SANTA CLARA – Here’s who stood out to me during the fourth day of training camp.
1. DE Arik Armstead. Supremely confident. Carries himself like he’s the best player on the team. Hardly breaks a sweat unless he’s facing someone really good, like Joe Staley, whom he faced a few times today during a run-blocking drill. Staley would double-team Armstead with left guard Zane Beadles, then Beadles would peel off and leave Staley to block Armstead one on one. Then those two would try to annihilate each other. They seemed like they were fighting to the death. But neither could move the other player an inch. Each battle was a draw.
2. DE DeForest Buckner. Not as powerful as Armstead, but much more difficult to block on pass plays. Buckner uses his arms as weapons – constantly punching and clubbing the offensive lineman he’s facing. Today, no one could block Buckner on third downs – not Trent Brown, Andrew Tiller, Daniel Kilgore, Zane Beadles or Joe Staley. Buckner was equally effective rushing from the inside or the outside, from a three-point stance or a two-point stance.
3. CB Rashard Robinson. The best cornerback on the field today. Knocked down five passes and intercepted a sixth. On the interception, Robinson read Colin Kaepernick’s eyes and undercut his pass near the sideline before the coaches blew the play dead. Easily could have been a pick-six.
4. CB Jimmie Ward. The second-best cornerback on the field today. Knocked down two passes and intercepted a third. On the interception, Ward read Kaepernick’s eyes and undercut his pass near the sideline – almost an exact replica of Robinson’s interception.
5. WR Aaron Burbridge. Caught a team-high seven passes during team drills (3 on 2, 7 on 7 and 11 on 11), including a deep catch while running a back-shoulder fade route against Prince Charlos Iworah, and a deep touchdown catch while running a post route against Kenneth Acker.
6. WR DeAndrew White. Caught a touchdown pass from Blaine Gabbert during a red zone drill while running a fade route toward the back-left corner of the end zone. Also beat rookie nickel back Will Redmond for a deep catch on a corner route. White is the first receiver to beat Redmond during team drills in training camp.
7. WR Devon Cajuste. Dropped a couple passes from Gabbert early on, but caught three in a row from Kaepernick during a stretch of 7 on 7s. Cajuste clearly was Kaepernick’s favorite receiver. Kaepernick likes big targets.
8. QB Blaine Gabbert. Completed 17-of-30 throws during team drills and tossed one touchdown pass. Went through his progressions quickly and efficiently, often throwing to the third receiver in the pattern.
THE NOT SO GOOD
1. WR Torrey Smith. Caught five passes, including a deep pass from Kaepernick while running a go route. Then tweaked his left knee and sat out the rest of practice.
2. WR Bruce Ellington. Caught four passes, including a deep pass from Kaepernick while running a post route. Then jammed his right index finger trying to catch a Kaepernick fastball and sat out the rest of practice.
3. QB Colin Kaepernick. Completed just 10-of-27 passes during team drills – 37 percent. Also threw two picks and six other passes which defenders knocked down. Locked onto his first read most of the day. Frantically searched for a second read as a last resort and almost never reached his third read. Telegraphed almost every other pass. Moved his head slowly while standing in the pocket and released the ball slowly, too. His windup seems longer than ever. Kurt Warner can’t be happy.