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5 under the radar defensive standouts from Day 6 of 49ers training camp

Between Alex Barrett and Marcelino McCrary-Ball, the 49ers flexed their depth Tuesday

NFL: San Francisco 49ers Training Camp Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

The intensity in the air was palpable as the 49ers took the field for their second padded practice of this year’s training camp. After a week to get their bearings together, we finally arrived at the good stuff. Football with pads, the way it was intended to be played.

Star players like Fred Warner or Javon Hargrave will typically have strong practices. To avoid stating the obvious, I kept a close eye on some underrated members of the 49ers’ defense in today’s practice. After deliberating over my notes, I highlighted five under-the-radar players who stood out to me during the team period.

Alex Barrett

Barrett was arguably the best player on the defensive side of the ball today. He was consistently disruptive, recording multiple pressures as well as a sack. The most impressive rep of the day for Barrett was a swim move to beat right guard Spencer Burford. It was textbook, you couldn’t have asked for a cleaner rep.

He was also a force in the run game, stonewalling a double team on an inside zone attempt that led to a minimal gain by running back Christian McCaffrey. The cherry on top was how disappointed Kyle Shanahan looked with his offense after Barrett effectively wrecked this play.

He also notched what should count as a sack, getting into the backfield before pulling up to avoid contact with Brock Purdy, who delivered a beautiful ball to Jauan Jennings in the back of the end zone on a wheel return route. Great throw by Purdy, but if we are scoring this fairly, it should be noted that Barrett would have assuredly gotten home with his pressure had he been allowed to hit the quarterback.

Barrett has consistently stacked good practice days and is a name to watch as the 49ers prepare to fill out their final 53-man roster at the end of this month.

Javon Kinlaw

The former first-round pick has always oozed potential, with the main obstacle in his professional career being an unfortunate string of injuries that have kept him off the field.

I made the case back in March that it was too soon to give up on Kinlaw based on the typical recovery window from the major knee surgery he underwent in 2021. Based on how he was moving out there on the practice field today, I am as confident as ever in that assertion.

He looked explosive in his get-off, moved very well laterally, and showed off the raw power that led to him being such a coveted prospect coming out of South Carolina. His most impressive rep of the day was a sack during 11 on 11’s where he won with an incredible long arm move to get into the backfield.

Currently, Kinlaw looks as good as he has since coming into the league and is a prime candidate for a breakout year for the 49ers in 2023. If you’ve held onto your Kinlaw stocks for this long, they are likely to pay big dividends.

If you’ve long since moved on, I highly recommend finding a spot on the bandwagon before it leaves town for good.

Marcelino McCrary-Ball

I thought McCrary-Ball was the best linebacker on the field today, and I’m not sure it was particularly close, either. He flashed tremendous closing speed and was a force in the passing game, registering an extremely impressive pass breakup on a Sam Darnold pass to close the red zone portion of practice.

He also showed a fire you want to see at this stage of camp, ripping the guardian cap off Jordan Mason’s helmet while fighting to get the ball out twenty yards up field.

Suppose he continues to practice the way he did today. In that case, he can win over the powers that be and take over the starting linebacker vacancy created by the departure of Azeez Al-Shaair in the offseason.

Kerry Hyder Jr.

If Kris Kocurek told me that Hyder Jr. was his favorite player, I would not be surprised. The one word I always come back to when watching Hyder Jr. is “motor,” and today, that motor was on full display during the team period.

His effort was evident on every rep, the most impressive of which came in the red zone period. Hyder Jr.’s most impressive rep of the day cam when he used a bull rush to push the pocket and then got his hands up in the throwing window, which forced Darnold to change his arm angle and deliver the ball low enough that it was broken up by rookie linebacker Dee Winters.

Taco Charlton

After being signed this morning, Charlton immediately impacted his first practice with the team. His standout play of the day was a sack during 11 on 11’s, beating rookie guard Joey Fisher with a move to the inside.

Charlton is a former first-round pick with intriguing athletic traits but is noticeably lean for someone playing defensive end at the NFL level. Whether or not he is viewed as a camp body or perhaps yet another reclamation project for Kocurek remains to be seen, but his first showing in the red and gold flashed some promise.