I was on hand again for Tuesday’s practice, and I broke down some of my notes/observations below. As always, I’ll start with the quarterbacks and then touch on a couple of defensive players and finish off with some injury updates.
In my notes from Sunday’s practice, I spoke about how Garoppolo looked significantly more confident throwing the ball than he had during the first week of camp. That aggressive attitude continued into Tuesday’s practice as Garoppolo is beginning to string together a notable number of reps. He appears more inclined to take risks by pushing the ball downfield.
Garoppolo kicked off his 11-on-11 reps with a beautiful strike to Trent Sherfield over the middle off of a play-action fake on a play that Garoppolo checked into pre-snap after identifying something he could attack within the defensive front he was facing.
The highlight of the day for Garoppolo was a beautifully placed ball to Deebo Samuel for a touchdown during situational drills within the red zone. With the offense simulating a situation where they faced a 4th and goal, trailing by four and needing a touchdown, Garoppolo hit Samuel on the far left side of the end zone, placing the ball to the outside of his target where only Samuel would be able to make a play on it.
One of Jimmy’s biggest flaws is his propensity to put balls behind receivers, and he has severely limited those types of misses over the last couple of practices.
However, on that topic, one play from Tuesday’s practice stands out: an interception he threw during the same end-of-game drill while trying to fit a ball into a tight window to George Kittle.
The throw ended up coming in behind Kittle, allowing cornerback Emmanuel Moseley to make a play on the ball and snag what would have likely been a pick-six. Besides the throws missing behind, the main concern with Garoppolo remains his hesitance. At times, he took would-be sacks in live game action due to holding the ball too long — often double-clutching while staring down a single wide receiver. Overall, Tuesday was a strong showing for Garoppolo.
Yet again, everyone on hand for the practice was reminded of the spectacular potential Trey Lance possesses. Lance strung together a few spectacular reps during red zone drills, highlighted by play that saw Lance move out of the pocket on a designed rollout to his right and throw a beautiful ball on the run to Mohamed Sanu, who hauled in the pass in tight coverage at the goal line near the pylon.
This was following another impressive rep that saw Lance hit Brandon Aiyuk for a touchdown with an absolute laser over the middle on 3rd and 8 inside the red zone.
The most impressive Lance throw of the day was during a two-minute drill simulation when the second-team offense was facing the prospect of going three and out after the first team marched down the field for a field goal attempt during their own try at the two-minute drill.
On 3rd & 8, Lance worked through his progressions and took a shot deep down the left sideline, hitting Trent Sherfield for a 35 yard gain on a magnificent throw that was placed perfectly over the shoulder of Sherfield, hitting the receiver in stride for a big play.
Lance has shown he is not afraid to take shots downfield, but particularly in crucial third-down spots. The issue for Lance on Tuesday was clock management, as it appeared there wasn’t much urgency between plays during the two-minute drill, something that went largely unnoticed due to the incredible throw he ripped off during said drill.
Lance and the second team also had a couple of mishaps during the end-of-game drills, having multiple chances at a touchdown negated due to letting the clock run out before getting a play off.
No matter how talented Lance is if he is unable to fine-tune the clock management issues, I have a hard time seeing Kyle Shanahan being willing to hand over the keys to the offense. Overall it was a fantastic glimpse into the immense talent Lance possesses, while also serving as a humble reminder that the 21-year-old rookie still has plenty of room to grow as he acclimates to the NFL level.
In my humble opinion, Willis has had the best training camp of any player on a stacked defensive line. Willis has regularly put his plus athleticism on full display, consistently getting into the backfield during 11 on 11s and being a handful for offensive linemen to deal with during one on reps.
However, the most impressive thing about Willis has been his ability to beat Trent Williams with regularity when the two are matched up. I cannot overstate how rare it is to see Trent Williams lose reps, particularly in pass protection, and it seems like almost every time he is getting beat, Willis is the one serving up the drubbing.
Although he will be unavailable for the first six games due to a suspension that was handed down for a positive PED test, I’d have a hard time imagining Willis isn’t going to be a vital part of this defense down the stretch run given the lack of proven edge depth and how well he has performed during camp.
Sometimes I feel like Warner doesn’t get his full due, straightforwardly based on the fact he has so frequently made the extraordinary look routine. Warner has become a player who I think many take for granted, just because he is so often putting himself in the right spot to make spectacular plays, that we as observers almost begin to expect it at this point.
During 11-on-11s, Warner is regularly blowing up plays in the box, hitting holes with authority while also not ceding the big play in the run game.
He has also had a significant impact in coverage, habitually taking away anything over the middle while also having the athleticism to run in man coverage with skill players. It feels like every day Warner ends up doing something breathtaking, but it’s become so common for him that I feel like many (myself included) fail to highlight the little things he does so well.
So to summarize, Fred Warner is still an extremely gifted football player as he enters his fourth season. He’s only going to get better, and the 49ers are lucky to have him.
Other notes from practice
Bosa was in pads and participated in individual drills with the defensive line but continues to sit out 11-on-11s. The plan is to have Bosa back for week 1, so expect the 49ers to keep him shelved from any significant physical contact drills/preseason games until then. They are just extremely cautious with their star pass rusher.
Armstead had his jersey on today, no pads, however, and he did not participate with the rest of the defensive line during practice. He worked on his own and appeared to be moving freely as he recovers from what was described as groin tightness.
Ebukam worked off to the side as well and did not appear to have anything hindering his movement. It appears the 49ers again are just being overly cautious, as they slowly ramp back up the activity for the edge rusher who has missed a few practices in a row with what was described as leg swelling due to routine wear and tear during camp.