SANTA CLARA – Before I get into the good and not-so-good of the second day of the 49ers’ rookie mini-camp, I want to share that I noticed three players playing two positions today – Eric Reid played free safety and strong safety, Al Netter played right guard and center and Andre Davis, Anthony Davis’ older brother, played right tackle and tight end. All three players seemed comfortable playing two positions. Davis even made a nice catch away from his body in one-on-one drills.
1. B.J. Daniels. On Friday, Daniels couldn’t seem to throw straight. On Saturday, he couldn’t miss. And he wasn’t just dinking and dunking, either. Daniels was firing bullets downfield and hitting his receivers in stride. When he couldn’t find a receiver, he scrambled instead of checking down, and when he scrambled, defenders couldn’t touch him. He had two touchdown runs that I saw. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought I was watching Russell Wilson play.
2. Corey Lemonier. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio spent 20 minutes staring at Lemonier during positional drills. Lemonier warmed up with the linebackers, like Aldon Smith did when he was first drafted (Aldon Smith warms up with the defensive linemen these days.) When Aldon Smith did the linebacker drills as a rookie, he was no good at them. Vic Fangio had to spend a long time teaching him how to lock out the sled/blocker and rip away. This did not come natural to Aldon, but it comes natural to Lemonier. He was the quickest and most explosive linebacker in the sled drill. It looked like he’d been doing the drills his whole life, even though he was a defensive end in college. On the field, he looked confident dropping into coverage and he had good hands. He’s clearly a top candidate to succeed Ahmad Brooks at strong side linebacker one day.
1. Eric Reid. Reid struggled covering Vance McDonald in one-on-one drills. They faced each other four times. The first time, McDonald telegraphed a short route and Reid punched the pass away. The second time, McDonald ran an intermediate route, cut and made Reid slip and fall. The third time, McDonald faked an intermediate route and ran deep and was wide open, but he dropped the ball. The fourth time, McDonald ran another deep route, beat Reid and caught the pass. Reid surprisingly struggled to recover once McDonald gained separation. To be fair to Reid, the one-on-one drills are set up for the offensive player to win.
2. Vance McDonald. For the second day in a row, McDonald had no problem getting open. He’s shifty like a slot receiver, and he regularly fools defensive backs and linebackers when he cuts. Reid could not keep up with him today. But McDonald couldn’t hang on to the ball – he caught three passes and dropped three. He had an issue dropping passes in college and at the Combine, as well. This is strange because his hands are huge. So his issue either is his concentration or his eye sight. Whatever it is, he should be able to fix it. Vernon Davis has improved his hands dramatically during his seven seasons on the 49ers.
3. MarQueis Gray. Like McDonald, Gray is an H-back who’s a natural at getting open. But Gray dropped four passes today. Delanie Walker was known for having bad hands, but I never saw him drop four passes in a practice. Gray needs to improve his hands if he’s going to have an NFL career, but there is hope for him. He made one of the best catches of the day, hauling in a pass thrown to his ankles. Also, 49ers’ backup tight end Garrett Celek dropped a ton of passes in the mini-camps and OTAs last year, but he improved his hands in training camp and made the team.