Before the 49ers play their first preseason game tonight, let’s look back at the first 12 practices of training camp and identify the top performers so far.
- Frank Gore. He’s worked as hard as anyone in training camp, and he’s clearly the best player on the team.
- Patrick Willis. When he practices he raises the level of intensity of any drill or scrimmage he’s in.
- Vernon Davis. He seems like he’s on a constant mission to improve. He has the complete respect of the defense. After he makes a catch in practice, you can hear the safeties shout, “That boy is fast!”
- Alex Smith. He’s the reason the offense has improved so much in practice. At first, the defense seemed ahead, but now the offense can move the ball all over the defense. Smith’s going through his progressions like a veteran. No more locking onto receivers with his eyes.
- Delanie Walker. He gets first and second-team reps, and he’s a popular target for both units. He hasn’t dropped passes or fumbled much at all, and he finishes plays strong, running everything through the end zone.
- Colin Kaepernick. When he gets the ball securely in his hands, he’s fun to watch. He can make throws that no other quarterback on the team can make. You can tell he’s motivated to get on the field this season.
- Aldon Smith. He stands out more than anyone on defense except Willis. The offensive line often had to double team him. He’s improving on his technique, too. He’s got the tools to be great, but he’s not a carpenter yet, as Harbaugh likes to say.
- NaVorro Bowman. He’s fast and tough, and he’s been blitzing successfully in practice. He’s the clear favorite for the starting Ted linebacker spot.
- Larry Grant. He’s the clear favorite for the backup Ted linebacker spot. He’s even been playing some with the first-team defense when Bowman rests, and he’s looked very good. Grant is big and he practices hard. He’s playing his way into a significant role for this team.
- Alex Boone. He’s trim and he’s big and athletic. He’s been the most successful player on the line against Aldon Smith, more successful than Joe Staley. Boone should be the primary backup at both tackle spots.
Braylon Edwards, Carlos Rogers, and Donte Whitner all have played well, but they’ve only practiced a few days.
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