SANTA CLARA – Here’s who stood out to me during the first day of training camp.
1. RB Jerick McKinnon. Ran 70 yards for a touchdown on the first play of practice and made it look easy. McKinnon is such a better fit in this offense than Carlos Hyde was. Unlike Hyde, McKinnon has a feel for running in an outside-zone blocking scheme, and for running behind a fullback.
2. RB Matt Breida. While McKinnon glides around the field, Breida explodes and delivers blows to defenders. He is the hardest runner on the team. At times, he reminds me of Maurice Jones-Drew.
3. WR Marquise Goodwin. Caught a deep touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo while outrunning the entire defense. Goodwin remains Garoppolo’s favorite target – those two built chemistry last season. Garoppolo and Garcon have no chemistry yet. Garcon caught no passes on Thursday.
4. WR Richie James. Ran up the sideline and caught a 40-yard pass from C.J. Beathard between cornerback Tyvis Powell and free safety Antone Exum Jr. James could have taken a big hit, but Exum and Powell ran into each other, and James scored. He never flinched. He’s fearless.
5. DE Ronald Blair. Played left defensive end for the second-team defense and recorded a sack. Blair is the best edge-rusher on the team even if 49ers won’t admit it. He has moves and counter moves and consistently works the outside edges of blockers. He doesn’t rush straight into blockers like Solomon Thomas does.
6. CB Tarvarius Moore. Gave up a catch to Dante Pettis, then took the ball away from him – just took it away – and recorded the interception. More on Pettis below.
7. CB Richard Sherman. Played the first two reps of every drill with the starters. Jimmie Ward replaced Sherman after that. When Sherman played, he gave up no catches. Garoppolo never tested him.
THE NOT SO GOOD
1. CB Richard Sherman. Got burned by McKinnon in the open field. Sherman was standing between McKinnon and the end zone. Sherman forced McKinnon to run toward the sideline, rushed over to tag him and whiffed. McKinnon was gone. Sherman looks slow.
2. DE Solomon Thomas. Failed to set the edge during McKinnon’s 70-yard touchdown run. Kyle Juszczyk blocked Thomas out of the play.
3. CB Ahkello Witherspoon. May have had a terrific practice – I wasn’t focused on him. The two times I noticed him, he got beat by Marquise Goodwin. The first time, Goodwin dropped the ball. The second time, Goodwin caught it. Teams will go after Witherspoon relentlessly next season – they won’t go after Sherman if he’s healthy. I’m interested to see how Witherspoon will respond.
4. WR Dante Pettis. Soft at the catch point. Doesn’t fight for the ball. Allows the defensive back to knock it away, or grab it out of his hands. For such an accomplished punt returner, I assumed he would be a tougher receiver.
5. QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Completed only four of nine passes during 11-on-11 scrimmages. Seemed oddly disengaged. Allowed practice to end without demanding more reps to correct his mistakes. Is that what Tom Brady would have done?