49ers OTA report: Defense shuts down offense

San Francisco 49ers’ Arik Armstead, third from left, during the team’s organized team activity at its NFL football training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, June 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)


Here’s what stood out to me Thursday.


1. The defense in general. Either it’s phenomenal or the offense is making it seem that way. I can’t tell. The defense recorded six sacks, two pass breakups, two interceptions, and allowed starting quarterback Brian Hoyer to complete only 9 of 19 pass attempts. After practice, a reporter asked wide receiver Pierre Garcon what stands out to him so far about the defense. “Apparently we can’t run the ball or throw the ball against (it), so everything is standing out,” Garcon said. He wasn’t exaggerating. He and the other wide receivers can’t beat man-to-man coverage, the starting quarterback can’t hit open receivers, the starting running back can’t find holes and the offensive line can’t block. This all could change as the offseason progresses, though. The defensive scheme is relatively simple and players have picked it up quickly. The offensive scheme is much more complicated. Maybe the offensive players will do better when they think less on the field.

2. NT Earl Mitchell. Mitchell clearly has been the best run-defender on the line this offseason. Today during a run play, he knocked center Daniel Kilgore on his back and into Brian Hoyer, who also fell on his back. Kilgore cannot block Mitchell.

3. SS Jaquiski Tartt. Tartt covered rookie tight end Cole Hikutini man to man on one a play in the red zone. Hikutini split out wide like a receiver, and Matt Barkley threw a jump ball to Hikutini at the back of the end zone. But Hikutini never made it to the back of the end zone because Tartt jammed him at the line of scrimmage and rode him out of bounds. Great coverage.

4. LB Jimmie Gilbert. The undrafted rookie recorded three of the defense’s six sacks, and at least one of his sacks occurred when he was rushing against John Theus, a fifth-round pick from 2016. Gilbert is light for a pass rusher (he weighs only 230 pounds), but he’s tall, he has long arms and he’s tough to block – tougher than the pass rusher the 49ers drafted this year, Pita Toemaupenu. We’ll see if that changes when the players wear pads and hit each other.

5. QB Matt Barkley. Barkley hasn’t played with the starters yet, so it’s hard to gauge how well he’s performing. But he didn’t make one bad throw today. He was 5-for-8 with two dropped passes and a well-thrown jump ball that fell incomplete — the one to Hikutini who got pushed out of the play. Barkley is a quality quarterback who deserves a shot with the first-stringers if Hoyer continues to struggle.

6. RB Carlos Hyde. Hyde didn’t have any long runs, but he did make it out of the backfield without getting stopped a couple times, which he wasn’t able to do last week. After practice, I asked running backs coach Bobby Turner how Hyde is transitioning to 49ers’ outside-zone scheme. Turner’s praise was measured: “I’m happy with him right now. I’m not saying I’m ready to cut him totally loose and stop coaching him. I’m going to be coaching him all the way up until game time. Obviously, at this point we don’t have a depth chart or anything like that, because we’re coaching everybody the same. But at this point in time, I am happy with Carlos.”

7. RB Joe Williams. Williams scored twice in the red zone. First, he took a handoff from the shotgun and ran up the middle into the end zone. Then, he ran a curl route at the one-yard line and quickly turned upfield into the end zone. “He has the qualities of other players who have worked well in this system,” Turner said. “There’s toughness in him. He’s hungry. He has that speed. He’s got the foot quickness. And when it comes down to it, the mental toughness…I loved what I saw in Joe.”

A reporter asked Turner what other qualities running backs need to have in the 49ers’ system. “A lot of people say you can plug anybody in there,” Turner said. “No, it’s like a marriage. It has got to be a perfect fit. It’s hand in glove. Our responsibility is to find the correct people, and then to teach those guys, and for those guys to run with vision…We want the obvious – guys who have speed, foot quickness, cutting ability. They also have to understand about patience.”

8. RB Matt Breida. The undrafted rookie carried the ball twice and gained more than 10 yards both times. Breida seems to make plays every time we see him. A reporter mentioned this to Bobby Turner, and Turner cut him off. “I’m glad you guys have seen that. Yes, he does. Matt’s speed is obvious to everyone. The bottom line is he breaks them off. He makes plays when he gets the opportunity. That’s why he’s here.”

