Violence in practice

SANTA CLARA –

The competitive portion of practice was brief but it was also violent.

The offensive lineman took turns trying to prevent defensive linemen and linebackers from sacking a ball boy who was standing behind them in the pocket.

Every time the coach yelled “hut,” the players collided and their helmets crashed. It was definitely nutcracker-esque.

First, the drill was one-on-one. Aldon Smith had Joe Staley’s number, beating him with a fake to the outside, a club move, and cut back to the inside.

Isaac Sopoaga dominated Adam Snyder, pushing him straight back into the ball boy.

But the two-on-two segment was the most interesting.

Ray McDonald and Ahmad Brooks took on Anthony Davis and Chilo Rachal. It was the starting left side of the defense’s front-seven versus the starting right side of the offensive line.

Twice McDonald tied up Anthony Davis and Ahmad Brooks blew right by Rachal to sack the ball boy (by sack I mean tag – no ball boys were injured during this drill).

The object of the drill from the defense’s perspective was to make the guard block the outside linebacker, and Rachal simply wasn’t quick enough to stop Brooks, who beat him to the inside and the outside.

On the other side, Justin Smith and Parys Haralson battled Joe Staley and Daniel Kilgore, who played in place of Mike Iupati, who tweaked his right ankle earlier in practice.

Like McDonald, Justin Smith tied up the tackle, meaning he tied up Joe Staley. That left Haralson against Kilgore, and Haralson absolutely could not beat him. On one rep, Haralson fell on his face.

So, the left side of the offensive line is clearly superior to the right side, and it’s only a matter of time before Parys Haralson loses his starting right outside linebacker job to Aldon Smith.

Two more players stood out in this drill – Will Tukuafu and Monte Simmons. Tukuafu gets a good push on whoever’s blocking him – more of a push than Ricky Jean-François.

Monte Simmons was ferocious in this drill. He’s the fastest outside linebacker around the edge, and he’s also the most violent. Jim Tomsula gave him a lot of reps and was pleased with his work, giving him atta boys and pats on the butt.

Simmons is light for an outside linebacker – just 226 lbs. But he could fill a need as a situational pass rusher. He’s an undrafted rookie from Kent State, and his jersey number is 47. He’s someone to monitor throughout the preseason.

The rest of the practice was light – both first teams scrimmaging scout teams – and most of the starters looked great.

Alex Smith threw some long touchdown passes – one to Ted Ginn, and the other to Braylon Edwards, who was guarded by Scott McKillop, but mostly he spread the ball around on dink-and-dunk plays.

Kaepernick was more effective today than yesterday with his first team reps, but he did throw one interception to Phillip Adams.

THE GOOD

  • Joshua Morgan caught at least seven balls in 11-on-11s and dropped zero. He was Alex Smith’s favorite target today.
  • Vernon Davis caught five passes, most for big gains.
  • Braylon Edwards caught five passes as well, two on deep fade routes, two on quick slants, and one on a crossing route. Edwards is better than any other receiver at using his body to shield off the defender. He’s the best possession receiver the 49ers have had in a while.
  • Ahmad Brooks had another interception today and one bat down as well. Fangio said after practice he expects Brooks to have a big year if he keeps playing like he’s practicing.
  • NaVorro Bowman also had an interception, picking off Jeremiah Masoli.
  • Dashon Goldson had two easy interceptions, one off of Josh McCown, and the other on a McLeod Bethel-Thompson Hail Mary.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD

  • Anthony Dixon has not practiced well all week. Gore takes almost every run past the defensive backs in practice, and Kendall Hunter is starting to get to the secondary as well. But Dixon rarely gets up field.
  • Josh McCown completed only one pass today, fumbled one snap, and threw one interception to Dashon Goldson. But it was just his first day, and he barely slept last night, so his poor performance is understandable.

THE REST

  • Bruce Miller and Colin Jones played both offense and defense today, sometimes one play after the other. Both guys had to constantly change between red and white jerseys, which was a comical sight. Miller played some fullback, tight end, defensive end, and outside linebacker, and he looked pretty good at each position. Jones played safety and wide receiver, but he dropped a few passes and caught none.

 

Follow me on twitter @grantcohn.

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