The good and not so good from 49ers OTAs: Week 3

San Francisco 49ers defensive linemen Arik Armstead speaks to reporters after a practice at the team’s NFL football training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Wednesday, May 30, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

SANTA CLARA – Here’s what stood out to me during Tuesday’s OTA.


  1. DE Arik Armstead. Armstead is the 49ers’ second-best interior pass rusher after DeForest Buckner. Today, Armstead consistently pushed offensive linemen into the backfield using long, powerful arms. Armstead also beat a guard to the inside with a quick swim move, a move I hadn’t seen Armstead use effectively before. He seems to be improving as a pass-rusher. But, he still struggles against the run. He loses sight of the ball carrier, and fails to set the edge against play-action rollouts by the quarterback.
  2. LB Fred Warner. Rookie third-round pick Fred Warner lined at middle linebacker with the starting defense, and relayed the defensive play calls to his teammates. It’s surprising the 49ers would ask a rookie to make the calls, instead of Reuben Foster, who is entering his second season in the league. Perhaps the team isn’t confident in Foster’s ability to communicate on the field.
  3. CB Ahkello Witherspoon, SS Jaquiski Tartt and FS Adrian Colbert. These are three-fourths of the 49ers starting secondary, and each player has gotten stronger this offseason, especially Witherpsoon and Colbert. Both seem 10 pounds bigger than last season. Tartt doesn’t seem bigger, but he does seem leaner and stronger. I wouldn’t want him to hit me.
  4. RB Matt Breida. Breida made the best catch of the day. He lined up at wide receiver, ran a go-route down the sideline, burned rookie cornerback Tavarius Moore and caught the ball over his shoulder. Breida looked like a natural receiver on that play.
  5. RB Joe Williams. Williams made the best run of the day. He lined up in the shotgun, ran a stretch zone play to his right, made one cut and burst through the middle of the 49ers defense for a long touchdown. That was the type of run he made routinely in college.
  6. TE Garrett Celek. Celek beat cornerback Tyvis Powell in the red zone for a touchdown catch. Through three weeks of OTAs, Celek seems to be the 49ers’ go-to-guy in the red zone.
  7. TE George Kittle. Kittle made a leaping touchdown catch in the back-right corner of the end zone – he almost looked like Dwight Clark making The Catch. Kittle also made a leaping, twisting catch downfield on a pass thrown behind him.
  8. WR Kendrick Bourne. Bourne beat Tartt with a quick slant in the red zone for a touchdown catch (related: why do 49ers defensive backs consistently give up inside leverage in the red zone? In that area of the field, they should force receivers to win to the outside). Bourne has been the 49ers best young wide receiver this offseason. And like the young defensive backs, Bourne seems much stronger than last season.