9. RT Trent Brown. Brown seems slimmer and faster than he’s ever been, although today he gave up a sack to Tank Carradine, who also is in the best shape of his career. I asked offensive line coach John Benton if Brown, the biggest offensive lineman on the team, fits this offense. “At first, I wasn’t sure if he would,” Benton said. “I’ll tell you right now, I’m positively optimistic about Trent. He has gotten in good shape – or, much better shape since we got here when he was way up there weight-wise. He is an outstanding athlete, so I think he does fit the mold. I think he can do it. He’ll just have to keep pushing both his technique – he’ll have to be very efficient with his technique which he’s working on very hard – and continue to stay in prime condition. Those will be the key factors for him. If he can do that, I’m very excited about Trent and what he can do. If a player can do what we want him to do from that athletic standpoint and has the size and power of Trent Brown, now we have something really special.”


1. The offense in general. Vance McDonald dropped a pass. Cole Hikutini dropped a pass. Garcon dropped a pass and then Dontae Johnson intercepted it. Carlos Hyde dropped a pass and then it bounced off NaVorro Bowman’s facemask and Malcolm Smith intercepted it. Hoyer overthrew Jeremy Kerley. Hoyer overthrew Garcon. Hoyer overthrew Blake Bell who had beaten Bowman deep by a step. Hoyer overthrew Marquise Goodwin who leaped and caught the ball but landed out of bounds. Hoyer overthrew DeAndre Smelter who was open in the back of the end zone. And Hoyer overthrew Kyle Juszczyk who was open in the flat. Other than that, the offense was great.

2. DE Arik Armstead. Armstead was the only defensive linemen who couldn’t generate pressure. He played right defensive end both in the base defense and nickel defense, meaning he faced Joe Staley, the best offensive lineman on the team. And Armstead couldn’t move him or get around him. This probably is one reason the 49ers signed veteran pass-rush specialist Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil most likely will play right defensive end in the nickel defense, while Armstead will play there position in the base. He’s been defending the run well from that spot.

3. QB C.J. Beathard. The rookie third-round pick played against the third-string defense and completed only 4-of-10 passes. Once, he got to play with Marquise Goodwin, a starter, who ran deep and beat a third-string cornerback easily. Beathard heaved the ball as far as he could and still underthrew Goodwin by five yards.

4. Injuries. Rashard Robinson, K’Waun Williams and Ronald Blair sat out practice due to injuries, and Ahmad Brooks suffered an injury to his left leg during team drills. Brooks limped to the sideline and laid on the ground for five minutes until practice ended.

This article has 102 Comments

  1. I really want the D looking good to be because they are good, but… yeah, lets be honest, the offense isn’t exactly amazing talent-wise and they have a lot more learning to do.

    Not surprised in the least that Armstead looks ordinary rushing the passer from DE. As I have said previously, he only really has a power pass rush move, and won’t threaten around the edge, which makes it really simple and easy for a quality OT like Staley.

  2. No surprise the defense is ahead of the offense. It’s complicated, and then there’s continuity issues. Glad to hear about Trent Brown. I was worried about him. Armstead IS coming off injury, and I expected him to be a work in progress….

  3. Every thing seems right on target. Some good and some bad. One of the units will outshine the other on any given day.

    1. I drank Dallas whiskey and lost my mind
      Had high-balls in Houston, three for a dime
      Everything starts to spin, loaded on gin
      I fell out the door, what I said is
      I’m blind in Texas, the lone star is hot tonight
      I’m blind in Texas, the cowboys have taken my eyes

      Good to hear from you, Undercenter!

  4. Great reporting, Grant. It’s obvious the work you put into this was substantial, which explains the time it took you to publish it. I had feared that Bowman might have knocked you out. I’m truly glad he didn’t. Thanks very much.

  5. Grant, thanks for the breakdown.

    – When I heard Turner say “No, it’s like a marriage. It has got to be a perfect fit. It’s hand in glove.” it made me wonder about Hyde. I still have high hopes for Hyde, but the 49ers won’t be sentimental about who they start or cut.

    – Very good news about T. Brown. To have a long term OT nailed down is a big deal when it comes to building a team.

    – Last training camp Armstead was terrorizing O-linemen before he got hurt. I’m hoping the 49ers figure it out soon. Its better to have him as a high quality rotational interior player than a so-so experiment at Leo. You never know who will get hurt, and depth is always a good thing.

  6. Very excited to see them with Foster in the mix.
    I actually think this D could become a top 5 D by the end of the season.
    I can never ever forget that awful Houston playoff game with Hoyer. I just don’t have faith in him…. I am really hoping Barkley moves past him in pre season and continues to perform. If we can draft our QB, number one receiver and a couple more solid O line prospects next year I think the team could be a contender again. Williams and our new FB are going to end up a solid backfield.

  7. I’m really going to look good when that Armstead trade is announced. Only a matter of time.

    1. He won’t get traded mate. If Buckner goes down who you putting in? He offers extremely valuable depth to the D-line and he’s not even getting paid that much. He’s also a top pass rusher when playing on the interior which is what he will be doing on passing downs.

