The 49ers and Chargers joint practice was action-packed as there were multiple team periods that including situational drills, moving the ball, red zone, and much more. Let’s go through each period, starting with 1-on-1’s.
Aiyuk was everything
Overall, it seemed like the Chargers' defensive backs won the day, but nobody performed better during the 1-on-1 period than Brandon Aiyuk:
Brandon Aiyuk creating five yards of separation in 1-on-1’s pic.twitter.com/N1BhPg3Ds9— KP (@KP_Show) August 19, 2021
Aiyuk won at the line of scrimmage, down the field, and on slants like the route below:
He’s the clear-cut No. 1 wideout on the roster.
Deebo Samuel, who has improved as a route runner, won on a deep route with his hand-work, but the pass went right through his hands.
The winners during 1-on-1’s were Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, and Kyle Juszczyk. Jennings can’t win with speed as some of the other wideouts can, but he’s a big target who is more nimble than you’d imagine.
Jennings won at every level of the field as well:
I asked Kyle Shanahan after practice how a big receiver like Jennings can help the 49ers in high-leverage situations like the red zone or on third and short:
“When he plays big, which he does. So he does both. And that’s why Jauan is giving himself a chance to make this team and giving himself a chance to help us. Because, yes, he does have some size, but it’s also his mindset too. He’s aggressive in everything he does. He comes off the ball as hard as anyone, he attacks that ball. There’s no difference between a run plan and pass play for him. And that mentality is why he was successful in college. That’s why he’s trying to prove himself in the league the same way.”
Every time I see Juszczyk run a route, I’m left wondering why he’s not involved in the offense more. Juice has a strong argument for being one of the top skill players on offense. He won each rep as a receiver and stoned the Chargers linebackers as a blocker:
Kyle Juszczyk was on fire during 1-on-1’s today as a receiver and a blocker. pic.twitter.com/iqAxW4UseH— Niners Nation (@NinersNation) August 19, 2021
Unfortunately, the receivers and tight ends began to rack up more losses as the period went on. I’d give this period to Los Angeles.
First team period
The Jimmy Garoppolo, who showed up Thursday, was aggressive and went out of his way to push the ball down the field and outside of the numbers. It was beautiful.
During the first team drive, Garoppolo found Trent Sherfield on a “bang 8” route, a skinny post at 12-15 yards. Jimmy lofted the ball over the linebacker, and Sherfield went up and made a nice contested catch.
On his next pass, Jimmy G threw a far-hash out route to Aiyuk, a long-developing play that resulted in a first down. Chargers head coach Brandon Staley wasn’t happy with the cornerback as he yelled at him to “stay square in your pedal.” Instead, Aiyuk gave the cornerback a jab to the inside, which created plenty of separation for an easy reception.
The next throw saw Jimmy uncork a 50-yard bomb to Travis Benjamin on a deep post route. Again, you could see the play develop, Benjamin get behind the defense, and Garoppolo put the ball on the money:
Some comments on social media said the throw was underthrown, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The ball was where it needed to be, Benjamin didn’t have to slow down, and he scored a freaking touchdown.
It feels as though explosive plays will be a prominent part of the 49ers' offense this season. The first team scored in five plays.
Trey Lance could have hit Benjamin for a touchdown on a deep corner route, but the ball was severely underthrown and broken up by a Chargers defender. Lance completed his first pass, but this third-down throw forced the offense off the field and gave the keys back to Jimmy.
Garoppolo found Juszczyk on a wheel route for a would-be big gain. The whistle blew, but there was nobody around No. 44. It was a crisp period for Garoppolo, who went 6-7, and his lone incompletion was a smidge behind Aiyuk, who got his hands on the pass.
On the next drive, JaMycal Hasty had a nice jump cut for a significant gain. After a Deebo drop and a completion short of the sticks, the second team could not move the ball with Lance under center. Lance finished this period going 4-6, with each completion coming underneath.
Based on the success of the first-team offense, the 49ers won this period.
Second team period
The wheels started to fall off after the first team period for the Niners. Garoppolo had Juszczyk wide open on a wheel route to the other side of the field, but he overshot him. On his next throw, it was a deep corner route, but the pass was broken up by Chris Harris.
Jimmy had an “oh no” throw where he threw the ball deep into double coverage on a pass that felt like it was in the air for an hour that was also broken up.
More concerning was the struggles from the interior offensive line. There were no holes for the running backs, and it seemed as though Derwin James made a tackle in the backfield or at the line of scrimmage on each carry.
