Dontae Johnson shuts down Anquan Boldin, Brandon Lloyd and Stevie Johnson

SANTA CLARA – Here’s what stood out to me at the 49ers’ second padded practice of training camp.

THE GOOD

1. Dontae Johnson. Played like a monster. Broke up three passes. First, he swatted away a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Anquan Boldin in the back right corner of the end zone. You rarely see a cornerback beat Boldin on a jump ball. Next, Johnson almost intercepted a Kaepernick pass intended for Brandon Lloyd. Kaepernick stared down Lloyd and Johnson noticed, breaking on the ball before Lloyd turned his head. The pass bounced off Johnson’s chest and hit the ground. The very next play, Johnson broke up a Kaepernick pass intended for Stevie Johnson in the end zone. Stevie cut to the inside but couldn’t shake Dontae. Dontae outmuscled Stevie for the ball and knocked it to the ground.

2. Carlos Hyde. Twice during 11 on 11 team drills he ran off tackle, cut back inside and exploded through holes untouched. After each run, Jim Harbaugh yelled, “Atta way, Carlos!” Later during the same team drill, Hyde slid in the pocket and blocked a blitzer. Harbaugh loved it. He shouted, “Nice job, Carlos!” before the quarterback threw the ball.

3. Jewel Hampton. Caught five passes during team drills. Even made a touchdown catch during a red zone drill. He carried the ball well, too, gaining about 10 yards up the middle on one run against the first-team defense.

4. Vance McDonald. Also caught five passes during team drills. Dropped none. He caught two touchdown passes during red zone drills.

5. Tank Carradine. Burst through the offensive line and tagged Jewel Hampton for a three-yard loss during 11 on 11s.

6. Lawrence Okoye. Pushed Al Netter into McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who was standing about five or six yards behind the line of scrimmage in the pocket. Netter could not hold his ground against Okoye.

7. Antoine Bethea. Intercepted Bethel-Thompson, who overthrew Devon Wylie during 7 on 7s.

8. Michael Crabtree. Caught a touchdown pass between two safeties on the first play of 7 on 7s. Colin Kaepernick threw the pass. It looked like the kind of play that would have gotten broken up in a real game with live contact. The safeties let up as soon as they got to Crabtree.

9. Brandon Lloyd. Blocked Dontae Johnson out of a play during a red zone drill. Lloyd’s block allowed Vance McDonald to run into the end zone untouched.

10. Patrick Willis. Took one rep as a kick returner and scored. Juked Carlos Hyde and beat him down the sideline for a touchdown.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

1. Blaine Gabbert. Threw the ball to Stevie Johnson in the back of the end zone during 7 on 7s and got intercepted by third-string safety D.J. Campbell. During 11 on 11s, Gabbert threw a deep pass to Lloyd, who was breaking toward the sideline. Gabbert threw the pass about five yards too short.

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  1. Grant
    Is Dontae Johnson playing special teams ? if so which ones? it sounded yesterday that Cook was struggling so i wonder as to who the 5 CB’s will be that are kept. Brock, Cully, Cox (now our 1 returner) DJ , cook, acker and morris for 2 spots

    Also how is Okoye doing in game situations (tracking the ball, maintain gap discipline) in 11 on 11 or inside run drills? I know he can use his brute strength in 1 on 1 but would like to see how his overall awareness of the game is coming along. Thanks in advance

  2. VMac caught 5 dropped none. I think if he stays healthy this could be a breakout year for him. Especially in the red zone his size and length could be a real weapon, i hope.

    Also interested to see what Jhampton can do now that he is finally healthy

  3. Nice mix of offensive and defensive guys making plays. Was it that good of a practice Grant, or are you tired of being called a hater?

    Brandon Moss just fouled a ball off his knee. Ouch.

