SANTA CLARA – Here’s what stood out to me at Sunday morning’s padded practice.
1. Bruce Ellington. Dropped a pass during one-on-ones, but during team drills he made seven catches, more than any other receiver. He made half of those catches running routes out of the backfield. That was new. He made his best catch as an outside receiver, though. He lined up against Dontae Johnson and ran straight down the sideline. When Josh Johnson threw the pass, Dontae Johnson had two steps on Ellington. But Ellington had another gear. He blew past Johnson and caught a 40-yard touchdown pass.
2. Carlos Hyde. Was the starting tailback for the first two reps of 11-on-11 team drills – Frank Gore took the third rep. Hyde also made three catches during team drills. Two of the catches were fantastic. First, he made a 25-yard catch deep down the left sideline. But that wasn’t his best catch. His best catch was just a five-yarder. He ran a shallow outward-breaking route toward the right sideline, and Colin Kaepernick fired the ball behind him. Hyde spun and caught it anyway. That was the most difficult catch anyone made during practice.
3. Vernon Davis. Caught six passes and two touchdown passes during team drills. One of his TDs came on third-and-fifteen at the defense’s 40-yard line. Nick Moody was covering Davis man-to-man. That’s all Kaepernick had to see. He dropped back and threw the ball deep to Davis, who beat Moody by four or five steps. “That’s why they buy your jersey, 85!” one of the coaches yelled.
4. Jimmie Ward. Broke up a deep pass intended for Kassim Osgood during one-on-one drills. Also intercepted a pass during a less-than-full-speed scout-team session. He tipped the pass away from the receiver and caught it. Ward has very good hands – that may be his biggest strength right now.
5. Quinton Dial. Burst into the backfield and tagged Alfonso Smith for a three-yard loss on third-and-two. Dial has the potential to be a dominant run stopper, like Red Bryant used to be.
6. George Whitfield. Tutored Kaepernick right in front of the media. They were alone on a side field – the rest of the team was on another field doing a special teams drill. Whitfield and Kaepernick were working on throwing with touch. Whitfield made Kaepernick loft passes over defenders (ball boys) while kneeling on his right knee – no legs involved in the throwing motion.
1. Colin Kaepernick. Threw two picks. First, he threw one on second-and-ten during a one-minute drill. The offense was losing by six points. On first-and-ten from midfield, Kaepernick threw an incomplete pass behind Ellington deep over the middle. On second-and-ten, Kaepernick again threw it deep over the middle to Ellington, but this time Kaepernick threw too high, Ellington tipped it and D.J. Campbell intercepted it. Next, Kaepernick threw a pick on third-and-seven from the defense’s 15 yard line in an end-of-game drill. The offense was down four points and had no timeouts. Kaepernick dropped back and threw to his left. He never saw Demarcus Dobbs dropping into the coverage. The pass was right to him.
2. Chris Culliver. Pushed David Reed to the ground at the end of a play during team drills. Jim Harbaugh kicked Culliver out of practice for that cheap shot. Before Harbaugh kicked him out, Culliver faced Reed in a one-on-one drill. Reed ran deep and Culliver ran with him step-for-step, but he never turned his head to find the ball. Coaches screamed, “BALL!” to let Culliver know it was time to turn his head, but he never did.
3. Darryl Morris. Dropped an easy interception during one on ones. Devon Wylie tipped a pass right to Morris, and he bobbled it and dropped it. Not a graceful play. During team drills, Morris didn’t break up any passes. He got beat once by Ellington and twice by Boldin.
4. Dontae Johnson. Knocked away a pass intended for Ellington during one on ones. But Ellington torched Johnson for a long touchdown catch during 11 on 11s.
5. Quinton Patton. Took three reps during one on ones and then watched the rest of practice from the sideline. He did not participate in team drills.
6. Stevie Johnson. During one on ones, he beat Kenneth Acker once and got beat by Chris Cook once. Johnson did not separate from Cook at all. Afterward, Kaepernick took Johnson to the side and showed him how to get open on that route, pantomiming the upper-body movements for Johnson. During team drills, Johnson got just three targets even though Patton, Michael Crabtree and Brandon Lloyd were out. Johnson caught two passes and dropped one.