      1. You don’t keep the #17 pick to play run support in your base defense.

        ” He’s also a top pass rusher when playing on the interior which is what he will be doing on passing downs.”
        And you’re basing that comment on what?

        1. Saleh’s old stomping ground the Jaguars kept their former 10th overall pick to be the backup run support DE in base D.

      1. ‘Would love to deal with you guys at a swap meet….these were OTA’s, and he’s coming off an injury….and I thought Baalke was gone….

        1. Oregon Chip’s gone too so I know it’s sad for you that we’re proposing to get rid of another Duck’s prospect. Armstead isn’t a fit for an outside rusher and as a DE he’s duplicated by other better players. Do you think he fits the position their trying to play him at? All signs point to no. It’s a bad match.

          1. Wilson73

            Why don’t you read what the REAL experts have written about Armstead and quit trying to stick your finger in my eye ? What “other, better players” are you referring to ? I’ve been cheering the niners since 1949, and the Ducks only since ’59 . If you just want to post to piss off somebody…post Seb or Prime Time…they need fresh material…..GO NINERS…

            1. Oregon, you start snarky and then get pissy when someone pushes back at you. At DE Buckner and Thomas are better, just about any of our edge rushers for Leo are better than him there. He’s not right for Leo. Where else would you play him? What experts? Film review shows he’s decent at rushing from the interior but bad against the run in the NFL. He gets pushed off the ball and often doesn’t play with good leverage. This defense is set up to stop the run with 7 in the box, if he can’t do that well he’s relegated to passing downs. Buckner is a better player overall.

              1. W73

                How do you know that Thomas is better ?…If you’re so sure he’s not the ‘bust’ you defended before he got on the field, he sure can’t be better than anyone else, for the same reason…your words. Armstead should be set at the big end position. I do agree that his height hampers him at the ‘Leo’. Not too many DE’s get past Joe Staley, especially if they’re recovering from surgery just in case you hadn’t noticed….

              2. His film is better Oregon. He’s more active and better against the run. I don’t think Armstead has the athleticism Thomas has. Better motor on Thomas. The coaching staff is saving his spot. You can want Armstead to play big end all day but they’re holding that spot forThomas. They have Tank playing there now. If they thought he was a better option he’d be playing there now. How do you explain it?

                This feels like when you said we’d go 10-6 and Gabbert would make the pro bowl.

              3. W73
                (sorry this is out of sync, but there was no reply bar after your last post)

                I suppose that adding your ‘Chip’ comment should brand you as a Stanford alum in your defense of Thomas, Lynch, and all the other S alums on the niners roster. What my biggest ‘bone’ about Thomas is: how and why did we take him in the first round ? We already had a better and slightly bigger and faster duplicate in Ron Blair lll…who also has a years experience against NFL opponents and has played well…. as to their films, I don’t watch film, but if Armstead’s film was against NFL competition…I think that answers itself…in that Armstead was also a collegiate basketball player, I don’t believe that Thomas is even CLOSE to him in athleticism. ‘Tank’ is the wild card….

  8. ” This all could change as the offseason progresses, though. The defensive scheme is relatively simple and players have picked it up quickly. The offensive scheme is much more complicated. Maybe the offensive players will do better when they think less on the field.”

    This all could change tomorrow. OTA’s for God’s sake Grant.

  9. The offense is behind because we don’t have a starting caliber type QB.

    We’ll be talking about needing a QB from now till Week 17.

          1. The 49ers don’t have a QB but you think the “King” was the better choice.
            Sure hope those 10 sacks you predicted help win a lot of games.

        1. I sure did. I also said Kap took the league by storm then faded like a popcorn fart in the desert.
          I also said you are a obstinate JO.

          What else did I miss?

  10. I am happy that the defense is finally being coached well, and if they can keep going strong, the Niners will be competitive.

  11. Might be hard to believe, but defense 100 percent of the time are ALWAYS ahead of the offense in Spring. This is SOP, always has been. No news here…

    1. Blind Tom

      You’re right on…From day1 in practice, Offense is getting their ‘dance steps’ together…Defense is pinning their ears back and sticking their fingers in Offensive’s plan…Monte Clark played both, and explained that when he was coach. Despite all of the nuances (trials and failures), football is still football….

  12. Why can’t they just move Armstead to the big end spot. He is the best run defender when playing off the edge. Just makes more sense because Thomas has missed OTAs and needs some time to adjust to the pace of the NFL and to playing against NFL O-linemen.

