The 49ers finished their fifth non-padded practice on Monday. Head coach Kyle Shanahan spoke after practice and wasn’t happy with the energy:
“I thought we were a little rusty today. Everyone got a day off yesterday. I didn’t think the defense wasn’t as crisp with their calls and stuff when we changed our motion and stuff. It seems like there’s a hesitation with everyone.
You get a day off. When you’re grinding every day, then you get to relax, sometimes your mind is the same way. I thought the D started off that way. I thought the O was sloppy also. Everyone was working hard, but I don’t think it was as crisp of a practice as we had the previous four.”
There were several penalties during team drills and a fumbled center exchange between Jimmy Garoppolo and Alex Mack. Shanahan said Mack “just kinda froze,” and that happens, so I wouldn’t read too much into that.
Let’s work backward to recap what I saw at Niners' practice.
It’s been Jimmie Ward, Jason Verrett, and a bunch of guys. Verrett makes the most plays outside of anybody not wearing No. 54 on both sides of the ball. He could have had an interception in the end zone had it not been for Brandon Aiyuk saving the day with offensive pass interference.
With Dontae Johnson leaving practice with an injury, Tim Harris being “limited,” and Emmanuel Moseley still on the reserve/COVID-19 list, it was a revolving door at cornerback opposite of Verrett.
Ambry Thomas, Demmodore Lenoir, and Ken Webster all received reps with the first team. Based on individual and team drills, plus 1-on-1’s, I’d place Lenior over each player, including Harris, and it doesn’t feel close.
Thomas is a bit of a freelancer. There was one play where it was a play-action, and he blitzed. I’m no expert but I doubt Thomas was supposed to do that. He’s had a difficult time staying in phase during coverage. Thomas gave up a touchdown during the red zone period on a slant route.
Lenior still has his rookie moments, but he seems more comfortable in coverage and someone who doesn’t panic. So don’t be surprised to see Lenior move up the depth chart sooner than later.
Things are quiet on the Tony Jefferson front, as he worked with the second team. We’ll see if things pick for the veteran once the pads come on.
Tavon Wilson continues to work with the starters while Jaquiski Tartt remains on the Reserve/COVID list.
It would appear that Fred Warner is good at football. On the first play during team drills, Warner darts past everyone and makes a tackle for loss on an outside zone play. During the second play during red zone, Warner skies for a throw over the middle of the field and fully extends to haul in the ball for an interception.
Dre Greenlaw returned to practice after suffering a blister on his foot. He beat Trent Williams on one play for a tackle for loss.
Hopefully, Azeez Al-Shaair’s injury doesn’t cause him to miss too much time.
Jonas Griffith has quietly made plays multiple days in a row now. He’s not as agile as the other linebackers, but he made an instinctive play by stepping into the throwing lane to intercept Trey Lance.
Justin Hilliard was beside himself after Josh Rosen stared down his target. But, unfortunately, the pass hit Hilliard in a bad spot: his hands.
The young linebacker core is energetic and is feeding off the plays 54 makes. This group will be strong, no matter who the third linebacker is.
Defensive dominates the trenches
Still no Nick Bosa during team drills. Dee Ford played about eight snaps, as did Javon Kinlaw. The 49ers first-rounder from a season ago had an impressive play on the first play during team drills that freed Warner up to make the tackle for loss.
The story here is the second-team defensive line, as they continue to have their way:
Zach Kerr was the best player on the field today imo— Jordan (@splash_cousin) August 2, 2021
Kerr beat Laken Tomlinson once and bull-rushed him on another rep. He also stuffed a run play.
Maurice Hurst is another player who flashed on a couple of plays. What you’ll notice is the athleticism from the interior group and how they can twist/stunt their way into the backfield.
The offensive line continued to give each quarterback a clean pocket. That’s been consistent, and hopefully, that remains unchanged as the pads come on.
Daniel Brunskill remains taking all of the reps with the first team at right guard over Aaron Banks.
Maybe Shanahan knew Ross Dwelley spoke to the media after practice because it was Dwelley's time on Monday. Dwelley caught a handful of passes, with a couple coming on third and long.
He found the soft spot in zone coverages and even held on after a nice love tap from Ward on one play. Dwelley should have had two touchdowns during the red zone period had Garoppolo not overthrown him on one pass, and Lance threw him the ball on another.
