49ers training camp report: DeForest Buckner injures his ankle

Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner warms up during 49ers training camp

SANTA CLARA

Here’s what stood out to me during practice Wednesday morning.

THE GOOD

1. RB Tim Hightower. Hightower split time on the first-team offense with Carlos Hyde – those two have shared reps evenly with the starters all of training camp. And while it’s clear Hyde has more raw talent than Hightower, Hightower still is more comfortable and productive than Hyde in Kyle Shanahan’s system. The offense functions better when Hightower is on the field. Today, he made three big plays: He caught a touchdown pass from Brian Hoyer during a red-zone drill, picked up a first down on second-and-10 with an outside zone run to the left and converted a third-and-five with another 10-yard gain around the left end. And those weren’t even his best plays. His best play was subtle: He took a handoff during an outside zone run to his right and a linebacker met him in the backfield – it seemed Hightower would lose three yards. Without hesitating, Hightower cut upfield behind the tight end, slipped through a tiny hole and gained five yards.

2. RB Carlos Hyde. Hyde was on the field for the first play of practice, but this play didn’t go well for him. It was an outside zone run, and a linebacker cut off him in the backfield – similar to Hightower’s run I described above. But instead of quickly cutting upfield like Hightower did, Hyde tried to reverse his path and cut back – a major mistake in Shanahan’s offense. Hyde stopped, turned around and ran sideways behind the line of scrimmage – right into DeForest Buckner who was waiting for him. Loss of three. Hyde should have turned upfield and gained a yard or two instead of dancing behind the line of scrimmage and losing three. This is why I question Hyde’s fit in Shanahan’s offense. He loses too many yards when he doesn’t have room to run. But when he does have running room, he’s fine, as he showed today. He gained 10 yards untouched around the right end on one play. And he scored a touchdown at the end of practice when he ran up the middle, bounced to the outside and trampled rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon on the way to the end zone. More on that play below.

3. RB Joe Williams. Williams and Hyde have the same issue with the outside zone play – failing to cut upfield when there’s no room to run. But Williams makes a different mistake. Today when a linebacker cut off Williams in the backfield, Williams ran around the linebacker and lost three yards after sprinting out of bounds. Williams needs to be tougher and run into the defense, not away from it. He redeemed himself later when he caught a touchdown pass from C.J. Beathard during a red-zone drill.

4. OT Trent Brown. Brown is an excellent pass-protector, but he needs to prove he’s athletic enough to fit Shanahan’s running game. Shanahan prefers lean offensive linemen who can run, and Brown isn’t lean – he weighs 352 pounds. But today, he showed he can run. During Hyde’s 10-yard carry, which I referenced above, Brown ran in front of Hyde and cleared a path for him. This was the best block of the day.

5. QB Brian Hoyer. Hoyer threw his first interception of training camp after misreading the defense. He was throwing to Jeremy Kerley, who ran a deep out-route and would have been open if the defense was play man to man. But the defense was playing zone coverage, and there was a cornerback standing along the sideline waiting for Kerley when he finished his route. Hoyer threw the pass anyway, and the corner jumped in front of Kerley and made the interception. Hoyer bounced back and played well the rest of practice, completing 16-of-24 pass attempts (67 percent). He has had a very good training camp. I haven’t seen a 49ers QB play this well in camp since Alex Smith. Hoyer is accurate, he throws terrific deep passes, plus he can throw the deep out, which Alex Smith almost never threw. The deep out is the most difficult throw a quarterback can make. The wide receiver runs 12 yards then cuts toward the sideline, and the quarterback has to deliver a long throw before the wide receiver even makes his break or else the ball will arrive after the receiver has run out of bounds. As coaches say, the quarterback has to throw this pass “with anticipation,” meaning he has to anticipate the wide receiver’s break and trust he will be open. Smith hardly ever threw with anticipation. He needed visual confirmation a receiver was open before throwing to him.

6. CB Dontae Johnson. Johnson was the cornerback who intercepted Hoyer. Johnson also broke up a pass in the end zone intended for Aaron Burbridge. Burbridge was standing by himself when Hoyer threw him the ball. Johnson sprinted across the end zone and slammed into Burbridge just as the ball arrived, knocking Burbridge to the ground and the ball out of his hands.

7. CB K’Waun Williams. Williams, the Niners’ nickel cornerback, might be the best cornerback on the team. He has dominated slot receiver Jeremy Kerley every day of training camp, both in one-on-one drills and team drills.

8. DE Solomon Thomas. Thomas chased down running back Kapri Bibbs from behind and tackled him for a two-yard loss after Bibbs caught a screen pass in the flat. This was the kind of hustle play Justin Smith used to make routinely.

THE NOT SO GOOD

1. DT DeForest Buckner. The best player on the defense sprained his left ankle during team drills. Buckner immediately fell to the ground, then got up and hopped on one foot to the trainer, who taped his injured ankle. Buckner tried to walk off the injury, but it hurt him so much he could only limp, so he watched the rest of practice from the sideline.