  1. QB Jimmy Garopolo. Garoppolo threw an interception in the end zone – a big no-no. He was rolling to his left, and he had a receiver open – Pierre Garcon. Garoppolo needed to set his feet and throw with his entire body, but didn’t. He threw off his back foot while falling away from the target – a throw only Aaron Rodgers could make. Garoppolo’s throw hung in the air and allowed cornerback Greg Mabin, who was beat, to make the interception. That was a J.V. play by Garoppolo. He’s better than that.
  2. HC Kyle Shanahan. Twice last year, the 49ers lost close games because a receiver ran an illegal pick and committed offensive pass interference. Today, the offense committed that penalty again, and the penalty negated a first-down catch by Garcon. Shanahan needs to change how he coaches rub routes and pick plays.
  3. LB Malcolm Smith. Smith missed practice with a tweaked groin muscle. The team says it expects him to return to practice next week, but Smith seems injury prone. I’d be surprised if he lasts all season.
  4. CB Jimmie Ward. Ward missed practice with a tweaked ankle. Like Smith, the team says it expects Ward to return to practice next week, and maybe he will. But, it’s just a matter of time before he injures something else. The 49ers can’t count on Ward, which means they need Richard Sherman to be excellent next season. Because if Sherman struggles, the 49ers’ second-best cornerback after Witherspoon is Greg Mabin, who should NOT be a starter in the NFL.
  5. CB Tarvarius Moore. Moore got beat deep by a running back who simply ran straight. Didn’t cut or anything. Moore couldn’t keep up. And he supposedly ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. If Moore can’t cover a running back who’s lined up outside, Moore won’t be able to cover any NFL wide receivers for a while.
  6. WR Dante Pettis. Pettis seemed scared of contact over the middle, especially in the red zone. Once, he ran a quick slant against Mabin, who jammed Pettis, beat him to the football and knocked it away. Pettis never extended his arms to catch the football. Later, Pettis ran the same route against Tavarus McFadden, and had the same result. McFadden jammed him and broke up the pass, and Pettis didn’t fight to catch it. He does not seem like the 49ers flanker of the future to me — he gets bullied by big corners in traffic. He needs space to operate.
  7. QB C.J. Beathard. The one time Pettis was open on Tuesday,, Beathard missed him. Pettis ran a deep out route, and Beathard’s pass almost bounced in front of Pettis. Beathard’s inaccuracy is Blake-Bortles-esque.
  8. DE Solomon Thomas. The team lists Thomas at 280 pounds, be he looks no heavier than 265 pounds. Check him out for yourself in the pictures below. On Tuesday, the 49ers made Thomas drop into man-to-man coverage against tight end Garrett Celek while Celek sprinted up the seam. If Thomas really weighs 280 pounds, the 49ers wouldn’t ask him to drop deep into man-to-man coverage. And if he really weighs 280 pounds, the 49ers would have him rush from the interior of the line from time to time. But, Thomas didn’t do that once on Tuesday. From what I could tell, he rushed exclusively from the edge, and came off the field on second-and-long and third down. The nickel defensive line was Cassius Marsh, DeForest Buckner, Armstead and Jeremiah Attaochu, as it should be. Thomas is not currently one of the 49ers four best pass rushers.

This article has 90 Comments

  1. I read that Witherspoon hasn’t been targeted that much. Has he been good enough to justify that? Do we have a shutdown CB?

    1. Looked like it to me. I thought his improvement throughout the season was pretty remarkable considering how slow he started.

  2. This article is FILLED with off the wall conjecture based on single practice with no pads.

    Judging any kind of line play is insane.

    You have no idea what goes on in the other practices, for all we know Foster could be Mike the times you aren’t watching and today was Warner’s turn.

    1. The article is clearly titled the good and not so good from 49er OTAs… so if you don’t like conjecture or opinion why bother reading the article at all? I think most of us including Grant know not to take too much of the stuff we see at this point in the year too seriously…

  3. “Perhaps the team isn’t confident in Foster’s ability to communicate on the field.”

    Or perhaps the team is preparing to not have Foster for some games early in the season.

    1. Thats a good point Jack.
      And besides, if one player is a better communicator it doesn’t mean that the other player can’t or isn’t a good communicator. It simply means that one player is a better communicator. Is it really a shock that a player of Warner’s intelligence is a very good communicator?
      Additionally part of the reason for drafting Fred was due to his coverage ability, if you expect a player to be on the field for your money sub-packages… why wouldn’t you want that person learning to call the plays? Do you think the team would rather change who calls the plays from base downs to money downs?

            1. Interesting. Seems clear as day to me. Ryan Sakamoto agrees. I’ll ask Thomas when it’s appropriate.

              1. Talking behind his back and inferring deception about his weight is appropriate? Ha! You’re too much, Grant!

              2. Hey, if you think it’s appropriate to insinuate deception with regard to his weight behind a blog, but not appropriate to ask him point blank to his face; I’ll be your snowflake….

              3. The only time he spoke to the media this offseason was to talk about his sister’s suicide. If there is a deception, it’s coming from the PR staff, not Thomas.

          1. Again with the weight thing. Grant will not be denied, he’ll get to the bottom of this weightgate. Follow the pounds, Grant. Woodward and Bernstein have nothing on you.

