The good and not so good from the 49ers’ first OTA of 2016

SANTA CLARA – Here’s what stood out to me at the 49ers’ first open practice of the Chip-Kelly Era.



LWR: Dres Anderson (Quinton Patton for the first couple of plays, then no more Patton).

RWR: Torrey Smith

SLOT: Bruce Ellington

TE: Garrett Celek

LT: Joe Staley

LG: Zane Beadles

C: Daniel Kilgore

RG: Brandon Thomas

RT: Erik Pears

H-BACK: Bruce Miller

QB: Blaine Gabbert

RB: Carlos Hyde


LDE: Arik Armstead

NT: Mike Purcell

RDE: Quinton Dial

LOLB: Aaron Lynch

LILB: Gerald Hodges

RILB: NaVorro Bowman

ROLB: Eli Harold (Ahmad Brooks did not participate in practice)

LCB: Tramaine Brock

FS: Eric Reid

SS: Antoine Bethea

RCB: Jimmie Ward (Base), Dontae Johnson (Sub)

NICKEL: Jimmie Ward



1. Jimmie Ward.

Started at right cornerback in the base defense, moved to the slot in the sub-packages and intercepted two tipped passes during team drills. Also gave up one deep catch down the seam to Garrett Celek. Ward’s coverage was not so good on that play.

2. Bruce Miller.

Started at H-back, mostly lined up in the slot and caught two deep passes near the sideline. The Niners seemed to feature Miller in the passing game.

3. Torrey Smith. Started at right wide receiver instead of left wide receiver, the position he has played his entire NFL career. Beat Tramaine Brock once with a short curl route to the inside, and beat Rashad Robinson once with a deep curl route to the outside.

4. Dontae Johnson. Broke up two passes during team drills as the starting right cornerback for the first-team nickel defense.

5. Kenneth Acker. Broke up two passes during team drills as the starting right cornerback for the second-team defense.

6. Tramaine Brock. Gave up zero catches as the starting left cornerback for the first-team defense, although he may have held DiAndre Campbell as Campbell ran a deep route down the sideline during seven-on-sevens. Brock’s best play was a pass breakup on a throw intended for Torrey Smith, who telegraphed a deep curl route. Brock broke early on the pass and dropped the interception.



1. Vance McDonald. Let a deep pass fly through his hands as he ran down the middle of the field, which has become his specialty.

2. Jeff Driskel. Inaccurate. Overthrew a deep pass, underthrew a deep pass and tossed a third out of bounds. Also sailed a couple of couple of short throws and threw a one-hopper.

3. DeAndre Smelter. Lined up at all three receiver positions for the second-team offense and caught zero passes on just one target. Created no separation. Seemed tentative.

4. Tank Carradine. Played right outside linebacker for the third-team base defense and seemed lost when he had to drop in coverage. To be fair, the first-team right outside linebacker, Eli Harold, also seemed lost in coverage. Both he and Carradine gave up deep catches to tight ends.

5. Devon Cajuste. Made a difficult leaping catch on pass thrown over his head, but seemed to injure himself when he landed and did not return after limping off the field.

This article has 61 Comments

  1. Kenneth Acker: “starting right cornerback for the second-team defense.”


  2. Thanks for this Grant.

    Interesting to hear Ward’s on the outside, not sure what to think of that. There’s going to be a lot of size advantages on the outside, but I guess that’s not rare

    I’d expect some growing pain with Tank, I would be very frustrated if Neil takes a page out of Mangini’s book and starts dropping his OLBs 15 to 20 yards in coverage.

    1. Get used to it. Just Google “Paul Kruger dropping into coverage” and you will see how often Jimmy O’Neil had him doing that in Cleveland. Fans didn’t like it.

    2. Matt Barrows said this about Tank
      “Carradine, for example, had good coverage on tight ends Blake Bell and Garrett Celek on back to back plays early in practice.”

      1. Yeah, i’m going to have to go with Barrows on this one. He’s on my LONG list of people I would listen to before Grant Cohn “The Football Guy”

        1. Carradine was targeted once, and on that play he was nowhere near the tight end who made a 20-yard catch. Bell spun Carradine like a dreidel.

