ball, and Austin made the catch.


I don’t think the energy was as good Friday as it was Thursday. I wonder how much of that had to do with the success of the defense. To put it into perspective, the offense couldn’t get into scoring position during the 2-minute drill.

I don’t want to paint the picture as if the defense was stuffing the offense every play. The offense had plenty of opportunities; they just failed to capitalize on them. I’m guessing after today Kyle Shanahan can’t wait to see Arizona’s defense.