2. CB Keith Reaser. Reaser missed practice after hurting his knee yesterday. This injury is troubling because Reaser tore his ACL during college. His knee may never fully recover. The Niners need another corner to step up, someone like…

3. CB Ahkello Witherspoon. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem the rookie third-round pick will step up now or ever. Witherspoon is passive, he has heavy feet in coverage and he almost never contests a pass. Today, he gave up touchdown catches to Aaron Burbridge and Marquise Goodwin, both of whom ran simple fade routes straight to the back corner of the end zone. You’d think Witherspoon could defend these routes – he’s 6’3”. But he let the passes fly right over his head both times. During team drills, he gave up a 15-yard catch to Pierre Garcon on third-and-10, and committed a holding penalty in the end zone while covering undrafted rookie receiver Victor Bolden. Then at the end of practice, Witherspoon embarrassed himself when he stood flat-footed at the goal line and let Carlos Hyde run him over like a Mack Truck. Witherspoon seemed terrified. A reporter asked defensive coordinator Robert Saleh about that play after practice, and Saleh said, “(Witherspoon) is not a coward by any means.” Not a good sign when a coach has to say his player isn’t a coward.

This article has 206 Comments

  1. Yah, if there is one thing that isn’t going to fly playing for a team John Lynch is helping put together, is playing defense passively. Witherspoon clearly doesn’t have the aggressive, attacking mentality, as he is constantly getting caught on his wrong foot, or flatfooted altogether. I was never excited about this pick to begin with, and I don’t have a good feeling about his prospects now.

    It will be interesting to see how this new regime handles a 3rd round pick who seems entirely overmatched as a rookie!

    1. Then again, he’s not the first guy Hyde has trucked and wont be the last. That play probably bothers me less than giving up fricken simple endzone fades with his kind of length, and getting beat in coverage like a bongo drum!. Something is off with this kid.

    2. Notice how the author doesn’t even mention that the defensive players were told to hold back and not tackle or hit offensive players and the offensive players had no restrictions as he calls Witherspoon essentially a bust in week 1 of his first training camp.

    3. I am afraid some of these comments come across a little too strongly. I am certainly not ready to give up on a 3rd round pick with Witherspoon’s potential, 5 days into training camp. He appears to be a bit of a project, which is more to the point.

  2. That’s been Hyde’s signature move when caught in the backfield. No surprise there.

    Hearing that Brown is blocking his guy while on the move is encouraging.

    I agree that the deep ball is the most difficult, and something Captain Kirk excels at. Glad to hear Hoyer does too. It will be fun to watch the 49ers again!

    I like that comparison to Justin Smith when referencing King Solomon!

    I assume it is the same knee he had surgery on when you say it may never recover.

    Witherspoon is a disappointment up to this point. It will be interesting to see if he can redeem himself.

    What are your impressions thus far on Saleh, Grant, and how much zone coverage are they using?

    1. I like to here about Thomas making plays in the backfield, except Justin Smith did this regularly at 20 pounds heavier than Thomas, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

      1. Perhaps, but that’s because our db’s are pretty bad. Seattle has run more some than man the past few years… it’s a staple of that defense.

      2. Zone works fine if the linebackers are athletic enough to shutdown those short passes. Also as Belichick mentioned matched zones, most zone defenders these days aren’t simply guarding grass they’re pattern reading so they have a good idea what routes to defend (not systematic pattern matching where they switch to full man coverage against vertical routes…just pattern reading within their zones). The truly big question about the Niner’s coverage is going to be the play of the deep middle safety.

    2. People make a big deal about that Witherspoon play but defensive backs aren’t high tacklers.. we cut backs down.. problem is you can’t hit your own teammates low.. so typically a corner who’s not the most physical guy (90% of corners) will end up losing that battle.. especially in a non tackling drill.. id be more worried with him giving up td catches than getting ran over when he can’t go low..

  3. You are about the only one I’ve read today who put any kind of negative spin on Hyde’s practice. He’s the best RB they have and according to Maiocco is adapting to the system quite well. He said it’s Williams who’s struggling to grasp it the most.

    What are you going to do when Hyde is the starter and excels and Lynch has a great season? Man are you going to get it from me ;)

    Doesn’t look like Witherspoon will step up now or ever? He’s 5 practices into his first TC Grant.

      1. Grant,
        In your first week of reporting TC you reported (among others) an INT by Forster but failed to say that he ran it in for a TD.
        Now you report that Hyde ran over Whitherspoon like a Mack Truck and that Whitherspoon embarrassed himself. But you somehow failed to mention that defenders, or in this case Whitherspoon wasn’t allowed to tackle.
        That is a very significant point of reference that you should have prefaced in your story, which now taking on the look of a “hit job” on Whitherspoon.
        Details Grant, details!

        1. Players are allowed to hit, as Hyde showed. Standing flat footed and receiving the blow is not what Witherspoon was supposed to do.

    1. Plus, I understand that the defense was not allowed to tackle and take down offensive players. They were only allowed to wrap up.
      If that was in fact the case, Hyde basically ran over a player that wasn’t allowed to tackle him.

      1. Here’s what I think happened on this play, Hyde was either told or took it upon himself to toughen the rookie so that he will know what’s coming in the NFL and be ready for it. I think Saleh’s comment underscores this possibility.