          1. Aside from coverage, how did he look? He is unlikely to be asked to play much (any) OLB during the regular season, so can’t say I am too worried about how he looks in coverage.

            Also, I have read Blair looked pretty good, though I think that was more related to drill work rather than scrimmages. How did he (and the other rookies) look to you?

      2. Yeah, I’ll go with Barrows on this one since he’s on a LONG list of people I would listen to before I listen to Grant Cohn

  3. The only two problems I have is that they continue to try and work Ward at corner. He is a safety and they missed on him as a developmental corner. The other miss is Tank as a OLB. He is a 4-3 edge rusher. I think he can be a decent DE\DT but let him play around 285 and no bigger then that.

  4. Beautiful day for practice. I am sure Vance McDonald was looking into the sun.

  5. What are the coaches like Grant? Teachers, task masters, screamers etc.?

  6. How does Gabbert look? I wanna know how all the QB’s are doing in this system.

    1. Same. Still throwing a lot of passes to running backs. Still checking down on third down.

  7. Lets assume Pears stays at tackle……when JG aka “the Juggernaut” returns who gets bumped down to 3rd string G…Thomas, Silberman or Tiller?…….

  8. Ward at RCB in base D? Interesting. Wonder if they’ll continue with that. He’s got the movement skills for it. Could be a really good move.

    Tank playing OLB is a bit of a surprise given Baalke seemed to suggest he’d be a DL still. Though I guess if the season rolled round he’d only have to play OLB in emergency. Might just be getting him familiar with it just in case.

    Beadles at LG. If they had plans to move Garnett into that spot I i agine Beadles would be getting reps at RG now. So I’m assuming Garnett will be the RG. Good to see Thomas getting 1st team reps in his absence though. I take it Trent Brown was 2nd team RT?

    1. from barrows…”* So why was Erik Pears, not Trent Brown, at right tackle? Again, the composition is likely to change throughout the offseason and training camp. But Brown also looks as if he could improve his conditioning, which was an issue of his in college.”

    2. “Tank Carradine. Played right outside linebacker for the third-team base defense”

      Yea, not going to make a lot out of where he lines up with the third stringers on day one.

      1. Thanks.

        What are your thoughts on the apparent position moves for Ward, Tank and Miller. Do you think all three will end up playing those roles come regular season? If so, good moves, or bad moves?

        1. I don’t think any of those moves will work. I think the Niners will trade Bruce Miller.

            1. Razor, good thinking. The Bronco’s drafted a FB and picked up another from the Saints in FA. Maybe they’d cut one for Miller?

              1. I hadn’t heard that. On the radio this week they’ve been talking a lot about Manning being gone allows Kubiak to run his offense without Mannings limitations and how he’ll use both the FB’s and then need good blocking TE’s.

                Did you hear Sanchez hurt his thumb in the weight room?

              2. Yep, I heard Kubiak wants to utilize more fullback in 2016. Whichever fullback they claimed off waivers was the one that failed the physical.

                Yea, I head about Sanchez. Dudes got bad luck….

            2. San Diego will be desperate enough to trade. They need help for both Melvin Gordon and Rivers. Bruce Miller could help both of them.

              Floyd retired, so Patton may be a good trade option, and they lost their TE to FA so Vance MacDonald may be a possible player to trade.

              If the Niners offered Bruce Miller, Patton and MacDonald, they could possibly get a second round pick for all three of them.

              1. I have a challenge for you Seb, if you are interested. Instead of looking at the package of bottom of th roster and UDFA players the 49ers should look to trade away, why not have a think about the package of bottom of the roster and UDFAs the 49ers should trade for? Surely the 7th worst team in the NFL could stand to gain from exactly the type of trade you are proposing, but in reverse?

              2. Scooter, I know that the this scenario is improbable, but I do not want the Niners to singly trade away players for a 6th or 7th round pick. If they can bundle them, they might get a second or third round pick, which I think is where the draft has the most value.

                I agree, if the Niners could benefit from gaining 3 players from a single future draft pick and it fills needs and improves the team, I say go for it. It will just mean that more players will have to be cut, so they should try to move players so they have more quality and less quantity.

              3. The question is, who will the other team give up in order to facilitate a trade? Maybe the best solution is to swap players. Find a team that has a surplus in a position that the Niners are deficient in. Both teams could set up a pool of bubble players, and both could choose according to need.