Shanahan said Deebo Samuel looks great and is in top-tier shape. He hinted at worry about Samuel’s conditioning when the team spent 40 days away from the facility after OTAs. However, Shanahan said this is the best he’s seen Deebo look.
George Kittle didn’t have a catch today. Should the 49ers trade him?!
Again, tough to get a good feel for the running backs when they’re not getting tackled. Raheem Mostert had a few nice runs. He looks decisive and had a nice cutback in the red zone.
Trey Sermon came up limping on one play, but he returned to action later on during practice. So these two will be the runners who receive the bulk of the carries based on how practice is going early on.
Wayne Gallman is the next running back to come in, followed by JaMycal Hasty and Eliah Mitchell. Hasty fumbled for the second practice in a row. If Shanahan froze Matt Breida out for fumbling, this can’t be a good sign for Hasty.
After Saturday’s practice, I wrote about how Garoppolo didn’t finish so hot, while Lance started cold and finished on a high note. Today was the opposite.
Jimmy G started 2/6 and was looking shaky. Then, he threw an interception in the red zone that would have made you pull your hair out. Ross Dwelley had three defenders around him and had no business being targeted. Garoppolo tries to give him a chance by throwing it up to Dwelley, but Warner had better positioning and easily came down with the pass.
Technically, this was offsides. I was standing right in front of Ford and Mike McGlinchey, and McGlinchey moved a split second before Ford did. Also, this wasn’t one of those “free play” scenarios. The line judge tells the team after the fact that there was a penalty. It was the decision to throw the pass that was an issue.
He and Lance threw their fair share of screens on Monday, so when you see “stats” today, keep that in mind.
After an interception last practice, Jimmy went into a shell. That could not be further from the truth this time. Garoppolo finished 9/14. He hit Dwelley on a few routes where the defense had tight coverage.
On one throw, Jimmy moved the defense with his eyes to come back and find Dwelley on third and long. On another, he stood tall in the pocket and stared down the barrel to find Dwelley again.
The best throw from Jimmy G came on what I know as a “circle” route — think Kendrick Bourne’s touchdown in the end zone in ‘19 against the Saints — where he found Richie James and threw him open in the end zone against Verrett.
Consistency remains an issue for both quarterbacks. Garoppolo was lucky to avoid an interception after forcing a pass to Aiyuk, who committed OPI to prevent a turnover.
Lance had a three-play sequence during the first red-zone period that showed why Shanahan fell in love with him. The first touchdown was a “stick” concept out of an empty formation. You have the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers running a hitch and an out route to the right side of the play. Then you have the No. 2 receiver on the left side of the formation running a slant.
Lance didn’t like what he saw on the front side of the play and quickly worked to his third progression to hit Mohamed Sanu in stride for six. That was as impressive as it gets. Lance also hit Josh Hokit on the run for a touchdown and called his own number on a QB counter with Kittle as his lead blocker.
Lance is unlikely to start Week 1, but it’s evident there will be a situation near the goal line where the 49ers can score with him. Later on, during the red zone drill, he outran Jared Mayden, who had an angle, for a touchdown. The kid is a big-time athlete.
Lance can throw on the run, and you can see him progressing, but he still makes a good amount of mistakes. For example, during the first team period, on his first throw, it was a bootleg, and he had James streaking wide open on an “over” route. That’s where the ball should go. But, instead, Lance never saw him and ended up throwing it away.
During the final red zone period, Lance had Aiyuk wide open for what felt like an eternity on a slant route. But, instead, he waited for the second window, which cost him, as Griffith intercepted Lance.
On Lance’s next throw, the offense ran a “follow” concept, with Dwelley coming underneath on a one-step slant, with Kittle following Dwelley at a deeper depth across the middle. But Lance was locked onto Kittle, where both defenders went and missed Dwelley open underneath.
Lance’s running ability continues to be a factor when nobody is open or even on designed runs. The 49ers will stay ahead of the chains with Lance under center as it’ll be tough for anyone to tackle him 1-on-1.
Here’s Shanahan on Lance running the ball:
“I mean, it’s just part of it. You don’t see it unless the defense plays at a certain way. He’s not just doing that to do it. He’s doing it cause they didn’t account for him. So he pulls it. But I mean, I always loved that play. It said it’s a good part of football and when you can show the defense, it helps them get ready for when they see it in the season.”
For those of you wondering who QB3 is, let’s hope we never have to talk about that position for the rest of our lives. Josh Rosen and Nate Sudfield are both inconsistent and don’t get many opportunities.