  4. I think this should put our injury situation in perspective:

    “1. Soft-tissue injuries are expected: Last year, there was an average of about one ACL tear per day in the first 15 days of league-wide camp practices. The major injury problem hasn’t gone away. San Francisco 49ers running back Kendall Hunter blew out an ACL on Friday. Since the start of camps, there have been four season-ending Achilles tendon tears: Indianapolis Colts halfback Vick Ballard, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Aaron Ross, New England Patriots wide receiver Greg Orton and Houston Texans guard Cody White. Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts and Carolina Panthers halfback Jonathan Stewart are out with hamstring injuries. Going from the post-OTA summer break to the start of training camp can be a shock to a body. Sad to say this, but expect 10 or 11 more major injuries over the next week and a half.” – Clayton(ESPN)

  5. Grant, thanks for the practice updates. Restores some of my optimism lost when I hear about injured players.

    When they say LMJ is out “30 days”, is that 30 days from now, or 30 days of regular season action?

    Re “Kaepernick stared down Lloyd and Johnson noticed”, the draft “book” on Johnson was he got frequently burned because he tended to jump on the first pump fake. If he corrects that his anticipation combined with his physicality bode very well.

      1. There’s a strong possibility that any slim hope that James had of playing on offense just went out the window.

        1. Hahaha. Homer Alert! Here comes Pollyanna-Tuna!
          I think we have a good team and can start OK. But there will be some guys coming back (LMJ & Bow) and some coming on (Ellington and VMac and Ward and Hyde) as the season progresses. We could start solid and finish strong.
          Sorry for the “we”. They do all the work.

  6. With all the uncertainty about how refs call PI/DH, it makes sense for teams to hedge their bets by drafting tall CBs like Dontae Johnson… and smaller, quicker CBs like Ward and Acker.

    Lets hope the new guidelines reestablish some consistency… and a few more flags for the Legion of Boobs.

  7. Grant,
    What’s your assessment of camp so far after the first 4 days? Which side of the ball has looked better? Any position groups or individuals standing out? And what’s your assessment of Kaepernick overall? Does he look more comfortable in the pocket or about the same as previous years?

  8. First, he swatted away a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Anquan Boldin in the back right corner of the end zone. You rarely see a cornerback beat Boldin on a jump ball. Next, Johnson almost intercepted a Kaepernick pass intended for Brandon Lloyd. Kaepernick stared down Lloyd and Johnson noticed, breaking on the ball before Lloyd turned his head. The pass bounced off Johnson’s chest and hit the ground. The very next play, Johnson broke up a Kaepernick pass intended for Stevie Johnson in the end zone.
    ———————-

    Sounds like typical Kaepernick red zone offense. INC/INT/INC
    Glad to see he’s progressing in that area.

  9. “Patrick Willis. Took one rep as a kick returner and scored. Juked Carlos Hyde and beat him down the sideline for a touchdown.”

    Uhhhhhh,,,,, WHAT?

  10. Looks like Jewel Hampton better get ready to carry the entire load during the preseason. Him and Hyde.

      1. MW,
        Lattimore if healthy IMO was the best of the bunch. I didn’t include him because he’s still not 100%. He’s the wild card…..

        1. bay & razor ..
          last I heard he was “working through” a hammie ..

          If thats the case.. I’m sure he’ll be ok to run roughshod over
          Grants Cowgirls ! …

          (ya think ?)

          1. Combination of Hamstring and KNEE. I wouldn’t expect diddily poo from him this year, but you never know…..

            1. oh oh ! .. wasn’t aware of the knee problem, razor ..
              doesn’t sound very optimistic ..
              Has he not totally recovered from college ?

          1. I would think the best way to utilize Lattimore when and if he becomes healthy this year is sparingly. If they can distribute 15 carries between Hyde, Lattimore and James, I’d be a happy camper. Even distribution early in the season with no back receiving more than 10 carries, that includes Gore.
            Don’t mean to sound harsh. It took me two years to get over Craig’s “fumble”. After watching Gore run against the Seahawks last year, I’m not in a big hurry to have him handed the starting job and the lionshare of the carries this year.

            1. When’s the last time a power-running team successfully used a RB-by-committee approach? When’s the last time any team with a prominent rushing attack successfully used a RB-by-committee approach?

              1. The Colts also won the SB and the point is they used a tandem running attack in both instances instead of relying on one guy.

