Thoughts and observations from Day 3 of 49ers OTAs

Random thoughts, observations, pee tests and wind-affected punts from Day 3 of this week’s voluntary practices in Santa Clara


  • CB Karl Paymah, who is getting first-team reps in the absence of Shawntae Spencer and Nate Clements, jumped a slant route from Alex Smith to Ted Ginn and intercepted early in practice. Overall, though, Smith looked pretty sharp throughout the day. He looped a deep pass into the arms of Dominique Zeigler as Tarell Brown tried to defend in dime coverage, and later he found Josh Morgan in front of Dashon Goldson on a deep crossing route. Smith did leave one snap on the ground, when Tony Wragge was in at center.


  • Of course, the other Smiths tried to ruin Alex’s day again. Reggie and Keith broke up consecutive passes during 7-on-7.


  • Several key elements of the passing game, including WRs Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan, missed the start of practice because they had to offer up vials for NFL drug tests. TE Vernon Davis was one of them, and he never really got involved in team period or 7-on-7 when he returned to the field.


  • One of the most impressive sights so far during these OTAs: rehabbing LB Patrick Willis, one of the best compensated and most respected 49ers, a man who absolutely could skip these practices and not hear a word of rebuke, watching each play from 40 yards deep, getting into a slight crouch and shadowing plays left or right for a step or two. No secret whatsoever as to why this guy’s so good.


  • CB Will James has yet to practice with the team. He confirmed today that he is neither hurt nor out of shape. He just doesn’t know the defensive playbook well enough to contribute yet. Asked when he expects to take the field, James said, “I won’t put a date on it.”


Yet the 10th-year veteran is excited to be here. “I like the coaching staff, I like the scheme,” James said. “I like the direction of the team. I like this opportunity to play on a playoff-caliber team. I like Coach Singletary. I played for Johnnie Lynn before. I met with some players on the team and they said they like the organization, so I felt like it was a good situation.”


  • Dominique Zeigler got a lot of work today. Must have seen eight passes go his way in competitive drills, and in general he looked quite capable.


  • Second-year QB Nate Davis got a few reps with the first-team offensive line today, but he missed Josh Morgan down the middle on one play.


  • The same four players – Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams, LeRoy Vann and Brandon Jones – were back for punts today, and all four had trouble catching the ball as the breeze took it in strange directions. You can’t cite lack of effort; Vann spent time catching punts on another field during the final team period.


“It kind of had a spin, yeah, but that’s a spin you’re gonna get in a game,” said Williams, the rookie from Arizona State. “It’s just a matter of getting used to the spin, as well as the wind out here, for me. In Arizona, it’s hot, the ball flies a little bit different. I had the hang of it for the most part. Let a couple get away from me. … It’s all the setup. If you get set up in the right spot, you’ll be fine. If you stray even a yard or two yards, then you’re totally done.”


  • Pass-rush mismatches: OLB Martail Burnett beat FB Jehuu Caulcrick on one play, RB Glen Coffee was unable to slow down rampaging DL Isaac Sopoaga on another, and OLB Ahmad Brooks got a sack against LT Joe Staley.


  • Rookie LB Navorro Bowman isn’t getting a ton of work, but he continues to make the most of the reps he’s receiving. This morning he sniffed out a short out pass from Alex Smith to Michael Crabtree and got a hand on it.


“You try to pigeonhole him into a position that he should fit in your scheme or your defense, and that’s what we are trying to figure out, exactly where he is,” defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said of Bowman. “It’s a little bit harder now when there are no pads on, so we don’t know his striking ability or his leverage that he plays with. You can gauge a little bit of it, but for the most part, it’s kind of hard.”


  • Manusky on the competition at nickel back: “I think right now, [Tarell] Brown and Phillip Adams will work at that position as well as LeRoy Vann. We’re going to see what those two young guys can do there.”


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