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Day 12 recap: Trey Sermon shows out during the final day of training camp

We’re on to the preseason

San Francisco 49ers Training Camp Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

On Wednesday, the 49ers took the field for their 12th and final training camp practice. I’m going to break down what I saw and who stood out and add in a few random things from my notes. I’ll start with the quarterback position and Trey Lance specifically.

I charted Lance at 9-18 on the day. I did not count any reps where I determined a sack to have occurred or any plays that continued through a penalty flag being thrown.

The first passing attempt of practice was a deep ball down the right sideline off of play action intended for Deebo Samuel. I actually thought the throw was more than fine, as Lance dropped it into a bucket to Samuel over three defenders. Samuel was able to get a hand on it but not haul it in for a completion.

There is a clear difference in the timing and rhythm between Lance and Samuel when compared to Lance and Brandon Aiyuk. Consistently throughout camp, balls thrown by Lance intended for Samuel have been a bit off in regards to timing, and I think it just comes down to the lack of consistent reps between the two.

It’s no coincidence that Aiyuk and Lance appear to be much more in sync, given the amount of time the two spent working together during the offseason. I think it can be best summarized as Lance still getting a feel for how Samuel will track a ball in the air and pinpointing the requisite timing to execute deep shots downfield.

The second throw was another deep shot off play action in a similar spot, but this time to Malik Turner. The defensive back in coverage never got their head around it and committed a fairly obvious pass interference penalty. I liked the ball placement on this throw. The completion just never had a chance of occurring due to the defensive penalty.

Both of the first two throws clearly set the tone for the day, as Shanahan spent quite a bit of the day’s practice aggressively attacking the deep part of the field through the air. Here is what I had in my notes for the rest of Lance’s reps during the first team period.

  • Kerry Hyder Jr. rushing free off the edge on the right side, Lance stayed composed, planted his feet, and threw hot to Juszczyk in the flat with Hyder Jr. bearing down on him
  • 22 personnel look, George Kittle in the slot on the right side. Lance hits Kittle on a quick out to the right side for a positive gain
  • Lance stared down Aiyuk the entire way on a slant route working over the middle from the left side; Talanoa Hufanga jumped the route and broke on the ball for a pass break up
  • Miss on an out route to Tyler Kroft on the left side, about 8-10 yards upfield. The timing was off, and the ball was too far out in front of Kroft as he broke towards the sideline
  • Avoided pressure and checked down to Juszczyk in the flat
  • Deep ball down right sideline intended for Ray-Ray McCloud. Ball placement was good and would have likely been a completion for a huge gain, but Ka’dar Hollman got away with an egregious hold on McCloud as he was tracking the ball in the air
  • Quick out to Jennings on the left side. The timing was good; solid step forward on a throw Lance needs to build more consistency making.
  • Bad miss in the flat to Sermon in the flat. Lance started to feel pressure but had time to throw, put the ball high and away from Sermon’s body on a throw he had plenty of time to put right on Sermon.
  • Sack by Kemoko Turay got there before ball came close to coming out, Lance hit as he threw downfield, but this one was 100% charted as a sack before he released the ball.

Next up was move the ball and red zone work. Here are my notes from Lance’s attempts during these periods

  • 3rd & 9, Fred Warner with a pass break up on a slant intended for Kittle. Ball looked like it came out a little late and was a bit behind Kittle.
  • Warner brought pressure up the A gap on a blitz; Lance stood tall and threw hot to Sermon in the flat on the right side. Good poise under pressure; Lance has looked better in recent days when there is chaos within the pocket.

Red zone work

  • Lance keep on zone read up the middle, made a defender miss, and picked up eight yards
  • Lance keeps on zone read for loss of one in backfield on tackle for loss by Kevin Givens. Bad read by Lance should have been given to Sermon.
  • 3rd & 3, play action rollout to right side, Lance delivers a good ball to Juszczyk in the flat while on the move to move the sticks.
  • Another play-action rollout, Nick Bosa doesn’t bite on the fake and gets into the backfield and swats the ball down in the backfield while bearing down on Lance.
  • 3rd & goal from the five-yard line. Samuel Womack's pass break up in the end zone on a ball intended for Jauan Jennings on an in-breaking route over the middle.

Move the ball drills

  • Lance felt pressure, stepped up in pocket before rolling to his left, could have taken off, and ran but kept eyes downfield before throwing back over the middle to Kittle, who dove to this left to haul in this ball. Not a great throw, but the willingness to try and win with his arm before tucking and running with the ball is a major sign of maturity. Could have been more precise with placement but still put it where Kittle was able to make a play on it.
  • 3rd down, play action rollout to the left side, Lance hit Juszczyk on a slide route in the flat for a first down.
  • 1st down, deep out to Aiyuk down the left sideline off play action for a 25-yard gain. By far the best throw of the day from Lance, putting the ball on Aiyuk’s outside shoulder where only he could make a play on it. Deep outs to the left have been inconsistent throughout camp, but Lance and Aiyuk nailed the timing on this one for a big gain.
  • Pass break up Ebukam in backfield on naked boot, Lance intended to throw into the flat.

