SANTA CLARA – Here’s what stood out to me at Sunday’s padded practice.
1. Eric Reid – He was the best free safety on the field by far. In 11-on-11 team drills, Reid knocked away a Kaepernick pass intended for Anquan Boldin running a slant. Also, Reid intercepted a Scott Tolzien pass intended for Garrett Celek. During individual drills, Ed Donatell had the safeties practice single-high coverage, having them back pedal and then defend either a Go route or a short slant. Reid was the only safety who could track the deep ball and catch it. Craig Dahl could track the deep ball but he couldn’t catch it – he dropped two of them. And neither C.J. Spillman nor Trenton Robinson could track it deep.
2. Colin Kaepernick – He made beautiful deep throws over the middle to tight ends. During seven-on-sevens, Kaepernick fired a 25-yard pass between two defenders to Garrett Celek. The pass was a bit high, but Celek reached up and caught it. Two plays later, Kaepernick through another seam pass to Vance McDonald for a 20-yard completion. This one really fired up Jim Harbaugh. He yelled, “Way to drive it in there, Seven!”
3. Justin Smith – He has not dominated the padded practices as he did in the past, but there’s a reason. When he’s at his best, Smith can use his arms to lock out blockers and fling them to the side. But Smith tore an elbow ligament last season, and he hasn’t been using his arms much in the team drills. When the center snaps the ball, Smith tends to drive into blockers with his shoulder. I imagine he’s protecting his surgically repaired elbow and saving it for the regular season. If so, that’s smart.
4. Marlon Moore – He beat Tarell Brown deep during one-on-one drills. That was the first time I’ve ever seen Brown beaten deep during one-on-ones. During team drills, Moore dove for an overthrown deep pass from Kaepernick and nearly caught but, but dropped it when he bounced off the grass. Later in team drills, Moore made a 20-yard catch down the left sideline. Tramaine Brock had great coverage, but McCoy threw it high and Moore jumped over Brock to catch it. Near the end of practice, Moore ran a slant route from the slot against Perrish Cox. Kaepernick threw it to Moore, Cox tipped it but Moore caught it anyway for a 15-yard gain. I think Moore currently is leading the 49ers’ split end competition.
5. Chad Hall – During team drills, he caught four passes for 65 yards, beating Chris Culliver, Carlos Rogers and Perrish Cox. During one-on-one drills, Hall beat Culliver, Rogers and Marcus Cooper. Like Moore, Hall had a terrific practice, but he’s probably not going to win the No.2 receiver job. The No.2 receiver has to be a split end, and Hall is more of a flanker/slot receiver. Still, he’s putting himself in position to make the final 53-man roster.
6. Vance McDonald – He dropped four passes yesterday but none today. In a span of nine plays during seven-on-sevens, McDonald caught five passes for 55 yards running seam routes and corner routes. But he was a bit sketchy during blitz-pickup drills. Cam Johnson beat McDonald rather easily.
7. LaMichael James – He caught three passes, including a bubble screen when he was lined up at split end. He has yet to drop a pass in training camp. During the blitz-pickup drill, James was much better than last year, when he got knocked onto his back quite a few times. Today he successfully blocked Michael Wilhoite.
8. D.J. Harper – The undrafted rookie free agent running back from Boise State was terrific in the blitz-pickup drill. He stood up NaVorro Bowman, Nick Moody and Nathan Stupar.
1. Kyle Williams – He left practice early yesterday with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Today, he did not suit up or participate in practice.
2. Ricardo Lockette – He made two good efforts on deep passes but couldn’t catch either one. He’s a terrific athlete, but he’s doesn’t yet look comfortable catching deep passes. Halfway through practice, he appeared to injure his right hip running a route. He toughed out the rest of practice, but he could not sprint. He was limping and grimacing.
3. Darius Fleming – He injured his left knee, the one he’s torn twice in the past 15 months. He was doing a kick-off coverage drill, Chad Hall was returning it, he juked, Fleming cut and fell to the ground in a heap.
4. Jewel Hampton – He did not do well in the blitz-pickup drill. Both Fleming and Wilhoite tossed Hampton aside.
5. B.J. Daniels – He took the biggest shot during blitz-pickup drills. Nick Moody knocked him onto his back. Daniels got up shaking his head.
Here is everything A.J. Jenkins did today.
1. During one-on-one drills, he lost to Nnamdi Asomugha and beat Daryl Morris. Jenkins tried to run a quick hitch route in front of Asomugha, but the veteran cornerback was all over it and knocked it away. Against Morris, Jenkins beat his press, ran a square in and made a nice catch on a low pass from Kaepernick.
2. During seven-on-sevens, Jenkins let his first target sail right through his hands. Later, he beat Morris on a short slant and he beat Lowell Rose on a deep dig route.
3. During 11-on-11s, he caught zero passes. Kaepernick tried to force one to Jenkins on a drag route, but Tramaine Brock was all over him, knocked the ball away, Jenkins fell to the ground and Brock made the interception.
4. Later during 11-on-11s, Jenkins gained 10 yards on an end around.
5. His final play of 11-on-11s, Jenkins lined up at split end and motioned behind Daniels in the Pistol. Daniels ran the triple option, faking the inside handoff to a running back and then sprinting to the right with Jenkins. Daniels flipped a perfect pitch but Jenkins dropped it. Culliver recovered it and ran it into the end zone.