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Training camp, Day 8: Kittle and McCaffrey make their presence felt

Brock Purdy knows who to lean on, while Taco Charlton and a UDFA continue to impress.

San Francisco 49ers Training Camp Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Thursday’s 49ers practice was cut short a period, which made sense as several starters and other key depth players were held out. That was not the case on Friday as the team practiced 30 minutes longer than usual.

The intensity was not lacking Friday. During 1-on-1s, the defensive line overwhelmed the offensive line. If you take out the reps Trent Williams took, I’m not sure the offense had more than five wins in 20 reps.

The good news is right guard Spencer Burford had by far and away the most notable rep. He went head-to-head with Javon Kinlaw, who initially walked Burford back with a bull rush, but Burford not only rebounded, he wound up putting Kinlaw on his back.

And that’s far from an indictment on Kinlaw, as he had a tackle for loss during the team period and has consistently been among the top three to four linemen this week.

Team takeaways

Christian McCaffrey returned to practice, but Jordan Mason was the first back in during the team sessions. Obviously, CMC is still the starter, but that speaks to how Mason has performed during the past week.

McCaffrey is the most dangerous weapon on the field, which is saying something when you consider the camp that No. 11 is having. On Friday, we saw a couple of plays and concepts that Kyle Shanahan has been drawing up for McCaffrey this offseason. Let’s just say CMC leading the team in receptions would not surprise.

McCaffrey had an impressive cutback on his first carry that resulted in a long gain, but his value is in the passing game where he’s impossible to cover 1-on-1 against nickel and safety defenders.

Yesterday, I mentioned how something was missing from Ty Davis-Price when he carries the ball. Today, TDP showcased the second gear I was looking for. Even with Elijah Mitchell sidelined, the running back depth is still strong.

The offensive line was much better against the run than they were against the pass, but there were still ample tackles for losses. The defense certainly won the battle whenever a quarterback dropped back, as there were several sacks and pressures that affected the quarterback.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the defensive line, even without Nick Bosa, overwhelms the offense. I mentioned Kinlaw having a tackle for loss. Javon Hargrave added a TFL, but newcomer Taco Charlton is taking advantage of Austin Bryant not practicing.

Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks said after practice that Charlton “got off the plan and just started making play after play after play.” During 1-on-1s, Charlton was no match for the backup tackles. He had an eye-popping spin that left the tackle reaching for grass. But even during team, Charlton bullied rookie Brayden Willis on a run play which led to a tackle for loss for the defense.

Undrafted free agent D’Shawn Jamison has been running with the second team defense. He looks poised to make the roster. Wilks said he was, “very impressed” with Jamison and how the receivers were praising the rookie. They weren’t the only ones, as Charvarius Ward said he was watching Jamison and his technique, learning from the youngsters craft.

Jamison came close to intercepting Sam Darnold during practice where he jumped an out route, got a hand on the throw, but couldn’t secure the catch.

The defensive backs got their hands on several throws today. Talanoa Hufanga nearly intercepted Brock Purdy from his free safety position. Hufanga has a surprising range. After practice, Wilks said he told Talanoa that’s a ball he had to catch, as he didn’t feel like the former Trojan needed to leave his feet for the pass.

Clelin Ferrell and Drake Jackson continue to compete for a spot. The 49ers are in good hands as Ferrell has held his own while Jackson continues to learn the ropes and figure out what he can and can’t get away with. Athletically, Jackson has the leg-up. He even had a rep during team where he got around Trent Williams — which isn’t a feat many have accomplished.

QB Observations

As somebody who appreciates variance at the quarterback position, it’s easy to see why Kyle Shanahan invested in Purdy, Darnold, and Trey Lance. Let’s start with Brock.

Purdy is QB1. He’s the only quarterback taking reps with the first-team and on the field when the starting offensive line is.

