On Saturday morning, the 49ers opened the gates of Levi’s Stadium to the fans for the first time since the NFC championship game in January of 2020. With thousands on hand, the 49ers went through a fairly normal practice day, with a little bit of flair added to satisfy the rabid fans who were watching their beloved team live for the first time in 18 months.
It was business as usual for the most part, so I’ll break down what I saw at Levi’s and what stood out from my notes.
I thought it was a pretty mundane performance from both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. Each had a couple of throws that sent a jolt through the crowd, and both had a few I’m sure they wish they could take back.
Trey Lance - The highlight for Lance came during a one on one session was when he threw a deep arching ball 45 yards into the arms of wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, who had a step on rookie cornerback Deommodore Lenoir. The ball could not have been put in a better spot, and the play itself was a microcosm of the untapped talent that is oozing out of Lance.
Lance also added an impressive throw to Aiyuk during 11-on-11s, hitting him over the middle but placing the ball on his back shoulder to avoid the safety crashing down on the outside of Aiyuk.
On the flip side, some of Lance’s accuracy issues continued to rear their head as well, as he had a few misses high and away, including a ball he sailed over a receiver deep down the right side that should have been intercepted by the safety providing help over the top.
Jimmy Garoppolo - For the most part, Garoppolo had a pretty solid day during 11-on-11s, including a touchdown to George Kittle on the goal line and a well-placed throw between the hashes to Deebo Samuel.
The problem was when he missed; it was consistently low and behind the receiver, including a miss to Samuel that allowed Jason Verrett to break up a would-be walk-in touchdown. This issue has plagued Garoppolo for years now, and ultimately it might be unreasonable to expect that to change anytime soon as he enters his eighth NFL season.
On a positive note, Garoppolo has displayed good timing with the offense, and his command of the huddle appears to be as strong as ever.
OTHER OFFENSIVE PLAYERS
Brandon Aiyuk - Two words: Catch Radius. Aiyuk continues to show out during training camp, putting his insanely large wingspan on display as he snatches balls high out of the air. Aiyuk has consistently been one of the best players on the field during training camp, and he looks to take a massive leap forward in his second season in the NFL.
George Kittle - After a semi-quiet start to training camp, Kittle has caught fire as of late, becoming a dominant force in the last couple of practices. The highlight of his day came on a goal-line rep where he absolutely manhandled Lenoir at the line of scrimmage before catching a touchdown pass from Garoppolo.
Kittle looked like he was certainly feeding off the energy of the crowd, as he carried himself with a bit more of the electric enthusiasm we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from the all-pro tight end.
Maurice Hurst - What a pickup this was for the 49ers. Hurst absolutely dominated the second and third-team offensive lines during 11-on-11s and reminded many how deep the 49ers defensive line is with a performance that would have you believe he could be starting on the majority of teams in the NFL.
Hurst is creeping towards becoming a roster lock in a crowded position group, and his immense talent and skill will go a long way for an already stacked position group.
Jonas Griffith - A player who stood out to me from the first day of camp, Griffith continued to elevate his stock with an outstanding performance in 11-on-11s. Griffith was all over the field, displaying tremendous lateral speed to pair with plus football IQ, consistently putting himself in the right spot to make plays.
Griffith also got some reps with the first team, joining Dre Greenlaw and Fred Warner in the base 4-3 personnel grouping. If this play continues, Griffith will likely take that 4th or 5th linebacker spot and maintain a prominent role on special teams moving forward.
Tavon Wilson - Another player who is flying under the radar, Wilson seems to be a savvy vet who understands where he needs to be and, as a result, rarely makes mistakes that take him out of position.
With Jaquiski Tartt set to miss the beginning of the season on the PUP list, Wilson has more than earned a significant role on this defense, seemingly solidifying his spot as the starting safety opposite Jimmie Ward.