QB competition heats up, Smith pulls ahead

SANTA CLARA –

Practice ended with Colin Kaepernick leading the first team offense against the first team defense in a 2-minute drill.

Kaepernick was 4-6 on the drive, but Aldon Smith sacked him on the last play, and the offense put up zero points.

Over the last 90 minutes of practice, Kaepernick took 22 reps with the first team while Alex Smith took 20. This was the first time in training camp that the reps were so evenly divided between the two. Yesterday, Kaepernick took four and Smith took 40.

Today, Kaepernick struggled. Often he double clutched in the pocket, unsure of where he wanted to throw the ball. He looked like a rookie.

He threw one interception and got sacked twice. Still, he was 10 for 16 with the first team. Not bad.

But not as good as Alex Smith.

Harbaugh described Smith’s practice as his best of training camp. I didn’t see Smith throw a single incompletion over the last 90 minutes of practice. He looked completely in command of the offense, connecting with receivers on short routes at will.

“There’s some separation there,” Coach Jim Harbaugh said after practice, referring to Alex Smith’s ascension past Kaepernick in the quarterback competition. “Alex has done a fine job. But Kaep is doing a phenomenal job. He is going to be one heck of a talent and one heck of a player.”

Keep in mind that both quarterbacks played against the scout team defense today, the third-team defense, the defense featuring Taylor Mays and Keaton Kristic. Still, you would have expected Kaepernick to move the ball more successfully against that unit.

After practice, Kaepernick was the least smiley he’s been all camp. When asked how he feels he’s doing in the quarterback competition, here’s what he had to say:

“He (Smith) has seven years of experience, so you expect him have a little more knowledge of defenses and checks, things like that, than a rookie coming in. Right now, I’m just trying to get up to speed and make sure I know all those things so I can really make this a competition.”

Smith, on the other hand, was relaxed and loquacious with reporters.

“I felt better the last few days,” said Smith. “I’m getting back in the groove of things. Throwing it well, just seeing things well.”

One reporter told Smith what Harbaugh said.

“Obviously, it’s nice if he said it,” Smith said with a smile. “I didn’t have any expectations coming off of last year. I didn’t know what was going to happen, and to have him kind of have that trust in me and to see something on film that he liked and to have me come back, yeah, that definitely excited me.”

49er fans will be very excited if Alex Smith can play in games the way he practiced today.

THE GOOD

  • Ahmad Brooks had two interceptions, one off McLeod Bethel-Thompson, and the other off Jeremiah Masoli. He’s looking like the clear-cut starter at left outside linebacker.
  • Chris Culliver had the interception of the day. Kaepernick wanted to throw an out route to Tyler Beiler and Culliver read it all the way, diving in front of Beiler to make the interception.
  • Will Tukuafu played well in place of Ray McDonald and Justin Smith on the first team defensive line when those two starters rested. “Nice pressure, Will!” was something defensive line coach Jim Tomsula yelled a few times.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

  • Chilo Rachal left practice early for an undisclosed reason, and Adam Snyder took his place at right guard.

THE REST

  • After practice, Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn went in two different directions. Williams went to the Jugs machine to work on his hands, and Ginn went to the weight tent to work out his rear deltoids.

 

Follow me on twitter @grantcohn.

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