Beating the blitz

SAN FRANCISCO –

Blitz-pickup was the theme of the day for the 49ers 13th practice of training camp.

But Harbaugh didn’t spend his personal teaching time at the beginning of practice on the offensive line. Instead, he corralled Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Braylon Edwards, Joshua Morgan, and Vernon Davis – the skill players. He had them practice quick-slant plays.

This is a standard drill in this year’s training camp, and it usually lasts five minutes before the skill players move onto something else. Today, Harbaugh wouldn’t let them move on. He wanted them to get this right.

At one point, he stopped the whole drill for five minutes to teach Vernon Davis “route mechanics,” as Harbaugh put it after practice. Edwards and Smith and Kaepernick stood there and watched as Harbaugh walked through Davis’ route step-by-step four or five times. This seemed tangential to the big picture, which was supposed to be about blitz pickup.

But when 11-on-11 scrimmages started, and the first-team defense started sending the blitz, it was clear what the slant-route drill was for. It’s the offense’s counter punch. The O-Line wasn’t all that much better preventing pressure on the quarterback, but the ball was coming out much quicker, usually to Vernon Davis on a slant.

If Harbaugh can turn the offense’s biggest weakness into an opportunity to get Vernon Davis the ball in space, good for him. It certainly was an effective strategy against the Niners’ defense today in practice.

THE GOOD

  • Braylon Edwards made a few acrobatic catches on the sidelines which made the fans go wild. He’s an absolutely unique weapon for the 49ers offense. His body looks like Terrell Owens’, but he plays much differently. Owens was a monster after the catch but he had mediocre hands. Edwards can make the leaping one-handed catch on the sideline or in the end zone.
  • Tramaine Brock is competing with Chris Culliver for the third cornerback spot, and he had a better practice today than the rookie. Shawntae Spencer started as a first team CB but he only played a few reps. Brock played the rest of the first team reps across from Carlos Rogers, and he played well. When he was matched up with Braylon Edwards, he only gave up completions if Edwards made a jaw-dropping catch. When Brock matched up against Kyle Williams or Ted Ginn, he seemed to overmatch them

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

  • Anthony Davis and Ray McDonald got into a scuffle. Their teammates had to separate them, and Davis’ helmet got ripped off. The fans didn’t like this, and they shouted from the stands a reminder: “You’re on the same team! Save it for the Raiders!”
  • Alex Smith’s final drive. Harbaugh wanted to replicate Joe Montana’s drive against the Cowboys in the 1982 NFC title game (1981 season). On this drive, three of Smith’s final five passes were batted down at the line of scrimmage. On the last play, his first read wasn’t open, so he scrambled left but didn’t seem to know what he wanted to do with the ball, throw or run, so he took a two-hand-touch sack, and practice ended.

 

 

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