        1. Or Hyde knows he has to prove something to maintain his position. So he takes every opportunity to make himself look as good as he can.

  4. Great observations, thank you and keep them coming.

    Bummer that we had to spend a valuable draft pick on Witherspoon. I hate to say it, but even Richard Sherman is a decent tackler (except against Vance McDonald).

  5. I read every practice breakdown that I can find. I guess I’m just a loser that way. Why is it that every day you find a way to take what is a negative day or two or three by a player, and decide to foreclose on the rest of their career? It’s just not a smart play. I shouldn’t have to tell you that, three days after you tossed dirt on Aaron Lynch’s career, only to see him play very well thereafter.

    You’re not a great judge of talent, and you’re not someone anyone would put in charge of personnel on a football team. Quit trying to do that to drum up interest. People will read columns that give fans insight into practice. We don’t need you hyperbolically claiming things to make a point.

    1. People need to not be so critical of Grant. His posts are of great value to the team. When he makes post that forclose on a players career they inevitably prove him wrong. Hey I do the same thing. All i have to do is criticize and make a blanket statement about a player and sure enough soon enough I am eating crow. People like Grant and I can turn a players career around quicker than any position coach can.

  6. Thank you for the detailed observations. In your opinion isn’t Jimmie Ward’s injury really disappointing. Can we really count on him this year or we don’t have a choice. They should have addressed the safety position much higher in the draft. Keep up the great work.

      1. This defense will get shredded without a very good SHS. Ward’s fragility is one reason my win totals are lower than most other Ninrer fans.

          1. How do you justify your 9 win prediction? The defense is what I wanted to see the most, because if it’s not greatly improved, this team isn’t going to win many games. What are your impressions of Saleh thus far?

            1. A weak schedule and a much improved offense. Saleh has a lot to prove. Ahmad Brooks there are only 10 calls in the entire defense.

              1. Ahmad Brooks said there’s only 10 calls in the entire defense? Yikes! Vic Fangio to the rescue;>)

              2. I also heard there were only ten calls to the entire defense. What’s scary here is that with 10 options, Hoyer was still fooled and threw an Int.

                When the defense gives up 42 a game, how improved can the Offense be? It will be 1 dimensional by Q2, down 28.

                Will the GM fire Saleh by week 9?

              3. I suppose that’s better than the 457 calls Jim O’Neil installed. Or the 382 Eric Mangini had. Most of which were senseless.

              4. They are playing the same system as Seattle which is very simplistic. They aren’t going to fool anybody. It’s based on positioning and running to the football.

            2. Coach and GM have six years to make the team competitive. It’s likely to take 3 or 4, with a little luck in their favor. But they have to avoid drafting disasters like Witherspoon. They should fire whatever scout promoted him so strongly.

              1. 3rd and long favors the defense, and they’ll need to capitalize on those to get off the field.

            1. I have been looking for an article without success that came out in the early summer regarding how the 9ers win total hinged on the secondary. Without good DB’s and solid play from the safeties it will be hard for Hoyer and the offense to keep up if teams can move the ball through the air with ease. The DL will play well.

              I am also taking the offense’s success with a grain of salt since our secondary could be weak with no starting safeties on the field and no real shut down corners on the roster. Though it does look like Kyle and John did a great job getting players for his system. Should be so much better than Chip’s abysmal attempt.

        1. It’ll get shredded if it doesn’t stop the run first and foremost. Hopefully the front seven can protect Ward so he doesn’t have to come up and make too many tackles….

          1. They can play 8 in the box and stop the run. Or play nickel or dime all game and stop the pass. But they won’t be able to do both. The lack of quality and depth at CB and S will probably doom them this season. That, and what will likely be a very inconsistent — putting it diplomatically — offensive line.

              1. Figure out who is worth keeping long term and extend them? Cut your losses on the mistakes and the malingerers? Draft wisely and pick up a handful of key free agents (Cousins, maybe)? The Niners have lots of gaps in front line talent and depth, and it could take a couple more years for them to get a firm footing. The rookies (Lynch and Shanahan) have to learn the ropes quickly, and will need some luck along the way.

              2. Oregoniner, I see you’re all fired up this morning. Good to see the old mans still got that fire in his belly!;>)

  7. Thanks for the info. Nice to see 3 different backs in the “good”. It does sound like Witherspoon as having a tough camp, but I’m constantly amazed by your willingness to write people off so early on. I would love to have read a post by you after watching Jerry Rice stumble out of the gates… I can just imagine something along the lines of “drops too many balls. Does not have breakaway speed. Likely to get cut before the start of the season. Will never amount to a starting-caliber receiver.”

  8. 49ers beat writer Chris Biderman is also defending Witherspoon:

    http://ninerswire.usatoday.com/2017/08/02/49ers-practice-recap-offenses-focus-on-running-game-deforest-buckner-leaves/

    It wasn’t a fair fight for Witherspoon, who had his violent welcome-to-the-NFL moment. Defenders aren’t allowed to tackle, which allowed Hyde the freedom to drop his shoulder into Witherspoon’s chest and flex his arms after scoring. Hyde cut an inside run outside toward the left pylon where Witherspoon waited helplessly.
    The 49ers for the first time had the starting offense play against the second-team defense, where Witherspoon has been fixed during the first five practices of camp. The starters at cornerback have been Rashard Robinson and Dontae Johnson, who likely wouldn’t have fared much better against the 225-pound back in space at the goal line.

