After the 49ers’ final organized team activity (read: voluntary practice) of the year, coach Mike Singletary said, “I thought the offense got better. I thought Alex (Smith) did a great job executing the offense.” But the defense may have won the day. Here are some notes and observations from today’s activity…
• The 49ers practiced a lot of third-and-long (8- to 12-yard) plays in team period today, and finished practice with a “live” 2-minute drills. More on the 2-minute stuff later. One of the third-and-long sessions was in red zone. The offense ran 10 plays and didn’t score once, though to be fair, the script included three running plays. Among the passes, Smith missed TE Delanie Walker breaking open near the end zone, CB Tarell Brown broke up a throw from Smith to WR Dominique Zeigler in heavy traffic, and Nate Davis ended the period by lobbing an interception right into LB Mike Balogun’s arms.
Worst of all for the offense, it had to re-huddle on two consecutive trips to the line of scrimmage. It looked like WR Josh Morgan was in the wrong place the first time. Zeigler and WR Michael Crabtree were staring at one another the next time. The coaches weren’t thrilled.
• The standard first-team nickel lately has S Michael Lewis in one of the ILB spots. It’s tempting to call the package a dime (and I think I probably have) because there are six DBs on the field. But when the Niners go to their second team, there’s a true linebacker in place of Lewis. Shows what they think of Lewis’ hitting ability.
• The defense worked heavily on corner blitzes. Keith Smith, Phillip Adams and little LeRoy Vann were among the would-be Shawne Merrimans.
• Strong effort at linebacker today, including plays by Martail Burnett (spiked David Carr’s throw at the line and nearly intercepted the carom), Diyral Briggs (pressure up the middle to hurry David Carr into an incompletion), Scott McKillop (pulled Carr’s pass away from Walker for an incompletion) and Parys Haralson (dropped into coverage and broke up Smith-to-Morgan on slant). Takeo Spikes didn’t make anything I’d call a great play, but he seemed to be in perfect position on several occasions. S Reggie Smith got into the act, too, fronting Walker and denying a pass from Alex Smith. DE Khalif Mitchell disrupted a screen pass to Glen Coffee.
• Nate Davis struggled again. Of seven distinct team and 7-on-7 periods, five ended with incompletions, or an interception, by the second-year QB (assuming WR Bakari Grant was out of bounds while making a great catch in the first team session). Davis didn’t play in the other two periods. And when he made his best pass of the day, a long throw down the right sideline, WR Jason Hill doinked it.
• Zeigler joined Kyle Williams, Vann and Ted Ginn for kickoff returns.
• For the first time this offseason, I saw G Mike Iupati on the field without T Anthony Davis. The two rookies have been practically inseparable, rotating in and out together. I still haven’t noticed Davis without Iupati.
• Best pass of the day: Smith’s dart to Delanie Walker over Lewis.
• DL Kentwan Balmer progressed from individual drills to select position drills. Still no 11-on-11 work for a guy still rehabbing after shoulder surgery.
• Vocal coaches today. Singletary lit into CB Karl Paymah, and chided Hill when he dropped the pass from Davis. Meanwhile, WRs coach Jerry Sullivan focused his always-pointed barbs at Bakari Grant, Ted Ginn and Scott Long.