    1. I have no idea how much he weighs but the way Grant describes his use in these OTA’s strikes me as trying to make him more of an edge player which does not play to his strengths as a pass rusher. They may just be getting him acclimated to different roles in case of injury but if he isn’t rushing from the inside on obvious passing downs he’s not going to have much impact.

      1. That’s the more concerning thing to me than whether or not he actually weighs 280lbs (he probably doesn’t). He is at his best as an interior pass rusher. But so far sounds like they are focusing getting him used to playing the edge. It may be similar to Ward where they are just getting him reps where they feel he needs the most exposure though. Won’t really know how they plan to use him until TC.

  4. Grant, How did the offensive line look? McGlinchey, Garnett, Tomlinson & Richburg…how were they?

    1. The guards are bad. The rest are untested. Staley is the leanest offensive tackle I have ever seen in person.

      1. At least they didn’t have the guards in the backfield, and the center on the right or the quarterback on his knees.

  5. Pictures top to bottom
    – Taylor’s standing closer to the camera.
    – Blair’s standing closer to the camera.
    – Hard to tell. Who is standing to the right of Thomas?
    – Hard to tell. Who is standing to the right of Thomas?
    – Hard to tell.

    Pictures 1 and 2 seem like normal to slightly wide angle. Pictures 3, 4 and 5 seem compressed, like a telephoto or cropped. I’m guessing Thomas is easily heavier than 256. Not quite 280 though. Going to have to weight him. Or have him stand exactly side-by-side with other 280 players.

      1. He looks bigger than Blair for certain. It looks like he carries a lot of weight in his lower body. His Calves and thighs look thicker than most of the other players pictured next to him.

  6. Back to the Future

    1. Ward hurt. Ward always hurt. Why did we draft him. Why is he highest paid D player.
    2. Pettis . I called it. This guy is not physical enough for NFL. 6 of 7 TD versus Fresno St/OSU
    3. Grant seems to have a bone to pick with Solomon T.
    4. A Tale of Two Sports Writers –
    Grant: Garoppolo threw an interception in the end zone
    Barrows: Jimmy G stays hot in the red zone Jimmy Garoppolo continues to look good the closer the 49ers get to the end zone. During an 11-on-11 red-zone drill on Tuesday, the quarterback made four throws from the 9-yard line or closer and all ended up as touchdowns despite close coverage from the defense.
    5. Our Guard situation is troubling as it was last year.
    6. Robert Mueller has announced that he will extend a lunch invitation to the Warriors after they win the NBA Championship.

    1. “Ward hurt. Ward always hurt. Why did we draft him. Why is he highest paid D player.”

      He’s the highest paid player because they picked up his 5th year option instead of extending him. Good move when you have a ton of cap space like they did.

      “Pettis . I called it. This guy is not physical enough for NFL. 6 of 7 TD versus Fresno St/OSU”

      Based off a few non-padded workouts in May/June. 😂🤣😂🤣

      1. Last year I wrote off Witherspoon after he was bowled over by Carlos Hyde. Now that Spoon has earned at least the #2 CB spot, I realize that you have to give rookies some slack (since veterans love to put rookies in their place in any field of employment) and that non-padded workouts are probably not the best venue for deciding how tough/physical a player is.

      2. Not a good move since Ward can’t stay healthy and isn’t a very good CB when he is healthy. We are paying a ton of money for a guy who will be a back up at best. Especially bad move since we did have several other needs and could have used cap space money for G or some of the veteran CB who are free agents.

        We’ll see about Pettis. I think he is a wimp who will get dominated by press corners. There were several other very talented WR and TE who we could have drafted in the 2nd. Reminder we traded up for this turkey.

        1. “Especially bad move since we did have several other needs and could have used cap space money for G or some of the veteran CB who are free agents.”

          LMAO. They still have ~ $45.5 mil in cap space for this year.

          1. “Not a good move since Ward can’t stay healthy and isn’t a very good CB ”

            Wasting money on a bad player. LMAO indeed.