    1. Because Lynch is biased towards Thomas for a couple reasons. I would prefer Armstead at DE as well next to his pal Buckner.

      I get the feeling Thomas is gunna be a bust. Small hands and not ideal size or speed, he is sort of a tweeter.

      1. He likes to use his phone a lot!

        I actually am with you on this I don’t see him in the NFL mode and think he is more hype than actual capacity. Now that he is on the team, however, I hope he develops into an All Pro and Razor makes me eat my words for years. All I care about are the Ws.

      2. Wow calling out a player as a bust before he’s even stepped on the field. Why don’t we wait a bit and see? You guys do remember Kyle Shanahan has roster control not Lynch right? So it’s not Lynch who’s making the call, it will be th coaches.

          1. What signs? What people besides the three of you are saying that? Almost all the analysts say just the opposite. Site something besides your opinion.

              1. Armstead was the 27th best DT his last year of college, Thomas was 16th. So I guess on the blog only your opinions matter?

                Armstead is a good player who’s a great pass rusher from the interior. He’s not well rounded enough to be a three down player.

            1. Analysts have often been wrong and there have been those who have pointed to Thomas as being over rated, a tweener, and possibly not fit into NFL mode. What is worrisome about a guy like him is his size his lack of production save a few games his tendency to be swallowed up by bigger linemen and the fact that he really only had one good year. He may be a great player and as I have repeatedly stated, now that he is on the team, I hope he is, but I always had my misgivings about him. Ask Razor.

              1. You know who often is wrong more than analyst? Fans. There are no guarantees Solomon will be great. The coaching staff has looked at Armstead and are trying to use his pass rush strength and not make him a liability against the run. Seems they think Tank and Thomas are better adapted there.

              2. Wilson, true fans are often wrong and my wife reminds me of that every day. Relax. I don’t take it too seriously, I hope that Thomas becomes the best sack artist out there but I had great misgivings about him prior to the draft and expressed those views. We all do. There are players who break the mold, to be sure, but they are exceptions not rules.

  13. I admit I didn’t watch a lot last season, because they were terrible and because of Kaepernick’s antics. But when I did watch, I thought Kilgore looked overmatched anytime I paid attention to him.

    Has anyone else thought the same thing, or was it just that I watched too infrequently and maybe he played badly at those times?

    1. You were correct. Kilgore did not play well. Beadles, when he took over due to Kilgore going down due to an injury, helped solidify the O line.
      Thankfully, they traded for Zuttah, who should be an upgrade, and maybe allow Kilgore to play Guard.

    2. the hole o-line seem over match i hope we get a new guard and center in there soon. i hated to watch kaepernick play QB but love to see him bring up what going on in this country with black people. something you probably don’t care about.

      1. I’ve talked to a few black people about BLM lately and they range in opinions from not sure what they think of the movement to thinking that BLM does not represent their views.

        No surprise there, that a far left, militant, and pro-Islam movement doesn’t represent the diversity of thought among African-Americans.

        1. How in the hell to you accute, black lives matter to a “militant” and pro Islam group”. And this question is coming from a black man

          1. Maybe I read that wrong, maybe your calling Kap a militant, which I still don’t agree with. But to each his own

          2. Not that they have the same exact agenda, but they seem to be funded by the same people. Those people who’s agenda is to destablize our government. There protest seem to overlap. Look at the antifa protesters who show up at every single demonstration.

    3. Couldn’t agree more. Hurts to see what’s happened to our team entirely based on ego and poor management. It runs in the family. Jebs uncle tried to fire Walsh for much the same reason. Kilgore has been a pushover for a bull rush going back to Harbaugh. He might be a guard, but I doubt he’s an upgrade.

  14. Kilgore should be embarrassed!!! Glad Staley is working hard. Uh oh about some injuries to our corners. Glad to hear tart locking somebody down. Be nice if Barkley gets some snaps with the ones see what he can do. This should be an open competition with everyone!

  15. I’m a diehard but im not getting behind Hoyer or Barkley at qb, quite frankly it’s a joke. It’s clear most of you have a problem with Kaep either politically or with his decline on the field, just keep in mind what he was surrounded by last year. Zero weapons, porous oline and atrocious play calling. Not to mention a back stabbing front office…….why does our new brain trust get a pass on the qb situation??? Kaep was that horrible apparently……

    1. Kaep, being stabbed in the back so many times by Baalke, understandably wants to move on.
      However, Lynch and KS have righted the ship, and the apology to Kaep by Lynch may be the catalyst for him returning.
      Now, with the official blackballing of Kaep by the rest of the league, he may be forced to return as his only option. The latest Len Eshmont winner will have team mates who voted for him, and he would run circles around the present QBs. KS wants to run bootlegs and have a mobile pocket. That would fit Kaep’s skillsets to a tee, and his threat to run will make him difficult to defend, especially with a better running game and some veteran FA WRs.