The Chargers defenders took their trash talk to another level after stifling the 49ers. Their defensive line was obnoxious, calling the Niners front “too little.”
The second team didn’t fare much better as they began with a zone read to Lance that went for a loss. On these plays, Lance tries to bound it, and there’s just nothing there. After finding Trent Sherfield for a completion, Aiyuk dropped the next pass.
Lance’s next dropback is why Garoppolo remains the starter. First, he has to speed his processing up. If the read isn’t there, then throw it away or run. Lance took a sack. The defense let him throw, and he rolled out and compounded his mistake with an interception.
Here’s Shanahan after practice on how Lance was under pressure:
“I’m also going to challenge him to get rid of the ball. You got to know where those outlets are and how to get rid of it. He didn’t have the most time in everything, but it’s kind of our standard with things and how fast you’ve got to play and how not just athletically, but with your mind, you can’t hesitate. You got to get rid of it because you get a sack in a two minute, look at the percentages, it’s pretty much over.
And it’s not going to be a lot of great protection there. So, it’s good to give him some of this experience without being in a game. So, we’re just going to keep challenging him hard and I can’t wait to watch the tape in about an hour with him.”
Lance’s final pass was a bit behind the receiver, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who said it was a drop. He finished 1-3, and Garoppolo went 0-3 without any push from the offensive line. Not great, Bob.
The final session of the day came in the red area. It....did not go well. On his first throw, it was a play-action pass, and Garoppolo threw it to the flat. As soon as he let it go, he said, “ahhh.” We know what that means.
Garoppolo was fortunate James didn’t intercept the ball. Derwin was the best player on the field Thursday. Shanahan was asked about James after practice:
“Just same thing you see from every time that he’s out there. He’s the man. He’s as good as it gets. Coming out of college, we loved him. I just love how carries himself. You know how talented he is but just talking to the guy, how he acts out there, you can tell he’s a special guy, as a person and as a talent. So, you guys got a good one there.”
Garoppolo’s next throw was an actual interception. His next? He stared down Ross Dwelley, and the safety jumped the post route that was narrowly over his outstretched hands.
This led to the Chargers players coming off the field saying, “they pay em too much in San Francisco,” amongst other things that can’t be published on this site.
The best part about that period for the 49ers was Trey Sermon’s cut on an inside zone. Garoppolo finished with a touchdown pass to Charlie Woerner out of an empty formation. Woerner beat the linebacker to the inside, and Jimmy hit him in stride to finish the period 1-4 with a touchdown.
Hasty has come on strong. He had a good 1-on-1 period and ran for a touchdown up the middle in the red zone. He’s jumped in front of Wayne Gallman, but Hasty has to hold onto the ball.
Lance’s first dropback was a sack in the red zone. His first carry was a zone read that never stood a chance. When Lance has time to throw, it’s easy to see why he’s the No. 3 overall pick.
Lance found Ross Dwelley on a shake route over the middle for a score. On his next attempt, Lance rolled out and found Jauan Jennings on a short touchdown.
Both quarterbacks were hot and cold throughout Thursday. Consistency has been an issue during training camp. So the decision to name a starter won’t be easy for Kyle Shanahan.
The first team went three-and-out after a short completion, an incompletion, and a Mike McGlinchey strip-sack by way of Joey Bosa, who said, “sorry Jim” after Bosa knocked the ball out of Garoppolo’s hands.
Shanahan joked after practice, “Our Bosa didn’t hit their ball today. I don’t know why he did that.”
Garoppolo couldn’t do anything about the sack, as he was at the top of his drop by the time he was “hit.” Unfortuantely, McGlinchey looks like the same player. A Top-tier run blocker who struggles to give up the edge in pass coverage.
Garoppolo had one final throw that was into double coverage on third and long to Sherfield.
Lance had his best period during the two-minute drill. He was late on the first out route, but he found MyCole Pruitt for a big gain on the next throw. Lance took a sack on the following play as Corbin Kaufusi couldn’t have been beaten any quicker.
Once they got into rhythm, the offense started moving the ball. Lance found Jennings on a deep dig and then River Cracraft on a short throw. The 49ers moved the ball into scoring range, and Robbie Gould nailed a would-be 40-some yard field goal to end the practice.
- IOL run blocking
- McGlinchey in pass pro
- Red zone offense
- Lance’s timing
The Chargers' defense got the best of the 49ers' offense, but the 49ers' defense did the same against the Chargers offense. More on that next