            1. What player is he stopping them from signing? Hint, not a single player in the NFL makes 45 Mil. Take out the quarterbacks and they could sign the 2 highest paid position players on the market.
              So knowing that you are mad that they retained him for a 1 year prove it deal… are you also mad at your doctor for driving a BMW and not an Accord, or your neighbor for buying a Starbucks coffee instead of brewing his own at home?
              We all make some frivolous investments, but they are only terrible, if the cost us the opportunity to get something else much better.

              1. 1 year prove it deal? He has had 4 years and has proven that he isn’t capable of playing CB /safety at the NFL level. No I dont care if my Dr. drives a BMW because he is not in the same division as the Rams. Have you noticed what they did this off season. We have several holes to fill and some other areas in which upgrades couldn’t hurt. Spending money on Ward while not addressing G and Edge is beyond puzzling.

              2. “Spending money on Ward while not addressing G and Edge is beyond puzzling.”

                They addressed both spots but not on “big name” guys and the Ward contract had little to nothing to do with how they addressed building the team.

              3. Rollo,
                Then you should be mad at them for not paying enough to land a guard that would help the team. Paying Jimmy had no part in stopping them from doing so, as Jack has already stated.
                The only known opportunity lost at this point is to see if some UDFA could have developed into something better.

        2. > I think he’s a wimp who will get denigrated by Press/media coverage by amateurs in the field. <
          Fixed that.
          Let’s see how he pans out for the professionals who selected him.

          1. Denigrated? Is it denigration to say that out Guards stink? Is it denigration to say Blaine Gabbert was a lousy QB. Is it denigration to say former LB Aaron Lynch was overweight and unmotivated.

            They are pro football players not snowflakes.

            1. You’re ragging on a guy. Have you even watched him play yet? Any other beat guys sharing Grant’s critiques? Grant’s seen a couple of workouts to base his opinion on. Paltry evidence to criticize the player, coach and GM. That’s the denigration I mention.

              1. Paltry overstated? Perhaps not. It’s only 7 June. Let’s see where we’re at mid-August.

              2. “Let’s see where we’re at mid-August.”

                Even that is early. He’s a 2nd round pick who likely will be no higher than the #4 WR this year with his primary role being as a returner. This was a pick geared towards 2019 and beyond.

        3. I wonder if Shanahan will run schemes which place Pettis in situations where he can excell. I wonder… Hmmm….

          Or, Shanahan may just stick him out wide and hope for the best–going against beast press corners time and time again, fingers crossed. Why should we have any trust that Shanahan will scheme at all?

  7. One complaint I have is… why was Arik playing at DE again anyways. He is not good out there. If the team wants to find out what they have in him they need to play him in the interior, where he’s best suited to play, otherwise they are wasting a roster spot.

    1. And, if you don’t mind, let me add that he can turn on a dime and has good hands. The team is lucky to have him.

      1. And also that if Moore was playing CB he must have to backpedal first and turn back his and only then starts running, while Breida is already at full speed.

        Breida burning Moore on a Go route with a free release on OTA isn’t very concerning to me.

  8. Why are we comparing Thomas to other people? Solly weighed 273 at the combine, that’s official. To me, Solly looks about the same, perhaps a little stockier.


  9. Waiting for the pads to be put on ,than we will have an idea of what we have .

    Grant the man just laid his sister to rest .
    A little breathing room , and professional courtesy . . Have you ever been unfortunate enough to to have to bury your younger kin?
    I’m guessing not . ( I put 2 brothers in the ground,19,22)

    Wow man , thats the worst I’ve seen you pass judgement on someone . ( Mindless and heartless) and don’t say you call it like you see it . He( ST ) gets a pass for a week , till the emotional side starts to settle. So he can focus . Disagree with that part . Am glad to hear how much our second year players have improved .

  10. Grant being Grant–some genuine insight, a dose of dismissive drivel, thinly veiled suggestions of coaching incompetency, rushing to ‘I knew it!’ judgement, driving wedges into perceived cracks, …and some interesting insight. Grant is a treat. I don’t expect Grant to be a homer, just wish he’d be more objective.

