Niners’ offensive review
Today was a quiet day in 49erland, as the team had just a brief walk-through practice scheduled for the afternoon.
The 49ers have held 16 practices over the first nine days of work on the field, and some trends are starting to develop. Over the next couple days, we’ll look at every player on the roster. Today, we start with the offense:
11-Alex Smith: The onus was clearly on him to perform well to remain in the picture for the starting job. He has done that. The deep ball has been very accurate since the beginning of camp, and his touch passes are coming along, too. The only question is whether he can carry over his sharp play from practices into the games, when he must make his decisions quickly to avoid an unfriendly pass rush in his face.
13-Shaun Hill: He has done nothing to lose the starting job. It’s important in this offense that the quarterback be able to pose a threat down the field to keep the defense honest. After the first few days, there were some questions. But Hill seems to have focused on showing that aspect of his game. He connected on several deep passes Saturday. The first week of training camp was the best he’s looked at this time of year. In my mind, he’s still the front-runner to win the starting job Week 1, but a lot can happen in the first two exhibition games before Mike Singletary makes the call.
14-Damon Huard: The old pro has not attempted an 11-on-11 pass since the first day of camp. With his experience, he does not need many reps. The question is whether the 49ers feel comfortable enough with their top two QBs that they don’t need Huard on the roster to begin the season. If that’s what the team decides, his number would be the first one they dial if they need another QB at some point.
21-Frank Gore: He is running hard and practicing hard. After the 49ers drafted a running back in the third round, Gore went on mission to prove he can carry the load for an entire game and the entire season. He looks exceptional.
24-Michael Robinson: Has been out since Tuesday with a groin strain. He’ll be re-evaluated in the middle of the week. He does not have much to worry about when it comes to a spot on the 53-man roster.
29-Glen Coffee: His no-nonsense approach is similar to Gore’s. The 49ers like that. He’s a tough inside runner, and he’s been very consistent with his pass-catching out of the backfield, too.
30-Kory Sheets: The undrafted rookie has a lot of talent. He has good speed and vision. He will get plenty of chances in the exhibition season. His play in those games might determine whether the 49ers place him on the 53-man roster or bring him back to the practice squad.
33-Thomas Clayton: He has gotten a limited number of reps. The 49ers feel like they know what they have with him, and they’re trying to find out about Sheets. Clayton is not seen as an every-down back, and he has not proven to have much value on special teams. A roster spot will be difficult for him to attain, but he might have some trade value.
44-Moran Norris: After missing the first couple days, Norris tweaked his hamstring after reporting. He’s back at practice as Gore’s lead-blocker. His style is what the 49ers want from this position.
45-Zak Keasey: His future is not nearly as bleak as I once thought after Norris was re-signed. The 49ers will probably want to keep a backup fullback, and it could be Keasey. He has looked good in practices, and he can separate himself on special teams.
47-Brit Miller: The converted linebacker has never played fullback. Every day is a huge learning experience. He is coachable and making progress, but he has a long way to go.
9-Chris Francies: He arrived on the scene for the Friday afternoon practice. He was brought in after Brandon Jones’ injury. He has a lot of catching up to do.
10-Maurice Price: The reps have been difficult to find for Price, who has yet to catch a pass in 11-on-11 drills.
15-Michael Crabtree: The No. 10 overall pick in the draft remains in a contract impasse with the 49ers that has reached Day 13. He has missed 16 practices. He does not have a copy of the team’s playbook, and can only review his personal notes from the offseason. When he arrives, the dilemma facing the coaching staff is how to work him into the mix.
17-Dominique Zeigler: This is his third training camp with the 49ers, and he knows the drill. He has made some extraordinary catches, and his route-running is very good. Plus, he’s a lot tougher than he looks. After a busy day Saturday, he has more receptions than any of the team’s other wideouts.
18-Micheal Spurlock: His ability in the return game, as well as his experience in a “Wildcat” type offense is edging him into that first tier of receivers looking for roster spots. He has the versatility to play all three spots.
81-Brandon Jones: Sustained a fractured right shoulder on Thursday, Aug. 6, and is expected to miss eight weeks. He could return to action in early October.