    It probably wasn’t fair, but given concerns about him coming out of college, this play could define Whitherspoon in the NFL. How he responds to this will be very important imo.

    1. He wasn’t helpless.

      SALEH: “For him, he missed an opportunity to get down low and just go through the motions of a tackling rep.”

      1. Anyone who has watched Witherspoon’s interview — where he states the athlete he most admires is one who played one year, collecting his bodacious paycheck, and then quit the scene — should be able to project the likely arc of Ahkello’s career pretty easily.

      2. Through the MOTIONS. Not actually tackle. And he’s not the first DB that got punked by a back this way in this training camp. You even wrote a ‘ha ha, NFL justice’ in one of your columns about someone getting punked then punking back… Or do you not remember what happened just a few days ago?

      3. We all know that Whitherspoon was not considered a very good tackler coming out of college. The 49ers were especially aware of it, but they drafted him just the same.
        Whitherspoon may not have been helpless but it seems that he was not expecting Hyde to take a free shot at him either.
        There is a different attitude that a payer has when he knows he can’t tackle someone vs being able to tackle.

        I’m cheering on Hyde this TC and hope for a great year from him, but taking advantage of a player not allowed to tackle is not worthy of praise in my opinion.

    2. If I were one of those conspiracists, I’d wonder if this might have been orchestrated by upper echelon as part of some type of plan…;>)

      1. Razor,
        If that’s the case, then the “upper echelon” put Whitherspoon (their 3rd rd pick) in a bad situation.
        I would never get excited over a play in which a player is not given the opportunity to tackle, hence defend himself against 225 lb RB going full blast.
        Hyde’ run is much ado about nothing.
        When Hyde can make these types of run during real-time (games) without hesitating and dancing in the backfield, he will garner my praise.

    3. He was in a tough spot. First off as mentioned he is not allowed to tackle and secondly Hyde is a big dude who had a head of steam up. It was a welcome to the NFL moment for the rook but hardly an indication he’s not going to make it.

    4. What was he to do? Take Hyde out at the knees? Hurt his new teammate and the #1 back on the roster during the 5th practice of TC? He had no way of knowing that Hyde would tale advantage of the situation like he did. There was only supposed to be thumping of the pads, but no take downs and they were instructed to take care of one another. I’d bet that Hyde got a talking to by someone because it can and will cause bad blood between the offense and defensive players if the skill guys can lay the boom on their teammates without any repercussions. I don’t think it makes Witherspoon soft or that this one play will define him as a player in the NFL. Grant has zero idea what he’s talking about and his “opinions ” should be taken with a mountain of salt…

              1. East, they better start playing flag football, I guess.
                .
                I advocated eliminating a preseason game, and using that extra week to schedule 2 games in a 3 week period, with 10 days rest between games. Those Thursday games will not have 3 days of rest between games, so the effects of concussive blows will have more time to dissipate.
                .
                Hmm, maybe you want them to play 2 hand touch.

              2. Football is a violent game, but can be played safely, with proper technique and sane regulations.
                .
                Cavalierly saying you are concerned about CTE, then say nothing about playing with only 3 days of recovery time is also Hypocritical.

              3. Don’t look behind the curtain Dorothy! Classic misdirection! Nice try though putting words in someone else’s mouth who never said such a thing…

                Look at what you stated you were glad that Witherspoon got thumped. You have clamored about CTE. Now that I call you on it you misdirect. Nice try as I haven’t weighed in on CTE at all so you have no clue on my position. Bringing up Thurday night games were never mentioned but it never stops you from your triumphal self-righteousness! Keep at it though as your idiotic statements are laughable.

              4. East, obsessing much?
                .
                In your zeal to oppose me, you equate getting thumped to a concussive blow to the head. Just because he was thumped, did not mean he incurred a concussion. Tackles made legally with the proper technique can be relatively safe, even with thump. I did not advocate he lead with the crown of the helmet to deliver a blow to the ear hole.
                .
                What I find the most disturbing, is your nonchalant attitude about Thursday Night Football, which is a lot more dangerous because a possibly concussed player risks serious injury if they endure another blow to the head. It is almost criminal to make players play another game after only 3 days rest. Just because you did not bring it up, does not absolve you of not showing concern about CTE in one area, thinking it is not salient to what you wrote. Maybe you should start thinking of the ramifications instead of just ignoring the problem. Your self righteous zeal to diss me just shows how desperate you are to try and oppose me in any way, so your egocentric screeds really are pathetic.
                .
                Now you are being delusional. Attacking ad nauseum, but then stating you are not obsessing, or even thinking about it.
                .
                Please grow up. I want to calmly and civilly discus the Niners, but if you want to trade insults, I guess I will have to oblige, since you will not stop until I slap you down. Maybe you should get a clue. Many others have tried, but in the end, they learn their lesson and refrain from acting like a juvenile brat, and I will keep posting.

