SANTA CLARA – Here’s who stood out during the third padded practice of training camp.
1. DT Solomon Thomas. Notice I didn’t write DE Solomon Thomas. He’s not particularly good at defensive end, and may be the worst starting edge rusher in the NFL, but he’s effective when he rushes from the interior. Or, at least he was effective Tuesday. We didn’t see him rush much from the interior as a rookie. In training camp, he has rushed exclusively from the interior during one-on-one pass-rush drills and, on Tuesday, he beat starting left guard Laken Tomlinson twice during one on one drills. Beat him with a quick first step and forced the quarterback step up in the pocket. Later during 11 on 11s, Thomas beat Tomlinson again and recorded a sack.
2. NT Earl Mitchell. Overpowered starting center Weston Richburg both times they faced each other during one on ones.
3. DT DeForest Buckner. Ran over Tomlinson to record a sack in 11 on 11s, and beat starting left tackle Joe Staley around the edge in the same drill. Buckner is by far the best player on the 49ers. Losing him would devastate the team.
4. FS Adrian Colbert. Picked off Jimmy Garoppolo on fourth-and-2 and returned the ball 70 yards for a touchdown on the final play of practice for the starters. That was the best play of training camp by the defense.
5. LB Malcolm Smith. Returned to practice after missing the first four days of training camp with a lower leg injury. Even took reps with the starters during team drills.
6. LB Fred Warner. Also took reps with the starters during team drills. Made an excellent stop on second-and-5. Garoppolo threw a screen pass to running back Jerick McKinnon, and Warner tackled him after just a three-yard gain.
7. RB Matt Breida. Took all the first-down reps with the starters during the first 11-on-11 period. That’s when the offense practiced runs and play-action passes against the base defense. McKinnon took all the second-down reps with the starters during this drill.
8. TE George Kittle. Caught a 50-yard pass up the right sideline from backup quarterback C.J. Beathard on first-and-10. Beat backup strong safety Chancellor James on the play.
9. TE Garrett Celek. Caught a 20-yard pass from Garoppolo on third-and-4. Reached up with one hand and tipped the ball to himself. Beat starting strong safety Jaquiski Tartt on the play.
10. WR Aaron Burbridge. Caught a 60-yard touchdown pass from Beathard. Drew a holding penalty from backup cornerback Tyvis Powell on the play and still made the catch.
11. WR Richie James. Caught a 40-yard play-action pass from Garoppolo. Beat Chancellor James on the play. Has a legitimate chance to make the final roster, along with Burbridge, Dante Pettis and Kendrick Bourne. Those four receivers are competing for three backup spots.
THE NOT SO GOOD
1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo. Had an almost perfect practice until his final play, when he telegraphed a pass over the middle to Marquise Goodwin and threw a pick-six. Bad way to end the day.
2. LG Laken Tomlinson. Gave up two sacks during team drills – one to Thomas and one to Buckner – and lost all four of his reps during one-on-one drills (Tomlinson faced Thomas twice and Buckner twice). The reps against Buckner troubled former 49ers defensive end Charles Haley the most. He was watching from the sideline, and noticed how easily Buckner caved in Tomlinson’s outside shoulder and turned him perpendicular to the line of scrimmage. Tomlinson had trouble staying square all morning.
3. C Weston Richburg. Couldn’t hold his ground while blocking starting nose tackle Earl Mitchell during one on ones. Twice, Mitchell pushed him into the quarterback’s lap.
4. RG Joshua Garnett. Missed his third day with a left knee injury – the same knee he injured last year during training camp.
5. RG Mike Person. Started at right guard in place of Garnett, and struggled during a two-on-two pass-rush drill, when he and starting right tackle Mike McGlinchey couldn’t pass off a stunt to save their lives. Each fell once.
6. RT Mike McGlinchey. Beaten again by Cassius Marsh during one on ones, and beaten the same way as before. McGlinchey overreacted to an outside speed rush, and Marsh hit him with a counter move to the inside. Happened on Satuday, too.
7. WR Dante Pettis. Made a contested catch over the middle – his first all offseason. A big step for him. Then he fumbled. Pettis clearly is uncomfortable catching passes in traffic, and will continue to struggle until he gets a better feel for defensive coverages in the NFL. One on one, he’s great. He’s like a basketball player in a driveway. But during team drills, he has no idea where the safeties and linebackers are coming from, and he’s tentative.
8. DT Arik Armstead. Missed practice with a serious hamstring injury which could linger into the regular season. The guy lasted four days.
9. SS Jaquiski Tartt. Gave up a 20-yard catch to Kittle on first-and-10. Gave up a 15-yard catch to Celek on third-and-4. And gave up a 12-yard catch to Victor Bolden Jr. on third-and-9. Broke up zero passes.
10. CB Richard Sherman. Didn’t face Marquise Goodwin during one on ones this time. Instead, faced Pierre Garcon, who is much slower than Goodwin. Still got burned twice. Garcon ran simple go routes and beat Sherman by a couple steps each time. But, Sherman gave up only one long catch, because the other long pass was overthrown.