    Wonder what Grant would have written day-to-day if he covered the 9ers from ’79 through ’89. Imagine his training camp ‘good and not so good’ articles ahead of the ’81 season.

  11. The two areas I was most worried about and were not improved upon or addressed in the draft were guard and the outside passrusher positions. Those are the open sores that will keep showing up every game.

  12. I like reading Grant’s observations. I take them as raw, uncorrelated data. His analysis is sometimes subjective, sometimes click-bait, and sometimes accurate. In “Almost Famous” the young reporter is warned not to get too close to the talent because,”They are not your friends.” Grant seems to have been similarly Warner, maybe by Lowell, who did not seem to have much in the way of warmth. Point is the advice is crap. What you need is trust.

  13. I could see Grant starring in a procedural where he solves crimes by guessing weights of potential perps. Call him “The Nepotist”


    QB Jimmy Garopolo. Garoppolo threw an interception in the end zone – a big no-no.

    Grant, was that the 40 yarder mentioned by Cam Inman:

    The misses: a low incompletion, a drop, an intentional throw-away, a near-interception by Korey Toomer, and, at the end, a Greg Mabin interception on a 40-yard pass into the end zone toward Pierre Garçon.

    If so, while INTs are never good, it’s not like this was a red zone turnover. And also, why didn’t you mention the distance of the throw in your report?

    1. Why? Because when you try and anger the fans, you create a flurry of response which results in larger volume of comments. The tried and true Cohn head move.

  15. The Wilcox episode is curious:
    If I have it right. After talking with DB Coach about team’s specific expectations of him and for him, he opted not to sign and to sign with the Jets.
    What did he expect and not get?
    The coach was candid. Maybe no promise of starting role?
    What was team’s intent? Where did he fit? What does that say about team’s view of incumbents & contenders? Hard to read.

  16. I’ve heard the phrase “stage fright” used as the reason why he decided to bolt to the Jets. The only thing I could think of is that he might not want to play with player/coach Richard Sherman. Perhaps Sherman’s intensity and high expectations frighten him.

      1. If only there was a journalist somewhere who could unearth the truth behind the headlines. Someone with sleuthing know-how who can ask the burning questions (like ‘Why wasn’t so & so at practice today?’ Or ‘Hey Solomon, how much do you weigh these days? Cuz you look a bit lighter’ Or ‘Hey John, anything you can share on the record about Wilcox’s change of heart?) An e-mail query to the PR Dept. seeking comment if coach and GM not available?
        Someone who focuses on the team. Someone who has developed cordial professional relationships with coaches, players and execs so that he or she can present an informed view to readers, as if he or she is, you know, kinda inside the 49ers.

        1. An e-mail query to the PR Dept. seeking comment if coach and GM not available?

          BR , and just who would this insider trust? Lying PR flacks when his own photographic evidence says otherwise?

      2. I don’t think it was Grant ripping players, so much as Wilcox being afraid that Grant would reveal his true weight of 156.479 pounds, and couldn’t bear the prospect of being embarrassed is such a way.

  17. Hard to tell by the Pics with no previous Pics as a reference. He does carry a lot of lower body beef. His calves are big. It will be interesting to see how your early analysis bears out as they hit training camp and preseason next month..

    1. “Hard to tell by the Pics with no previous Pics as a reference.”

      Yup. Grant’s pictures aren’t great either. The only pic of Thomas’ front side looks like it was taken from 100 feet away. I’m still not seeing a major difference between Thomas at the Combine and Thomas at OTA’s.

    1. A substantial drop in weight could indicate a change in position (i.e. more edge work). This would be of interest to 49er fans. In the absence of precedent, however, I would agree with you. But precedents have already been set with Carradine and Armstead.

      Now, if the question is: is Grant blowing this out of proportion……..

  18. So I wonder if TO will have his gold jacket sent to him so he can wear it and a speedo while working out with weights on his front lawn the day of the ceremony.

  19. Pat Kirwan had a funny take on it today. He said seeing as though the HOF entrant is the one to remove the cover from the bust, then TO’s should stay covered.

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