              5. Seb, look in the mirror… may not like what is reflected back. The CTE comment was merely pointing your position on liking thumps (and this may not have been a legal hit, could be dangerous for all you know, and does not address the high incidence of CTE in college and football players, which you commented on several past posts). I love your obsessions. They’re hilarious in their narcissistic self delusional capacity to be such spectacular demonstrations of poor analysis and reflection but also in their stubborn evidence of intransigence!

                Yet again you bring up Thursday night games an area which I have never spoken about, so you have no clue on my position on them just like you have no clue what goes on in NFL front offices!

                Keep lashing out if it makes you feel good though, but tell your doctor you may need to up the prescription!

              6. East, I do not preen in front of a mirror like you do.
                .
                Since you are obsessing about CTE, maybe you should elucidate your position rather than throwing out snark.
                .
                Trying to show concern, then ignoring salient factors, will not help you win any arguments.
                .
                Narcissistic, solipsistic, delusional rantings seem to be your MO.
                .
                I am perfectly fine with my analysis, since I was the first to advocate moving Garnett to his natural position, even with a ton of pushback. I also wrote that 10 point plan, and was encouraged to see Lynch follow 9 out of 10 things I wrote. Your tiny little intellect could not dream of thinking of anything cogent or relevant ahead of time.
                .
                Now you are turtling, dissing me about CTE, but refusing to try and develop or explain your positions. If all you can do is try and fail to oppose me, please try harder.

              7. Concerning the FO, I do know that the FO liked to leak and smear. They liked to stab players and coaches in the back. They liked to cut players on the team bus. Poor analysis? No, I think I am spot on about how classless and dysfunctional the FO was.
                .
                Thank goodness they fired Baalke, and now Lynch is trying to change the culture. Still, the stench of Baalke lingers, so Lynch had to apologize to a player for the continued leaks and smears.

              8. East, since you want to sound smart, dazzle me with some cogent analysis on CTE, and please do not devolve into calling for the league to implement 2 hand touch.

        1. Grant — Wasn’t it you who reported a few days ago that Hyde threw an unexpected and uncalled for forearm into another player as he was running past him. It appears that Hyde is pissed that people are saying he can’t play in this offense and is taking it out on the defense when they are not expecting it. Maybe the should move him to Safety and he can then hit people to his hearts content.

      1. If that play happens again and I’m Witherspoon, I’d take his knees out. Hyde and the coaches be damned… (that’s where he will be tackling a player like Hyde in a game anyways) he needs to send a message back that he’s not going to just stand there and take a shot.

        1. Calm down. Taking out some one’s knees is not smart, especially if the player is the starting RB.
          .
          Rookies need to learn, and Veterans should get some slack. I am glad Hyde is showing that he is the alpha dog. He just needs to direct his energies towards opposing players, now.
          .
          Bet AW will not get thumped again, anytime soon.

          1. I’m not advocating an international injury. I’m stating that’s exactly where he will hit a running back in a game.
            Hyde trucked a defender who was essentially told to go half speed.
            If Hyde comes in full speed again, AW has every right to tackle him full speed as he would in a game.
            Defense is a mindset, and defenders need to be the aggressors.

  9. Did Saleh seem more subdued than usual? Seems to be the mood in most post practice pressers. Maybe they’re just tired.

        1. “For us in this defense, because we don’t do a lot of scheme, but emphasis will always go back to fundamentals and representing the style that we’re trying to create.”

          1. Wonder what Lynch thinks of issues on the defense? I doubt he just shrugs and walks away. Remember, we’re not even to the first preseason game yet.

        1. He’s probably beginning to realize he has half a defense, and not enough experience of his own to know how to deal with that conundrum.

    1. Also a bunch of injuries already. It makes it tougher to bring in a new system when you’re starters aren’t in the lineup. Safeties are probably the most important position on this defense and our top three are out with injuries. He’s probably frustrated.

  10. Hi grant, how is Joshua Garnett looking? How do you feel about this coaching staff as opposed to last years horror?

    1. Garnett made a nice block 25 yards downfield during a screen pass on Monday. The coaching staff vastly superior than the last staff.

  11. Grant, how can you justify saying our defense will be weak this year. I feel this unit is vastly superior to last year. Armstead, Buckner, Mitchell, Thomas is a much better D-line. Linebackers are way better too. Corner is a concern but an improved pass rush will help them out. Safety is also better as Bethea was terrible last year. Offense will also be better so that will also help the defense.

    1. The defense will be better, but it won’t be great. Look at Atlanta’s defense last season. The offense carried that team.

    2. In Saleh’s defense single high safety is the most vulnerable link. If Ward can’t stay healthy, teams will simply throw over the front 8.

    3. “Linebackers way better too” “Safety is also better”
      Wow, Wayne turn down Freddie Mercury for a sec…
      We really better hope that Buckner/Armstead/Mitchell/Thomas, and for that matter, Brooks, Lynch, Tank, and Bowman can collapse lines/pockets early and often….DB’s are gonna be a patchwork (Ray-Ray will figure heavily in D-backfield), and hope we get some good breaks with the new and the re-cycled DB’s!!!!