As will be the case in the immediate future, Lance had some ups and downs throughout the day. The second to last throw of the day to Aiyuk was incredible, the kind of throw that shows you why the 49ers made the move they did to draft Lance and put the future of the franchise in his hands.

And on the other side, the miss to Sermon in the flat highlights an area where Lance will need to continue getting more consistent and in rhythm in the short area of the field, particularly on the left side. Ultimately I thought it was a good day for Lance, who continues to progress with his mechanics and decision-making day after day.

Defensive line shines

It probably comes as no surprise to anybody who follows the team, but this defensive line is good. Damn good. Multiple players recorded multiple sacks during the team period, and there were a handful of plays made in the running game as well.

I charted Kemoko Turay with five sacks during the team period, with Turay getting at least one against the first, second, and third team defenses. I had Turay with two sacks against the 1’s, two sacks against the 2’s, and 1 sack against the 3’s. He simply could not be stopped today and looks to be a major piece on the edge rotation of this defensive line.

I had Charles Omenihu and Nick Bosa with a pair of sacks as well, with both players looking dominant over the course of today's practice. Bosa’s greatness needs no explanation, but Omenihu is a name to keep an eye on this season for 49ers fans.

He is massive, a very long and explosive athlete, and has shown the ability to play on the edge or kick inside, similar to how Arden Key did last season. Omenihu has consistently been the next man up after the starters on the defensive line throughout camp, and I would suspect that will remain the same when the regular season rolls around as well.

Samson Ebukam had a very impressive day as well, recording a pass break up, multiple tackles for loss, and a handful of pressures during the team period of practice.

Ebukam also accomplished possibly the rarest feat possible during a 49ers practice. He beat Trent Williams in a one on one rep. A fantastic performance all around for the starting edge rusher on the final day of camp.

All throughout the team period, whether the first or third team, the defensive line wreaked havoc on the offense and made it extremely difficult to sustain any kind of rhythm on their end.

The defensive line also won the one-on-one portion of practice against the offensive line as well. I charted 37 one-on-one reps between the two groups, with the defensive line coming away with 20 wins. Alex Barrett, in particular shined during this portion of practice.

Defensive standouts

Here are some other plays from my notes that stood out from the defensive side of the ball

  • Warner tackle for loss on outside zone run to the left side by Tyrion Davis-Price. Warner did a great job working laterally to the sideline. Davis-Price never had a chance of making it back to the line of scrimmage.
  • Ebukam tackle for loss on a carry to the right side by Sermon
  • Segun Olubi tackle for loss in the backfield on a Jordan Mason carry up the middle
  • Akeem Spence blew up a rushing attempt in the backfield before Lance had the chance even to complete the exchange on a handoff to Sermon. I didn’t see how Spence won at the line, but it had to have been decisively for how quickly he got into the backfield to blow this play up
  • Marcelino McCrary-Ball with a resounding tackle in the open field short of the sticks on fourth and short
  • Jordan Willis tackle for loss on rushing attempt by Davis-Price
  • Tackle for loss by Givens on zone read keeper from Lance
  • Sack for Bosa on a rep he decisively beat Justin Skule who was at right tackle
  • Javon Kinlaw with great closing speed from the interior to the sideline to set the edge on a rushing attempt to the outside on the left side of the field.

One last note on the defense, rookie cornerback Samuel Womack got the nod with the first team at slot corner today. With Charvarius Ward and Emmanuel Moseley out, the first team cornerbacks in nickel packages were Womack, Ambry Thomas, and Ka’dar Hollman.

Finally, running backs and receivers.

Running backs

Trey Sermon had yet another standout practice. Looked very impressive on a couple of reps where they ran a toss to the outside with him in the backfield. One, in particular, was designed to the left, but Sermon made a decisive cut to work back to the right side and navigated traffic to bust a big gain up the right hash.

Sermon also got the majority of the work with the first team today, particularly during red zone and move the ball drills. Sermon looks much more comfortable in the offense, and that is being reflected in his continued progress as camp has gone on.

Jordan Mason continues to impress me with his blend of power and vision. Mason had a couple of really nice runs between the tackles today. Davis-Price looks good running to the edge, has good burst in space, and can get north to south quickly. JaMycal Hasty broke a big run down the left sideline as well today. Solid showing in back-to-back days by the position group as a whole.

Wide receivers

Brandon Aiyuk continued his scorching hot training camp, hauling in a pair of impressive catches deep down the left sideline and regularly winning with his release at the line of scrimmage. Aiyuk is looking like every bit of the player the 49ers coveted when they traded up in the first round to select him in 2020.

Malik Turner continues to make plays and get open downfield. Barring any major changes, I don’t see how he isn’t one of the six receivers on the final 53-man roster. Ray-Ray McCloud is seeing an increase in reps with the first team and continues to create separation with defensive backs, and present a strong ability to stretch a defense vertically as well as horizontally with his burst.