  16. I read a couple say I hope Barkley gets some first team reps…..how about we bring Rattay out of retirement because that’s the standard we are holding our starting qb imo.

    1. dReed209

      When coming out of college, Tim Rattay led the nation in pass completion percentage and played very admirably for the 49ers behind a terrible Oline before handing off to Alex Smith who endured the same Oline for the next 5 years. Either Rattay or Smith would fit Shannahan’s offense better than any QB we’ve had since….perhaps you’re right….

      1. I disagree, because neither of those two quarterbacks you mention can push the ball downfield. If you can’t do that, you’re not a good fit for Shanny’s offense….

        1. Accuracy is what Shanahan’s system is based on.
          That’s why the guy who brought you and your family so many memories and a rocket arm was sent packing! DA!

          1. “Yeah, to play in this offense, you’re going to have to be able to push the ball down the field,” quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello said.

            Prime Time, are you really that bored that you need to follow me around like a lost puppy dog, and show how your bark is worse than your bite? The reason a dog has so many friends, is because he wags his tail instead of his tongue. Maybe you should follow that example, because you’re just embarrassing yourself.

            1. Accuracy, a term your beloved never had and what makes a QB sustain a career.
              You want to play tough guy over the internet go ahead. You want to invite people to your house to settle scores, go ahead.
              I’d say those are things that are embarrassing and what a child would do. DA!

        2. Raz

          I think that you have to be more specific than THAT….
          You need an ACCURATE passing game and a balanced run game to push the ball down the field

          1. No chit Sherlock, but you also have to be able to push it downtown in Shanny’s offense. You can’t be gun shy. You’ll need to possess the Alpha gene, and have that aggressive nature….

            1. Nice waffle arguement Spameater.
              It starts and ends with accuracy in a west coast system. You don’t need a deep passing game.
              You should know that dummy.

          2. “Yeah, to play in this offense, you’re going to have to be able to push the ball down the field,” quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello said.

            Who the hell is Rich Scangarello? Oh, that’s right, he’s the 49ers quarterbacks coach.

            What the hell is RIF? Reading is fundamental.

  17. Every year we hear about the defense looking better than the offense. It could just mean the offense is terrible or so far behind in installation for this time of year. Our OL is still an issue. I also don’t expect much from Hoyer and Barkley. I am a little excited about our RB’s though.

  18. This isn’t particularly new. Every year the defense seems poised to take over and then they come back to earth once the pads go on. Schemes and the nature of practices favor defenses at this point.

  19. Offense will.continue to be overmatched as long we have the current options at qb. No deep balls, no.ability to scramble.out of.trouble…..gd luck with that

  20. Armstead: Funny, but other people have a different view:

    There also were plenty of “sacks” — plays whistled dead when the quarterback obviously was in trouble. Starters Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Tank Carradine all got in on the action while second-stringer Chris Jones — one of the OTA MVPs — had a sack as well. Nose tackle Earl Mitchell got tremendous penetration on a running play when he blew the center off the ball and would have tackled Hyde five yards deep in the backfield had it been a live-tackling situation.


  21. Did you just miss it? Or are you grinding another axe? I kind of wonder because you do have an honestly earned reputation of min-maxing your reporting depending on your personal-likes.

    1. I like Armstead more than most, but he didn’t record a sack. Some of the reporters decided he shared one with Buckner on one play, but Armstead never got there. That was Buckner’s sack.

      1. He hasn’t played a meaningful snap since November. The middle of training camp is where you’d expect to see an ascension towards where he was pre-injury, and then steady improvement each week throughout the season….

  22. So Grant a couple of the Matt’s noted Bowman in in great position in coverage and the LB’s (Smith and Bowman by name) were why the defense ruled the day. Also noted pass break ups by Bowman. Do you think they’re pushing back against your opinion piece? You didn’t mention any of those items in your review.

    1. Bowman broke up one pass, not two. He back pedaled four steps in zone coverage, jumped and tipped the ball. On the other play, Hyde dropped the ball and tipped it off Bowman’s helmet and Smith made the interception.

  23. Grant,
    In your topic picture above it looks like Aaron Lynch is about the same size
    (actually slightly smaller) as A.Brooks. Is Brooks also overweight or has AL lost weight since your last stinging report on him?
    Bowman seems to be getting his legs back and making a little noise in OTA’s.
    Can you provide an update on their progress regarding the areas you were concerned about?

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