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49ers Practice Report: The best defensive play of camp, and some not-so-great offensive plays



Photo Credit: Chris Mezzavilla

We’re getting close, folks. After tomorrow, the 49ers will finally play against someone other than themselves. With contact picking up over the last few days, it’s clear players need to direct their energy towards non-teammates.

On one occasion, linebacker Jonas Griffith came downhill at George Kittle for a nearly full-speed tackle. The result is better if you read it coming from Kittle, who described the play after practice with a wide grin.

“I’m pretty sure whoever got me ended up on the ground and I was still standing.”

This was not a particularly impressive day for Jimmy Garoppolo. I had him at 12-of-21, or 14-of-24 with two completions on clear sacks and one interception which was negated by another obvious sack. Keeping exact numbers given penalties and sacks is an inexact science, and numbers aren’t always the best way to assess performance (today they were pretty representative).

One of those sacks came from D.J. Jones, one from Jordan Willis, and the interception came from Jones swatting Garoppolo’s pass at the line of scrimmage, when it then shot up in the air for Dre Greenlaw, who plucked it and returned it.

That would have been Garoppolo’s second interception of the day had it stood. And realistically, it should have been his third. He threw a sitting duck to K’Waun Williams, who would have been sure to come up with the interception had Dre Greenlaw not clocked him immediately. Greenlaw promptly apologized to Williams, having saved Garoppolo the embarrassment of a three interception day.

Oh, and as for the one interception that stood? That was atrocious.

Garoppolo waited, I guess checked his investment portfolio, waited some more, then gifted Jason Verrett at least his second interception of camp on Garoppolo. He stared down Deebo Samuel, who was never open, and waited until Verrett had gotten position on Samuel to throw the ball; Verrett shrugged Samuel off, jumping clear in front of him the moment the ball left Garoppolo’s hand. It was an inexcusable throw with pick-six potential in a game situation.

He also got shown up by Trey Lance accidentally. It may not have been accidental by Kyle Shanahan.

With his final throw of one set, Garoppolo targeted Brandon Aiyuk deep down the right sideline. He had a little bit of pressure to navigate coming towards his right side, but not enough to ruin the throw; he missed Aiyuk to his right and too far ahead of him. In a prior set of reps, he overthrew Kyle Juszczyk by about three yards on a similar pattern down the right sideline.

Immediately after Garoppolo’s overthrow of Aiyuk, Lance came in and targeted Deebo Samuel deep down the right sideline with the best throw of the day, hitting him in stride for a 40-plus air yard throw that Samuel hardly had to adjust for. It was nearly an identical target to the one Garoppolo intended.

It was a pretty impressive day for Lance when he actually had the chance to throw the ball.

See, one of the great frustrations of training camp is watching Lance with the second team offensive line, which, woof. Jaylon Moore looks like he’s out of sorts at left tackle, and at least struggles to chain his good reps together. Aaron Banks has some staunch pass protection reps and gets out in space well, but he’s inconsistent, and it’s not helpful that he’s working with different offensive line partners pretty often.

They tried mixing up the centers, with both Jake Brendel and Dakoda Shepley repping there. The same thing happened at right tackle, with both Corbin Kaufasi and Tom Compton — who has traditionally been a guard — mixing up snaps, to mixed-at-best results. Mike McDaniel said after practice that it’s good, actually, that the second-team offensive line is struggling because they’re going against a very talented defensive line. The second part of that statement is true, at least.

Both Kyle Shanahan and offensive line coach Chris Foerster have said they’re comfortable with the team’s depth at center, despite those centers not looking comfortable themselves.

It doesn’t sound like a major issue, but it’s not cost-prohibitive to bring in a veteran, third-string center, who has a little more experience. Brendel has played 21 games but started just three; he’s overwhelmingly played special teams and has 244 total offensive snaps in his career. Shepley has five career snaps, all on special teams last season.

The point is that it’s a little concerning imagining Lance playing with that second-team offensive line in preseason games against players who won’t be required to avoid sacks.

Still, Lance was impressive even with that heinous blocking in front of him. He was would-be sacked at least three times, possibly as many as five times, with at least two significant pressures which were close to sacks. Despite that, he finished 14-of-17 with some damn impressive throws.

In addition to his sideline dime to Samuel, he connected with Trent Sherfield multiple times, including on one play in which he was pressured by three defensive linemen, and simply backed up about 10-to-15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, then threw off his back foot, across his body, across the field to hit Sherfield open on the left side of the field. There was at least one more occasion when he hit Sherfield deep on the left side of the field in sync in less ridiculous circumstances.

One of his incompletions was also impressive. He escaped pressure, rolled out to his left, targeting a diving Austin Watkins, who couldn’t hold onto the ball, which was a tad low, but catchable.

Honestly, most of Lance’s throws — except for a tipped, nearly intercepted ball on a play which was already dead from a sack — were without fault. He looked, and maybe for the first time in a few practices, like the clear-cut best quarterback on the team.

Now, it’s tough with drills and various situations — especially given Lance is with the second team — to try and compare performance. Lance looked better early on, then Garoppolo caught back up, but today was an unquestionable Lance day. Lance also got one first-team rep, but simply handed the ball off to Trey Sermon on that rep.

Wednesday’s practice featured perhaps the best of defensive play of camp, too. Josh Rosen tried to launch a deep ball over the middle of the field, where Talanoa Hufanga was waiting. Hufanga, tracked it, then leapt high in the air with one outstretched arm, reeling it in with that first hand, then controlling it and returning it for a substantial gain. It got the defensive sideline bumping.

It also got defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans hyped. He said after practice that he jumped in the air with Hufanga as he caught the ball.

There were also myriad impressive plays from Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley in the secondary. Verrett continues to look ridiculous.

Lastly, there’s the absences.

Arik Armstead and Nick Bosa both practiced, but did not participate in 11-on-11s or 1-on-1s. Jalen Hurd was back at practice and involved in 11-on-11s, b ut not targeted. There was sideline work for Azeez Al-Shaair, Samson Ebukam and MyCole Pruitt, who were all in pads. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, who’s in the concussion protocol, was also there on the sideline. There’s still no sign of Senio Kelemente, who was seen leaving the facility before practice yesterday, but who is still on the roster. There was also no sign of defensive tackle Darrion Daniels.