              4. Seb,
                Where those extra 6th and 7th rd picks come in handy is when you package picks to move up, a mid rd 5th and a 6th may get you into the 4th rd. I believe that the 9ers make most of the trades that bring them extra 6th and 7th rounders with that in mind as opposed to drafting more 6th and 7th rounders. If the trade scenarios don’t work out they take the extra players.

              5. Coach, I agree, if they can bundle those picks to move up in the draft, that is a sound strategy.

                I just do not want the Niners to have to cut a decent player and get nothing in return when he is snatched up by another team. Seattle helped build their SB squad by grabbing Niner rejects.

              6. Seb,

                You acknowledge that the three players you mentioned, would individually only bring a 6th or 7th round pick in trade.

                Based on this, I have to conclude that you believe that it’s possible to trade three 6th or 7th picks for a second round pick, since you’re suggesting that the 49ers should ask for a second round pick for Miller, McDonald and Patton.

                Why would any team trade a second for three sixths/sevenths?

              7. If getting 3 veterans fill needs and makes a team stronger, they might think that is worth a single draft pick. All 3 of those players have started, and any rookie may need time to study and get stronger, while these 3 can be immediately inserted into the lineup.
                3 for 1 make this deal plausible, and a win-win for both teams.

              8. Are you saying that three players together are some how more valuable than the sum of their value individually?

                You said each of the three players is worth a 6th or 7th round pick individually. For those three players to be worth a 2nd round pick, you would have to think that an NFL team would trade a 2nd for three 6th/7th round picks.

                Is this what you think? Can you please answer this question directly?

              9. Seb, glad you can acknowledge the 49ers could probably benefit from the same sort of trade, but in reverse.

                But here’s the thing. Would you believe it is in the 49ers best interest to trade a 2nd round pick for, say, 3 guys from the Broncos that are on the bubble? Lets say RT Michael Schofield, DB Kayvon Webster and WR Jordan Norwood?

              10. If they can bundle them, they might get a second or third round pick

                For the love of #@*^& you’ve floated this dumb idea over an over and have been told repeatedly it won’t happen. Every team in this league has players at the bottom of their roster they’d like to trade for a second round pick, but it never happens. You know why? Because they aren’t morons who give up prime picks for somebody else’s castoffs.

                Just stop with the incessant repeating of the same trade scenario that will never happen.

  9. I think our D is going to be stout this year. Bring on the pass rush and stop the run. Our D Bs will look like stars.

    1. Couldn’t disagree more.
      Our Defense will look worse this year because they will be on the field even more than they were last year. Additionally as with the way they stop the run… teams wont even need to pass the ball. Any team that wanted to run against them last year… did, and did well. Case in point… the Browns.

      1. Shoup

        32 seconds separated Eagles and 49ers TOP last season. Don’t spout ESPN bullshid. Other point, totally valid.

        1. How is this related to ESPN BS? We had a terrible team last year, they were trying to run a ball control style of offense and still had couldn’t stay on the field. And now that terrible offensive unit is going to be running the style of offense that had even worse time of possession stats than they did.
          I’m not worried about 32 seconds… I am worried about how that offense will do with far worse personel than it had in philly in a division stock full of good defenses unlike NFC East.

      2. Which is better – to have the defense on the field because we just scored a quick TD or because we went three and out? TDs make everyone feel better.

      3. But that D-line will have different personnel playing on it this year. It will be one of the better D-lines by second half of year.
        Kelly will know who’s who on offense. If they can keep Baalke off the practice field, this MIGHT be a competitive team

        As far as the front office goes, one of the worst of all time.

  10. “2. Bruce Miller.

    Started at H-back, mostly lined up in the slot and caught two deep passes near the sideline. ”

    Were those from Gabbert?

          1. Grant, have you seen him throw? Could less muscle mass equate to better accuracy?

  11. From Taylor Price, “Wide receiver Eric Rogers made several eye-catching receptions. The 6-foot-3 wideout, who last played in the CFL, was able to out-leap cornerbacks to grab downfield throws. Rogers connected with Gabbert on a dig route across the middle and later snatched a jump ball from Driskel just short of the goal line.” Grant, he didn’t stand out to you?

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