82-Dobson Collins: The rookie is finding it difficult to get a good look. With a good exhibition season, his best-case scenario is practice squad.
84-Josh Morgan: He’s done little wrong, and it looks as if it will be difficult for anyone to supplant him as the starting split end at this point.
88-Isaac Bruce: He’s probably the one player who has impressed me the most this camp. He seems more comfortable in the surroundings this summer. He’s not looking for any favors; he’s going out every day and working hard. His hands, feet and acceleration in and out of breaks are a pleasure to watch up close.
89-Jason Hill: His first week of camp was very quiet, which is disappointing for a player who looked as if he had really turned the corner in the second half of the season. With six catches in 11-on-11, he ranks seventh among the wideouts through the first week. He simply needs to be more assertive.
48-Bear Pascoe: Nobody has experienced a rougher camp than Pascoe. He has a lot to learn when it comes to the blocking techniques the 49ers want to see. He has also seemed to let his blocking affect his pass-catching, too. But he continues to work hard, and the 49ers are satisfied it will all come together in short order.
49-J.J. Finley: Hey, he’s not bad. Finley has made tremendous improvements from a year ago. Even if they can’t find a place for him on the 53-man roster, it seems as if he has shown enough to land back on the practice squad.
59-Cody Wallace: He’s working with the second team at center. He’s also seeing some work at guard. He’s not there, yet. He must work on his versatility. Otherwise, it will be another season without suiting up for a game.
62-Chilo Rachal: A big part of the reason the 49ers believe they can accomplish their goal of being a power-running team is because of Rachal. He looks much stronger and polished. He’s having a very strong camp.
64-David Baas: Another season, another setback. Baas is on the shelf with a foot sprain. He’ll be re-evaluated in a couple days, and his availability for at least the first exhibition game is in jeopardy.
65-Barry Sims: On the backup units, Sims is going against a lot of raw youngsters. That part of it shows, as Sims certainly has experience on his side. He’ll be fighting for a roster spot in the exhibition season.
66-Eric Heitmann: Coming off, perhaps, his best NFL season, Heitmann is chugging right along in training camp. He does a very good job of handling the varied styles of nose tackles, such as the quickness of Aubrayo Franklin and the brute force of Isaac Sopoaga.
68-Adam Snyder: He’s been at right tackle from Day 1, giving him the luxury – for a change – of sticking with just one position to thoroughly learn its nuances. Although many believe he’s better suited at guard, Snyder is not backing down from the challenge of the competition.
69-Tony Wragge: At this point, there is no question he’s the better option over Cody Wallace as the top center-guard backup. Wragge has taken over at left guard after Baas’ injury. He appears determined to make it a difficult decision on the coaching staff when Baas is healthy.
71-Marvel Smith: When he signed with the 49ers, many considered him the presumptive starter at right tackle. But Smith has not risen up to take the job away from Snyder, who has practiced every day. Smith’s practices have been limited, and the 49ers are wary about anointing a starter who might be an injury risk. That’s a lesson learned after their experience with Jonas Jennings.
74-Joe Staley: The 49ers must feel justified in locking him up to a long-term contract while watching his play this summer. He looks good, and he’s becoming more of a presence as a leader, too.
75-Alex Boone: Looks to be solid in run-blocking but not as consistent with his feet in pass protection. If he does the right things off the field, it’s a near-certainty he’ll earn NFL paychecks this season (at least on practice squad).
76-Kyle Howard: He’s struggling at this point in camp, as he seems overmatched by the strength of the defensive linemen. Also, he tends to play too straight up and down.
77-Jacob Bender: It’s promising that he spent two months on the Patriots’ practice squad before the 49ers signed him to the 53-man roster. In Bender, they have a player who is working at left tackle. He has put himself in position to challenge Sims for a spot.
78-Matt Spanos: He did not take part in the offseason program. I’ve heard a few times when O-line coach Chris Foerster has been pleased with how he handled a situation. He stands out among the other young guys because of his versatility. He can play guard and tackle, and he’s even seeing action at center with third unit.
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