              2. Same with the Colts.

                I’m not saying teams that used running-back-by-committee haven’t been successful. They have, but not with offenses like Harbaugh’s.

              3. Panther 2011.

                Of course Newton was a big part of that, but they had a solid combination with Stewart, Williams, and I think Tolbert.

              4. The Giants didn’t have two of the Nations leading rushers in their prime and Frank Gore as their three headed monster.

              5. The 2010 Colts didn’t win the Super Bowl. They lost in the Wild Card round. The previous season, they lost the Super Bowl to the Saints. Again, that was not an offense with a prominent rushing attack (last in the league). Moreover, Joseph Addai got the bulk of the carries in 2009 (219 vs. 78 for Donald Brown) .

              6. They have, but not with offenses like Harbaugh’s.

                That’s true. Those were more pass-centric offenses.

              7. The 2011 Panthers finished 6-10. I don’t consider that a successful season.

                I’m clearly not expressing my point in an understandable way.

              8. Jack:

                Yeah, that’s the point I’m trying to make. Unless Harbaugh/Roman completely change the offensive philosophy, I am skeptical that a running-back-by-committee approach would work.

              9. Yeah I figured you’d say that. I wasn’t sure if you meant just a successful rushing attack or a successful rushing attack that contributed to a successful team….obviously the latter.

              10. Claude,

                I hear you. With all the chatter about it you’d think a 49ers writer would do some a work on the topic.

              11. Leo:

                I’ve come to the conclusion that I worded my original comment poorly. I’m talking about successful teams whose offenses are/were run-centric (thanks Jack). I cannot recall any such team in recent memory featuring a running-back-by-committee approach.

                We can expand to successful teams with balanced offenses and I have my doubts that we would find such a team.

                And, remember, the 49ers have been to 3 straight NFCCGs using their approach, so the bar for “success” is set pretty high.

              12. Committee?? There are three healthy running backs and one is Jewel Hampton. What committee??

            2. Dyansty,
              this approach serves two purposes. First, it gets the young guys the reps they require to grow and get better. Second, it keeps Gore fresh for playoff time. Third, if I can throw a third purpose, it makes us more diverse if Roman calls plays according to each players strength.

              1. I think the second and third purposes are the more important ones Bay. We definitely need Gore to be fresh for a Super Bowl run and having diversity will make it easier going up against the strong defenses in the league.

              2. Claude,

                A poster above said he had two points, then proceeded to make a third point (he actually acknowledged it was an extra point, why not just edit the first sentence and say you’re going up make three points, not two? Odd…)..

            3. Grant:

              You’ll have to confirm with bay, but he advocated splitting the carries between Gore, Hyde Lattimore and James, with no back getting more than 10 carries/game and Hyde’s+Lattimore’s+James’ carries totaling 15 carries/game.

              1. I’m not really counting Lattimore in the mix. Never seen 4 backs in the mix that way. Lattimore until he proves otherwise is not football ready. I’m advocating 8-10 touches for Gore, LMJ and Hyde. If Lattimore is healthy, then James is the odd man out. Although he is the next most experienced after Gore.

              2. I like the sound of that Bay, but I just really doubt they go that route. It seems like they’re gonna run Gore into the ground.

              3. Then unfortunately they do not plan to get better on the ground. The good news is that Seattle also is not going to be better on the ground. Lynch not getting an extension for a reason. He’s not 100%.

              4. Then unfortunately they do not plan to get better on the ground.

                That assertion makes multiple assertions, none of which seem to have any factual support.

                Assumption No. 1 – Taking a committee approach to the rushing attack will improve the running game. Again, when has a team with a run-centric offense done so with great success?

                Also, I have read multiple running backs (including Frank Gore) state that they do better with more carries. Limiting Gore, Hyde, and James 8-10 carries each may prevent any of them from getting into rhythm.

                Assumption No. 2 – The 49ers have to get better on the ground. The team finished 2013 as the 3rd ranked rushing attack.