  12. Hyde and Williams are going to have to be content on trying not to do too much when the running lanes close.
    It’s a discipline and if we could get a 3 RB attack with Hyde, Williams and Hightower, it could be a huge asset to Hoyer.

    Grant , whats the energy like in practice compared to Kelly and Harbaugh’s? Is there a lot of instruction happening and are the drills competitive?

  13. Thanks Grant. Good analysis. We are one corner and a great safety away from being dominant. I still see 9 wins for this team. We can finish 2nd in the division.

    1. 2nd? Who do you have winning the division?
      Az got older, slower, and their O-line is about as talented as the 49ers secondary. I give them 6 wins in 2017. Sorry Fitzgerald.
      Seattle still doesn’t have any receivers. In fighting and a divided locker room – I have Seattle at 8-8.
      That leaves the Rams… Wade Phillip’s defense could be successful in this division. The real questions will be QB play for the Rams. I think the Rams have a real chance of winning 7 games.
      I only have SF winning 5 games due to the “soreness” of Newton’s arm… Otherwise, it would be 4 wins.

  14. Razor you think they will keep 4 RB plus a FB? That would make it Hyde, Williams, Hightower and Brenda. So Bibbs would be cut.

    1. That’s what I was thinking, but Shanny has typically carried only 3 running backs not counting the FB. He could trade Hyde, and go with Hightower/Williams/Breida, and I wouldn’t be surprised. It’s looking like to me Williams/Breida will be his Freeman/Coleman in 2018, with an end of season evaluation of Hightower regardless….

  15. Matt, I don’t agree with your assessment. We will win more than 5 games. Seattle will win the division because they still have a great defense. Rams will be better but don’t have a QB. Arizona will drop off from last year. Our defense is much improved. Coaching staff is way better than last year. Hoyer is a very capable QB. O-line also has better depth.

    1. Stuff like this makes me want to see him gone. I think Grant reported in one of his other blogs that Hyde hit another defensive player with an uncalled for forearm after the play was essentially over in an earlier practice as well.

    1. MM said that Williams is not winning the starting job.
      .
      Hyde, even with his running proclivities, is still the bell cow, because he is a load, and has thump.
      .
      Hightower will help the RB by committee strategy, and Bibbs will help with STs, so Breida will be cut and hopefully make it to the PS.

      1. MM writes pablum and is a hack for the team! Grant’s an independent original thinker who cuts through solipsistic fanboy writing!

              1. When one fails miserably, it aint sumpin’ to crow about.
                .
                Village fool? East must have a very poor opinion about himself.

        1. If MM *is* a hack for the team, chances are he gets good inside information on who’s gon’ stay and who’s gon’ go.

  16. KS does not want the QB to wear a wrist band with the plays. He wants every QB to have memorized 300 plays. That might be fine for Ryan after a couple years, but these QBs are trying to learn a whole new system.
    .
    Sure, it might be optimal to know 300 plays backwards and forwards, but practically speaking, he might have more realistic expectations.

    1. Remember when Greg Roman had to dummy down his playbook for Kap, then the following year Geep did the same and Kap still struggled with the play calling.

      I think Kaps intelligence and commit to learning is an integral part as to why he is still unsigned

      1. Prime, you just had to gratuitously bring up a former quarterback who’s no longer on the team, didn’t you? Why don’t we all argue ad nauseum about the quality of Tim Rattay’s play and whether his shoes were the right color and laced up correctly?

      1. I know, I remember. But wait, we lost. Cause he couldn’t finesse it to Crab and missed a wide open VD.
        The only 49er QB to lose in a SB. 👎🏻

      2. Yep, and he has a 4-2 road playoff record. Please do not forget that he has the potential to run for more playoff records.
        .
        They finally admitted that he is being blackballed, but some team will have the guts to sign him.

          1. Prime time- Why do you still continually rag on Kaep long after he has been gone. Haven’t you chosen another player yet to act as the target to vent you personal repressed frustrations upon?

  17. Give Grant a break. Like everyone with an opinion it can be right or wrong. At least when Grant is wrong he will admit it and not argue. His opinion vacillates varies from good to bad and back again depending upon what he sees at practice. Like everyone else, if he hits 50% that is better than most on this board. He has been hot and cold about almost everyone on the team as well as the coaching staff at one time or another. I will say at times it takes a while for him to change his mind, but he does. He writes what he sees and his interpretation of that vision. Having played I have seen what happens to good players when a stunt like Hyde pulled put a players career at an end. A thump is one thing, but trying to destroy someone because of your own frustration is a totally other thing. If it took place as relayed here, it just a cheap shot by someone trying to be a big man again.

  18. If high draft picks like Beathard and Witherspoon look like garbage in the preseason, what are the odds they would designate them for the practice squad? A team that wanted one of them would have to put them on the 53 and they’re just not going to contribute at this rate.

    1. Cant give up on Witherspoon, since he is a third round pick and has lots of potential. I certainly will not label him a bust, and that last play was just a teachable moment.
      .
      CJB may survive the cuts to get on the PS, especially if they want to have extra TEs, WRs , RBs or CBs.

      1. Seriously, you guys need to check out Ahkello’s famous interview on YouTube. You can argue he was stoned or just joking, but I don’t think his statement about quitting after one year can be rationalized away. IMHO he was telegraphing a career plan he had given much thought to.

