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49ers training camp notes from Day 3: The defense continues to impress

Jordan Elliott is back to recap what he saw from the Niners at practice on Friday.

Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

As the 49ers hit the practice field for their third day of practice, they did so without star defensive end Nick Bosa who sat out due to what head coach Kyle Shanahan described as a scheduled rest day. Shanahan told reporters the plan was to have Bosa sit out every third day of practice as the transcendent pass rusher works his way back from an ACL injury that caused him to miss the majority of the 2020 season.

Also absent from practice was Jalen Hurd, who was also given a rest day as he completes his comeback from an ACL injury he suffered during training camp last year. Practice ran a little shorter Friday than it did Thursday, but there was still plenty of jam-packed action to discuss that I will break down further below.

OFFENSE

Starting with the first-team quarterback, it was a much improved day for Jimmy Garoppolo as he completed seven of his eleven attempts during 11 on 11’s. Garoppolo looked sharp, throwing the ball to the short area as he completed his first six passes in 11 on 11s, all of which came within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

He followed that up with three straight incompletions as he attempted to push the ball further downfield, including a ball that short-hopped Deebo Samuel about 15 yards from the line of scrimmage between the hashes.

After the string of incompletions, he had a terrific throw to George Kittle on a deep out route to the right sideline. He ended 11 on 11s with an underthrown ball that was intended for Samuel about 10 yards or so from the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field between the hashes.

Frankly, this practice embodied exactly what Garoppolo has been, a quarterback who is more than capable of executing at a high level near the line of scrimmage, but one who begins to see a dramatic decline in efficiency the more he attempts to push the ball downfield and or outside the numbers.

Rookie Trey Lance had an up and down day himself, finishing five of ten during 11 on 11’s. He started out rough as he one-hopped his first pass intended for George Kittle. It’s worth noting after this; the offense has back-to-back false start penalties. It could just be an adjustment with the pre snap cadence/rhythm of the offense as we are still in the infant stages of training camp. Lance’s next attempt was an impressive throw to Bennie Fowler 15 plus yards downfield.

The following rep highlighted an issue that has plagued Lance dating back to his college days as he missed an open River Cracraft high. Lance has had a number of throws during camp that has sailed high on him, and it’s a tendency that he and the coaching staff are assuredly working to remedy. However, lance did have plus velocity on his throws, hitting receiver Richie James in the hands over the middle (this was a throw James should have caught, but the ball was a little high, another ball that sailed on Lance).

On his second to last 11 on 11 reps, Lance targeted Samuel with a deep ball during which he appeared to be a little late pulling the trigger deep down the left hash, which caused the ball to be a little underthrown, but Samuel was able to come down with the ball as safety Jared Mayden misplayed the ball.

Lance rounded out his reps with one of his worst throws of the day, a ball that easily could have been picked by linebacker Jonas Griffith as he dropped into the throwing lane. The biggest takeaway from Lance’s day is while he was inconsistent, all but one of his ten attempts came on passes. He threw the ball more than ten yards downfield.

There was a clear concerted effort to have Lance take more shots downfield than any of the three other quarterbacks, and while the results were mixed, it’s clear the arm talent Lance possesses will give Shanahan the ability to get a bit more creative taking shots downfield whenever Lance takes the reigns as the starting quarterback.

Mohamed Sanu looks like the clear-cut front runner for the third wide receiver position behind Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. Sanu has looked comfortable running over the middle and appears to have a significant amount of burst after the catch that was not present during his short-lived stint with the 49ers last season.

Samuel and Aiyuk continue to look like a dominant receiving duo, and there were impressive grabs worth noting from Fowler and Nsimba Webster during individual drills. In addition, Kittle was targeted frequently during 11 on 11’s, and Ross Dwelley had a nice grab down the sideline during 11 on 11s as well.

DEFENSE

With Bosa out, Dee Ford took first-team defensive reps while the defense worked on its own and was joined on the defensive line by Arik Armstead, DJ Jones, and Javon Kinlaw.

While they participated in individual positional drills with the rest of the defensive line, Ford and Kinlaw were both held out of 11 on 11 drills. During 11 on 11s, both Kinlaw and Ford ran off to the side of the field, and neither player looked like they were limited by the respective injuries they are working their way back from. The 49ers are simply easing them back in slowly for precautionary reasons.

Jones looked dominant today, showing tremendous burst while the defensive line ran individual drills with defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. Jones also flashed during 11 on 11s, blowing up a running play for a would-be tackle for loss in the backfield. Newly acquired interior defensive lineman Zach Kerr continues to impress as well.

“Safety” Marcell Harris continued to work with the linebackers and was deployed as a Will linebacker, an edge rusher, and standing up over the A gap as the linebackers worked as an individual unit before practice began. That's three days in a row the 49ers have made a concerted effort to have Harris with the linebackers, which makes it seem pretty clear they plan on utilizing him within the box in a role that is more tailored to his skill set.

Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles continues to impress as well. Keep an eye on him pushing Azeez-Al Shaair for his spot in the linebacker pecking order.

To no surprise, Jimmie Ward and Jason Verrett looked like the best defensive backs on the field. However, with starting safety Jaquaski Tartt on the covid list, Tavon Wilson has been taking his reps with the first-team defense and has looked impressive in drills with the other defensive backs.

Rookie cornerback Deommodore Lenoir had a fantastic day, breaking up a Josh Rosen deep ball intended for Kevin White during 11 on 11s.