SANTA CLARA –
For the last open practice of the year, the 49ers scrimmaged as far away from the fans as they could.
There’s a north and a south field at the Santa Clara complex, and when the fans come they sit around the south field.
Usually Harbaugh makes the team practice on both fields. About every 30 minutes he blows his whistle and yells for fresh grass, so the team sprints to the other field.
He didn’t do this today. All 90 minutes of the padless 11-on-11s took place on the North field, about 100 yards away from the crowd. Maybe Harbaugh was afraid the Raiders sent a spy.
If there was a spy with binoculars in attendance he didn’t get to see much. Today was more of a rehearsal than a practice – Alex Smith and the first team jogging through their plays against the scout team defense.
So I won’t give you the usual good and not-so-good today. Instead, I’ll use the practice as a jumping off point to take stock of the team 17 practices into training camp.
Here are five players whose stock is on the rise, and five players whose stock is falling.
- Ahmad Brooks. Harbaugh singled him out first after practice, saying he’s had a “heck of a camp.” Patrick Willis called him an extremely talented athlete who’s been making plays all camp, and that’s the truth.
- Donte Whitner. Harbaugh also said he’s been encouraged by Whitner’s play. Whitner seems to have the strong safety position locked up. He makes plays both in coverage and at the line of scrimmage in practice. He makes diving pass break ups every day, and he’s been blitzing effectively as well. Today he intercepted Josh McCown and returned the ball for a touchdown, evading Coach Harbaugh near the end zone, who ran at Whitner like he wanted to tackle him.
- NaVorro Bowman. Patrick Willis said playing with the second-year middle linebacker is “a blessing.” Bowman seems to make at least two big plays per practice, and today was no different. He intercepted McLeod Bethel-Thompson on a pass over the middle, and he had a sack later in practice.
- Konrad Reuland. The favorite for the third tight end job, Harbaugh heaped praise on the former Stanford Cardinal. Here’s what he said: “He’s having a great camp. I coached him college, and I’ve always had great respect for Konrad’s game. He’s elevated it here and I’m really pleased to see that. Some of the guys have been joking with him and calling him Novacek in camp because he’s really caught about every ball that’s been thrown at him. He’s grinding hard in the blocking. Konrad’s probably put on about ten pounds and he’s gotten a little stronger. He’s giving himself a great chance to be in the mix to make the team.”
- Tramaine Brock. The favorite for the nickel corner job, way ahead of Tarell Brown and just slightly ahead of the rookie Chris Culliver. Brock practiced with the first team all week and looked good. When asked about Brock, Willis said, “Wow, he’s having a heck of a camp.”
- Tarell Brown. He started today across from Brock, but he struggled. The scout offense seemed to be picking on him, throwing his way over and over. He got beat at least four times by wide receivers who will not make the final cut of this team. On one play he got beat deep on a 60-yard pass from Jeremiah Masoli to Tyler Beiler.
- Parys Haralson. He doesn’t rush the passer well, so he seems like a situational player at best this year. It’s a matter of time before the first round pick Aldon Smith takes his job as the starting right outside linebacker. Smith could take it from him as early as week one of the regular season.
- Madieu Williams. He played next to C.J. Spillman today on the second-team defense, and he got beat a few times by Konrad Reuland on throws from Josh McCown. Williams figures to be the third-string free safety when Reggie Smith returns from his meniscus injury, which surely wasn’t what Williams thought he was signing up for when he signed with the Niners.
- Scott McKillop. Played exclusively with the scout team defense today. Larry Grant passed him right away on the depth chart at middle linebacker. There was a false report that McKillop had been released last week, but it’s looking more and more likely that he will be cut before the regular season begins.
- Taylor Mays. He’s been a scout-team-only player all week. Mays seems forlorn on the practice field, playing with a half-hearted effort and loitering by himself on the sideline. The 49ers want to trade him, but they may have to flat out cut him.
Follow me on twitter @grantcohn.