SANTA CLARA –
The first morning practice of the Niners’ training camp started today at 9:15 a.m, but the earliness didn’t deter a slew of famous spectators from showing up.
Dashon Goldson walked out to the field around 11 a.m. wearing a San Francisco Giants hat with an orange bill. Players and coaches greeted him on the sideline with hugs.
Former Pro-Bowl fullback Lorenzo Neal knelt next to me the whole practice and watched the field sternly.
But the guest of honor was former 49ers quarterback and current TV analyst Trent Dilfer, who was escorted up and down the sidelines by Trent Baalke. Baalke did most of the talking, and Dilfer did a lot of nodding.
At one point, Jim Harbaugh walked over to the two Trents on the sideline. They all had some laughs and then they started talking football. You could tell that’s what they were talking about because they moved their hands in the motion of the routes that had taken place earlier in practice.
Both Baalke and Harbaugh clearly wanted Dilfer’s opinion. Harbaugh even asked him, “Did you like that one?” referring to a play from practice. Dilfer did more nodding, and this made Harbaugh smile.
Harbaugh saw me spying so he left the symposium and went back to watching his players on the field. Baalke walked over to me and asked, “What’s up? Overhearing?”
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The Quarterbacks continue to improve. Alex Smith finally connected on some deep balls today. One he threw 25 yards perfectly over Vernon Davis’ right shoulder, who was double covered by C.J. Spillman and Taylor Mays. On another, Smith hit Joshua Morgan in stride 30 yards down the right sideline. Smith has clearly figured out how to move the ball against the 49ers defense, for what it’s worth.
Kaepernick threw more incompletions than Smith, but still looked good. Kaepernick likes to throw the ball to Delanie Walker, since Walker is the best receiver on the second-unit. So it was easy to compare Kaepernick and Smith’s passes, because they both threw lots of seams down the middle of the field.
Here’s the difference between the two. Smith throws the seam pass with touch, and he usually throws it high so Vernon Davis can jump up and catch it, while Kaepernick splits the safeties with line drives.
It looks like Smith throws changeups while Kaepernick throws fastballs. But both QBs are accurate and effective in their own way throwing over the middle of the field.
- NaVorro Bowman. Hit backup running back Seth Smith hard in the hole, and was effective blitzing the quarterback through the middle of the offensive line on others.
- Donte Whitner. Really stood out on defense. He had an interception and a pass-breakup where his helmet flew off.
- Phillip Davis. The undrafted rookie from Tulane intercepted Alex Smith when a well-thrown ball bounced off Ted Ginn’s hands.
- Alex Boone. More than held his own against Aldon Smith today. When Smith tried to cut inside, Boone pushed him to a guard and double teamed the rookie. When Smith used the speed rush around the edge, Boone handled him, putting him on the ground once.
- Konrad Reuland. Made numerous difficult catches high above his body with his hands. A lot of these catched came in traffic, they were the type of balls he’d been dropping the last few practices. When Harbaugh blew his whistle to end practice, the first thing he did was turn to Reuland and shout, “Nice work, Konrad!” Harbaugh gave the tight end a high-ten.
- Ted Ginn Jr. Dropped two passes, one that led to an interception.
- Aldon Smith. Didn’t get to the quarterback like he has in previous practices. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio says Smith has “shown flashes” but that he’s “struggling picking up the system.”
- Taylor Mays. Played the deep free safety position with the second and third team defenses. He got beat twice, once by Vernon Davis and once by Ronald Johnson. When Johnson beat him, Mays shoved him late and Johnson fell to the ground. His teammates didn’t like this, and Reuland immediately got in Mays’ face, grabbing him by the collar. One fan yelled, “Is that all you can do, Taylor?” To Mays’ credit, he apologized twice to Johnson.
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