            1. I’m aware of that. I’m also aware that she died in 2007. I’m glad he’s in a better mindset now. But I can’t help but think about Anthony Davis.

              1. That’s the scary part 80.
                He’s got multiple red flags… getting kicked off a team for stealing a teammates credit card bothers me a lot.
                9 years after the fact it’s hard for me understand that as an excuse for walking away from the team even understanding that some things linger.
                I hope he truly needed to come to peace with it, and resolved those internal issues. I’m just doubtful.

  19. If Witherspoon continues to struggle, would this FO keep him on the roster over a better player just because they drafted him in the 3rd?

    1. I think it is going to depend on what position the better player is at and how thin the CB depth chart is.

    2. How many teams have cut their third round picks compared to the 5th, 6th and 7th round picks? He has value, being under a rookie contract, so they would probably keep him, then trade him, instead of cutting him, and getting nothing in return.
      .
      In his draft profile, they say he possesses a rare combination of size and speed, but he is raw. Sounds like he needs experience and teaching.

      1. Witherspoon is just the latest in a long line of names that includes Coffee (3rd round), Borland (3rd round), and Davis (1st round).

          1. Jenkins was a lazy underachiever who should never have been selected higher than the 5th round, but he didn’t out-and-out quit the team like the others.

            1. Maybe the Niner FO should have valued those players, instead of treating them like a piece of meat. The FO showed no loyalty, so why should the players show loyalty in return?
              .
              They also retired due to concussions, so making players risk permanent injury, and calling them quitters, is just poor sportsmanship.

    3. You guys are talking about cutting a 3rd round pick 5 practices into TC? Tough crowd. The kid can cover. Give him a chance before you write him off.

      1. Nah, just speculating about what the FO might do in a situation where he continued to struggle, and there were guys that were out-playing him.

        1. Yup, the coaches and scouts would be admitting they made a mistake if they cut him this early. They saw something in his play during college, so they will be patient and coach him up.
          .
          That last play was a teachable moment.

        2. Ok. Just seems a tad premature to be speculating about moving on from a 3rd round pick is all. He is a good cover corner prospect which is why he was drafted despite the tackling concerns. Not only do I not see him getting cut, I think he’ll be starting at some point this season.

  20. “They’re not tackling drills, and that caught him off guard. We’ll see when we’re actually allowed to tackle and I have full faith that Ahkello’s going to do exactly what he’s been coached to do. He’s not a coward by any means. He will get in there. He will tackle. He’s been showing up in run fits. He’s physical with his hands at the line of scrimmage. So we’re excited to see what shows up on game day.”

    Grant converts that quote to: “(Witherspoon) is not a coward by any means.”Not a good sign when a coach has to say his player isn’t a coward.”

    the entire point of the quote was to say the defense was being instructed not to hit hard and not to tackle. Grant leaves all that out but highlights the part about not being a coward.

    This isn’t journalism.

  21. The video of Glazer giving Lynch crap over the wash towels with his name inscribed on them is pretty funny.

  22. Here is the full quote by Robert S.

    “I’m not worried about that last play,” he said. “It’s a non-tackling drill and the ol’ vet caught him off guard. We’ll see when we’re actually allowed to tackle. And I have full faith that Ahkello’s going to do exactly what he’s been coached to do. He’s not a coward by any means. He will get in there. He will tackle. He’s been showing up in run fits. He’s physical with his hands at the line of scrimmage.”

    1. And the next part of the quote:

      But, you coach guys up in practice to defend themselves on a play like that?

      “To always work. Always keep your head on a swivel, I guess. You never know. What we talk about is that every rep is a tackling rep. For him, he missed an opportunity to get down low and just go through the motions of a tackling rep. For corners, obviously they’re never going to tackle high where they’re putting that shoulder through the sternum. You know, that’s just not their style. They’re more below the waste and obviously he can’t do that here in camp with our backs. They have a style, they have a plan and they always have to understand that they’re always working through that plan every single rep.”

      1. Very contradictory imo. He could go through the motions? He is still winding up on his ass if he does that because he can’t actually tackle. Saleh explained just why the kid was in a bad spot. He can’t go low and he can’t tackle. Hyde took advantage of that and gave him a welcome to the NFL moment.

        1. Every rep is a tackling rep. He could still thud up and practice proper technique. Standing flat footed and getting trucked is not the thing to do.

          1. No it’s not, but if you aren’t expecting to get steamrolled you aren’t prepared for it which seems to be what happened here. You are putting defenders in a tough position if you’ve told them they can’t tackle and then a player runs into them full force. Seems like everybody is not on the same page here or Hyde just took it upon himself to hit somebody he wasn’t supposed to.

  23. QB’s used to be judged for greatness on the 9ers if they won the SB.
    Then it became did they get to an SB (and lost)
    Then it bacame their playoff record (4-2)
    Then it took a screaming downward dive to…did they beat the Rams?

    By this criteria, we will know if Hoyer destined for greatness if he can beat the Rams. Then he will join the elite that is Kaep. And Gabberts……O how the mighty have fallen.