Purdy has been working on his timing on the deep throws. And not the type where you’re running around and scrambling, but the passes where you take three steps and hit the wide receiver in stride. Brock isn’t shy about giving his wideout a chance, which is something you can’t help but appreciate.

Dre Greenlaw had to run with George Kittle on a slot fade, and Purdy gave Kittle a shot. At worst, if you put the ball high and away where Kittle can make a play, it’s an incomplete pass. But the best-case scenario is George catches it or Dre is flagged for defensive pass interference. Sure enough, Kittle hauled in the tough reception.

Purdy was 12-for-18, but he did put the ball in harm’s way a couple of times. On one, where Tashaun Gipson had an interception, wouldn’t have counted as Purdy would have been sacked three different times on the play. I wouldn’t count that as Brock was throwing it up and knew the play was dead.

On another, he threw high to Brandon Aiyuk during the move-the-ball period, where Deommodore Lenoir got a hand on the pass, but Aiyuk reached back and made an acrobatic catch while holding on through the ground.

Hufanga not catching one of Purdy’s passes was Brock’s worst decision of the day. Purdy let the ball hang in the air, but some sacks he took were egregious and plays where the quarterback must get rid of the ball.

Still, there’s a difference between Brock and the rest of the quarterbacks, and it’s simple: he’s consistently hitting the first level completions. A good chunk of Purdy’s, and the rest of the quarterbacks, completions were screens and underneath routes, but Brock finally completed a fade to Deebo Samuel. Hufanga’s near interception came on a fade to Samuel.

It was near the goal line where Purdy threw to Deebo’s back-shoulder and put it in a place where only Samuel could make a play on the ball. The timing and accuracy were perfect as it was one of those plays where the ball catches the receiver.

Deebo went down on the play and practice halted for a brief moment. Samuel got up shortly after as it appeared he just had the wind knocked out of him.

Brock also beat the blitz and found Samuel, who was his favorite target on the day. If we’re looking at the big picture, Purdy had the best day of any quarterback when it comes to running the offense.

Sam in second?

Darnold was the second team quarterback again on Friday, or at least the first quarterback to get reps with the 2s. A big chunk of Darnold’s throws came within five yards of the line of scrimmage.

There was one throw where Darnold could have gotten greedy and forced it over the middle, but wisely came back to the other side of the field to find Aiyuk as his check down option.

Darnold was fortunate that Jamison dropped his pass, or else he would’ve had an interception on his stat sheet. Other than that, there wasn’t anything notable for Darnold on the day. I doubt practices where he gets lost in the shuffle will win him the QB2 spot.

Trouble for Trey?

Lance’s hot zones are in the intermediate and deep portions of the field. He can hit a corner or over route with his eyes closed. There is plenty of zip on his passes, as defenders rarely if ever get a hand on them.

Lance finished the day 8-for-11, but it didn’t feel like a quarterback who completed 72 percent of his passes. He founds Jauan Jennings on a deeper throw that was perfectly layered over the outstretched arms of the linebacker. That’s the arm talent Trey possesses.

But, for whatever reason, the shorter throws give Lance problems. He one-hopped a ball to TDP that should’ve been an easy pitch and catch. On another rollout, Lance elected to run when Cameron Latu was in his vision and would’ve picked up six or seven yards.

Those are the plays Trey has to see and complete. That’s the difference between 2nd & 8 or 2nd & 2.

Brock - 7.5
Darnold - 6
Trey - 5.5

Did not practice:

RB Elijah Mitchell (adductor)
DL Robert Beal Jr.
DL Austin Bryant
OG Aaron Banks concussion
OT Jaylon Moore (bone bruise)
DL Kalia Davis (hamstring)
DL Darryl Johnson (IR)
DL Nick Bosa (money)

How could I forget the kickers? Jake Moody made three of his four attempts, as he hit from 33, 43, and 39. His final attempt from 63 came close, but fell just short. Zane Gonzalez made all three of his attempts from 43, 48, and 54.