SANTA CLARA – The 49ers have been talking about the Levi’s Stadium grass all week. Its roots haven’t set, the 49ers say. The footing is no good and patches of sod are coming up. Stevie Johnson slipped on the grass 45 minutes into practice, got up and started limping. Two plays later, Harbaugh pulled the team off the field and finished practice on the practice field which is closed to the media. The 49ers have to play a game against the Chargers on that Levi’s Stadium grass in four days.
The 49ers’ P.R. just tweeted this: “We have determined the appropriate measures necessary to have the field ready for Sunday and look forward to hosting the San Diego Chargers.”
Getting the field ready should have been the No.1 priority on the 49ers’ to-do list this offseason. Getting the field ready earlier would have ensured the safety of the players and the integrity of the game.
Here’s what stood out to me before Harbaugh ended practice.
1. Tramaine Brock. Broke up a Colin Kaepernick pass that was intended for Quinton Patton. Patton ran a short comeback route. Brock jumped the route and easily knocked the ball away. About 15 minutes later Brock intercepted a McLeod Bethel-Thompson pass and returned it for a touchdown. Brock was covering David Reed, who ran another short comeback route. Brock seems to read those short comeback routes well.
2. Jimmie Ward. Broke up a Kaepernick pass that was intended for Anquan Boldin. Boldin lined up in the slot and ran a short outward-breaking route. Ward sprinted past Boldin and broke up the pass. This was the first time Ward broke up a pass intended for Boldin during an open practice this offseason.
3. Patrick Willis. Practiced for the first time since he sustained a stinger against the Ravens in practice last weekend. Willis participated in team drills while wearing a blue no-contact jersey. He blitzed up the middle on second-and-six and “sacked” Blaine Gabbert. Willis played the Stack backer, or the “Jack” – the position he has played the past three seasons. Michael Wilhoite was the starting “Mike” – NaVorro Bowman’s position. Up until today it had been the opposite – Willis at Mike and Wilhoite at Jack.
4. Bruce Ellington. Beat Jimmie Ward for a 10-yard gain on third-and-five during an 11-on-11 drill. Ellington has given Ward big trouble all offseason. Ellington may be the third-best receiver on the 49ers right now. He rarely drops a pass, he’s fearless over the middle and he has an extra gear when the ball is in the air. It’s very difficult to overthrow him on deep passes.
5. Aaron Lynch. Beat his man three of four times in one-on-one pass rush drills. First he tried to beat Al Netter around the edge and got blocked. Then Lynch beat Netter with a bulrush. Then Lynch beat Jonathan Martin around the edge. Then Lynch beat Michael Philipp around the edge. Lynch has quick, violent hands which he uses well.
1. Colin Kaepernick. Completed just 8 of 16 passes during team drills. He was far less accurate today than he had been any other day this offseason. His passes were all over the place – too far, too short, behind receivers, etc.
2. Stevie Johnson. Targeted three times. First, he dropped a back-shoulder fade down the left sideline. Next, he dropped a deep pass that was underthrown, but he got two hands on it. Finally, he slipped on an outward-breaking route and limped off the field.
3. Quinton Patton. Targeted three times. Brock broke up the first target. Patton dropped the second target – a deep pass down the middle of the field. And Patton caught the third target for a five-yard gain.
4. Corey Lemonier. Beat his man just once out of four attempts during one-on-one pass rush drills. First he tried to bulrush Jonathan Martin and got blocked. Then Lemonier beat Michael Philipp with a bulrush. Then Lemonier tried to beat Carter Bykowski around the edge and got blocked. Then Lemonier tried to bulrush Dillon Farrell and got blocked. Unlike Lynch, Lemonier hardly uses his hands when he rushes and that’s a big reason he gets tied up so easily.