    1. Coming off a 2-14 season, I hope they can win another game. Beating the Rams was kinda a big deal, since it stopped an 11 game losing streak.
      .
      How it was won was kinda nice, too. Coming back from being down. Making a furious comeback, then eschewing the tie, going bold and risking all on a 2 point play to win. After getting met before the goal line, willing himself to cross the goal line and pulling out a victory at the last second, that was impressive. Considering the rest of the season, I kinda liked that game. You can pooh pooh that game, but I thought it showed, guts, moxie and leadership.
      .
      Yes, the mighty have fallen, and I yearn for a return to the Glory Years. However, getting to the SB, and coming within 5 yards of winning it, then being one pass from returning, well, I will take that any day over the last season, where the GM dismantled a SB team then sat on his hands to intentionally tank.

  24. Hello. Thank you for the report.

    What can you say on Smelter ? I have seen a a few reports mentioning him since the beginning of TC, but I can’t really say how is he looking compared to the other WRs. In which squad is he playing (2nd string or 3rd string ?) ?

  25. Grant,I have read a few other reports saying Vmac is having the best camp of the holdovers,I think it comes down to Paulsen vs Vmac,whats your take?

  26. Well now, here is what I am seeing from the good and the bad and some ugly. Last two articles Grant has written there have been many goods and few bad. The bad have mostly been injuries. I am not writing off Witherspoon not yet too damn early for that.

    Hyde doing the dance – nothing new there he has done that all career long. He is a good back no doubt but a great one, nope not yet. Hyde square your shoulders and run down hill – you have never been consistent with that and even you have acknowledged that.

    This team isn’t going thru a rebuild its going thru a major over hall its going to take time. New FO new coaches and a whole lot of new players. There is not one thing to take away from five practices other then a whole lot of below the knee injuries. Too early to make dire assessments.

    I kind of getting tired that the Niners should of drafted this and drafted that, too many holes on the team for one draft to fix them all. In eight days we will begin to see with our own eyes how the team is doing. No worries — yet!

  27. Grant, thanks for the hard work of watching these practices and giving us varying perspectives on them. Not on your page regarding the analysis but I do enjoy some of the tidbits you share: “His best play was subtle: He took a handoff during an outside zone run to his right and a linebacker met him in the backfield – it seemed Hightower would lose three yards. Without hesitating, Hightower cut upfield behind the tight end, slipped through a tiny hole and gained five yards.” Gave us all insight into Shanahan’s attraction to Hightower.

        1. 6-tech/LDE — Armstead.
          3-tech/LDT — Chris Jones
          1-tech/NT — Earl Mitchell.
          4-tech/RDE — Tank Carradine.

  28. Matt Maiocco‏Verified account @MaioccoNBCS 3m3 minutes ago
    More
    League source: The #49ers plan to release WR Bruce Ellington today.

    Another Baalke receiver bites the dust.

  29. I am actually hopeful, because Baalke was fired. The Niners struck gold when they selected Lynch, and because now that Lynch was on board, they got KS, who is working well with JL.
    .
    Instead of players avoiding the Niners like the plague with Baalke in charge, Lynch has managed to sign 28 FAs. That was smart because they filled every need, then they hit a grand slam in the draft, obtaining strong talent, getting the BPA and thinking towards the future.
    .
    if anything, even without the coaching, the team became demonstrably better, obtaining battle hardened and battle tested FAs, along with good young defensive and offensive players. The UDFAs also seem good, and they were attracted to the Niners with the chance to make the 53 and play.
    .
    The coaching may be the most marked improvement to the team. Instead of DJs and failed Browns DCs, they attracted competent coaches. Grant said that the practices are better organized, and the effort and excitement level is way better than last season. Do not know how Saleh will do, and still wish they would hire an OC, but the culture is changing, and optimism reigns.
    .
    While anything over 5 games will be a huge improvement, I think the Niners will actually be competitive, and have a chance to not have a losing season.
    .
    If they are courageous and go bold to improve the QB situation, they might win 9 games with a chance at the playoffs.
    .
    Sure, they have a tough row to hoe, with the whole NFC West improving, but hope springs eternal. The team seems to all be on the same page, and all are pulling in the same direction.

    1. 28 FA’s to fill every need–
      Grand slam in draft–
      Obtain strong talent–
      Get BPA–
      Think towards future–
      Team to become demonstrably better without coaching–
      Obtain battle hardened FA’s–
      Obtain battle tested FA’s–
      Seemingly good UDFA’s to make 53 and play–
      Hire OC–
      Culture changing–
      Reign of optimism– (you bet!)
      Be courageous– (uh…yea)
      Go Bold– (uh huh)
      Improve QB situation– (yea….uh huh…)
      Hoe tough row–
      Springing of Eternal hope — see “Reign of optimism” above
      Occupation of same page by team, seemingly–
      Pull in same direction–

  30. Another splendid Cohn article. I think a 2 year old could provide better insight.

    How you equate Reaser tweaking his knee to an ACL tear from what 4 or 5 years ago? And say his knee may never be recover is beyond me.

    And you are writing Witherspoon off after 4 practices. LOL.

    Please stop writing. It is embarrassing to read.

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