                Assumption No. 3 – The alleged failure of the 49ers’ rushing attack last year can be laid solely at the feet of Frank Gore. Several other commenters have noted that the 49ers’ problems running against Seattle last season seemed to be due, at least in part, to problems on the offensive line, particularly on the interior. The 49ers already have committed to replacing Goodwin, and it looks like they may replace Boone.

                Hyde and Lattimore (if he’s healthy) will get plenty of chances in the preseason to show what they can do. Can we at least wait until they actually play in a few games against NFL defenses before we start advocating for them to replace Gore? If the coaches think that the rushing attack will improve by giving some of Gore’s carries to one or both of them, then they will do so. If they don’t, then they won’t.

                You’ve been trying to bury Frank Gore for three years, suggesting each time that he was done as an every down back. He proved you wrong each of the past three seasons, but you’re back, once again calling for him to be replaced and suggesting that only Harbaugh’s stubbornness will keep Gore as the starter/main ball carrier. You may be right this year (4th time’s the charm!); I don’t think anyone would argue that Gore isn’t the same back he was 3-4 years ago. But, it makes sense to at least gather some data on the new guys before making such a big change. Maybe, just maybe, the coaches will have a good reason for sticking with Gore.

                And maybe Harbaugh’s not the stubborn one.

          2. Same was said about Frank Gore coming out of college and he’s managed to be pretty darn good.

            But I do have some concerns with Lattimore’ running style.
            In watching his college runs I noticed that he does not much leg lift when he’s running which leaves him susceptible to being injured when hit low because his legs can easily lock into the turf.

            I hope I’m wrong about this and goes on to have a successful career. But I can’t say that I won’t be a bit worried.

  11. Hey Grant – I know you’ve been pretty busy these last few days. Hopefully you’ll have some time to answer some of our questions. I can’t really find anything on how the ILB competition is going. The only thing I could find was that Wilhoite dislocated LMJ’s elbow, which is a good sign of Wilhoite’s physicality I guess. Can you comment on how Wilhoite, Skov, and Borland have looked?

    Also, I’ve read a lot of good things on Culliver. How’s he moving? Does he seem hampered or slowed at all by his injury, or does he look full go?

    Thanks

    1. Leo:

      This is the only thing I have seen, and it only talks about Borland:

      Rookie Radar: Chris Borland

      Borland really jumped out to me during one-on-one drills. His feet were extremely fast as he weaved in and out of padded obstacles laterally. The 3rd round pick out of Wisconsin is battling Michael Wilhoite for time at the inside linebacker position while NaVorro Bowman continues to rehab. While Wilhoite has to the favorite to start, Borland showed off some great athleticism and should be fun to watch throughout camp.

      http://www.ninersnation.com/2014/7/28/5943675/49ers-training-camp-day-4-observations

      1. Thanks Claude. Aside from CB, this is the competition I’m most interested in. I’m a bit surprised to find so little coverage on it knowing the situation that we’re in.

        Interesting that the writer notes Borland’s athleticism of all things. That was something that really concerned me coming out of college. The guy is a football player no doubt, but I wonder if his skill set transitioned at this level.

        I still think it’s Wilhoite’s to lose. Should be interesting.

        1. For me, it’s the interior o-line. All the skill position additions won’t mean anything if the o-line doesn’t do its job.

          1. Very true It would be nice to have Boone back, but its nice to see Looney getting some reps. I haven’t heard much on Marcus either.

              1. Oh that’s right I forgot about that…that’s a shame since he has a solid chance at winning the starting center spot

        2. Looks like Willis may have come up with a nickname for Borland:

          Pelissero (of USA Today) writes that Willis was asked which young player would “help” the Niners in 2014, and he responded, “I do like Chris Borland. He’s a nice little rascal.”

          Hmmm, Chris “Lil’ Rascal” Borland does have kind of nice ring to it. :)

              1. Thanks, but I’m not the best at anything. I think T-Rex has already resonated among the faithful out here in South Bend…..

              2. I’ve heard the T-Rex nickname, but I don’t think Borland’s arms are useless appendages. Oh, well, lol.

              3. Space
                If not Spanky McBorland,
                How about Badger? He played for the Wisconsen Badgers and he’s stout and ferocious just like the critter.

              4. 29 1/4 inch arms are about the shortest I’ve seen. He has really quick hands though. Smart as a whip and a Solid Ball Of Rock. The angles he takes compensate for his lack of speed. Fearless, and knows how to sift through the trash to find the ball carrier. Hell, the dude can even kick field goals, and do a back flip and land in the splits. He’s like a combination of Lambert and Webster, and probably would have fit right in at Blitzburg….

              5. The Punisher. He makes his opponent pay the price for going up against him.

                Chris ‘The Punisher’ Borland

    2. It’s pretty tough to judge inside linebackers without live contact. Nick Moody is the one linebacker who has been getting his hands on passes.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Borland wins a starting spot in base, but gets subbed out for Wilhoite or Moody in Nickel, because those two are better in coverage than Borland.

      1. That’s true thanks Grant. I guess we will have a better look next Thursday….which I just realized is showing on NFL network!!! That’s a big deal for us southern guys…California that is.

      1. Thank again Claude, very good read. The more I read on Borland the more I like and the more I think he really could not only win the interim position, but also make some major contributions. I know the coverage skills are still in question, but it should be a fun competition to watch.

              1. I mean no disrespect whatsoever. Just that I like to kid around sometimes. I like the gentleman and there are no hard feelings on my part.

          1. I think that is who Razor was referring to George. On a separate note, did you know that if you google Dick Sherman, the search will reward you with several links about Richard Sherman? Even a search engine knows what kind of a loser he is.

              1. Razor: That was good. I give up. I couldn’t find anything to equal yours. It was all mean-spirited, so I’ll pass.

  12. Headcase KR/PR Chris Rainey is now available. Might be worth kicking the tires since we just lost our punt returner and not sure if we want to use another RB for those duties since our depth is now weaker.

    1. Nothing short of a miracle if even one of these guys agrees to an extension before hitting the open market….

  13. What’s up fellas? I’ve been reading but not commenting because i never have time to debate my stances because of work.
    (Damn Bills). Anyhow, per alot of sources, bill williamson, tim kawakami, matt barrows, matt maiocco, bleacher report, etc. Our training camp is looking great. Even our Qb, sorry grant. I notice you point out all of kaps negatives, and rave about those negatives, like an i told you so junkie. But others also discuss his negatives, but they also throw in the positives. Like his percentage has been over 60% all camp, save for a couple of bad throws. Anyhow, sucks for hunter anf james. Jewell, next man up. You have already gotten good press from reporters, now its timeto show us if its all worth it. Go Jewell. Im not wworriedabout our ssecondary, remember, we made an all pro out of Carlos Rodgers with out coaching. Enough said. Im not worried about Sack francisco J. Smith. Hes 34, played well with a jacked up shoulder, now its healthy…. Watch out leauge, those 6 sacks will jump to 8 this year in critical situation. Boone, come home or hit the bricks, demand a trade. If the front ofgice isint nnegotiating because you arent here, i suggest you fire your current agent, showup to camp and start nnegotiationswith a new agent, or just demand a trade. Life goes on you will get paid everyone will be happy, especially looney, martin, and martin. Go frank, continue to prove hatas wrong.. Go D continue to prove the naysayers that say we are to old now, rams have better front 7, wrong. Go kap, Go coach. Get us number 6… Oh and go Grant Cohns Blog. Its very entertainingin here

      1. Lol!!! A positive review. Go Grant. All kidding aside, lord knows he needs to work on those. Might keep him healthier in the long run

      2. There you go Grant, now was that so hard? That almost sounded like you meant it.

        I’m sure there’s other positive things you can find. Maybe that you like his shoes, or you like his hair cut.

        1. The check downs are important. Improved accuracy, decision making and read progression. But he hasn’t improved in the red zone yet.

          1. Redzone will be a challenge. Colin’s improved (bit still a little loopy) throwing motion makes it hard to sneak passes through those brief openings. His flat trajectory is also an issue.

            I’m a big Kaepernick fan, but no QB is without flaws.

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