On-Air Now
On-Air Now
Listen Live from the Casino Matrix Studio

49ers Notebook: Trent Williams offers perspective as defense remains imperious in first padded practice



© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

On the day the Deebo Samuel saga came to an end, the pads came on. Kyle Shanahan said Monday that he’d hoped to have a deal in place with the 49ers’ star receiver by the start of padded practice and he got his wish.

The two, as usual, were chatting throughout practice, as Samuel donned a 49ers jersey for the first time in training camp. While he was limited in order to ease him back into action, there was plenty to watch.

Practice report: Defense continues to challenge Lance

What continues to be apparent is that Trey Lance does not have much time to operate with in the pocket. The defensive line is relentless and the upgrades in the secondary have made a monumental difference.

Charvarius Ward looks like a bona fide star corner and Emmanuel Moseley would be a CB1 on plenty of other teams. Talanoa Hufanga has impressed at strong safety thus far and while there are still questions at nickel corner, it doesn’t appear like it’s a dire situation.

It’s a recipe for coverage sacks and consistent pressure, which is positive for Lance’s development, but makes it difficult to assess how he’s progressing through his reads.

On Monday, Lance was 4-of-10 with two passing TDs, a rushing TD and an interception by Charvarius Ward. All of those touchdowns and the pick were in the red zone. He was sacked or would-be sacked three times, with two of those coming from Nick Bosa on Mike McGlinchey, though one was a clear coverage sack.

If you care about completions on those clear sack plays, he was 1-of-2, and took off running on the third time.

Lance could’ve had a third TD, which was dropped by Jauan Jennings / stripped by Dontae Johnson. That was at least partially on Lance. The ball was thrown to the inside shoulder, not towards pylon, so Jennings had to turn into the hit from Johnson, though he probably should have held onto the ball.

The opposite result happened a few plays later when George Kittle was in roughly the same spot as Jennings, but just out-muscled Tarvarius Moore to spin over the pylon for a touchdown.

His best ball of the day was a nearly 40-yard completion down the right sideline to who else but Brandon Aiyuk. It was a picture perfect throw and catch, and the fit between those two continues to look hand in glove.

The offensive line is having a pretty rough time. Colton McKivitz had some particularly rough pass sets, one of which ended up with him on his rear and met the ire of offensive line coach and run game coordinator Chris Foerster. He looked solid in the run game at least, opening up a big chunk gain for JaMycal Hasty with a key block at the second level.

There was no Javon Kinlaw today, meaning the interior saw a whole lot of new faces.

One of those is Robert Nkemdiche, who is an absolute menace in more than one way. He full on tackled Ty Davis-Price and was scolded for doing so by an irate Chris Kocurek. Nkemdiche did that last week, too. But he’s been a consistent playmaker, and later had a would-be backfield stop on Davis-Price, when he wised up and did not tackle him.

Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey took limited reps with offensive line and obviously raised the level of the group substantially.

While Deebo Samuel didn’t have too many reps, he caught a nice ball on a deep crosser from Nate Sudfeld. Tanner Hudson, it should be noted, also had a nice one-handed catch over the middle, reaching back across his body for the ball.

Praise for and from Trent Williams

Lance hasn’t been poor. He hasn’t been dominant. It’s been a mixed bag. He’s demonstrated the elite arm talent he possesses which his predecessor lacked along with the athletic bag of tools he has at his disposal.

But he’s also struggled on some shorter passes and those over the middle, and been flushed out the pocket on myriad occasions.

Against a defense that multiple 49ers, including Trent Williams, have explicitly and unabashedly termed the best in the NFL — and with a shorthanded, iffy offensive line — there’s not much clarity on what Lance has accomplished thus far.

Williams provided context for Lance’s play on Monday, saying that he’s been impressed by the second-year quarterback’s efforts.

His full answer, raving about the defense and Lance’s efforts against them, is below. But he points out that the defense, which is elite, has full knowledge of the offense’s playbook, and Shanahan isn’t trying to out-scheme them. Lance has to work for everything.

“They don’t give him anything easy. So anything you see, he worked for.”

Williams, who was rated a 99 overall player in Madden 22 this offseason, received some praise of his own.

Linebacker Dre Greenlaw called him the “best player in the NFL” and broke down the challenges he presents.

In essence, if you know Trent Williams is coming, make damn sure he doesn’t square you up.

Other notes: Drake Jackson, Aaron Banks and Ebukam’s ‘different story’

  • Drake Jackson got a fair few reps with the first team on Monday and continues to show up with pressures. He’s obviously a raw prospect, but there’s a ton to love. Both Trent Williams and Samson Ebukam had praise for the rookie:
    • Williams: “I think he’s a guy with a bright, bright future. Super athletic, really strong guy, really good hips. He can bend, he can get around the corner. And he’s seen and not heard. He goes around, handles his business the right way. He’s always got his book in his hand, he’s always doing a little extra. I think he’s gonna be an outstanding player.”
    • Ebukam: “He’s a perfect fit for this team. Every time that he makes a move, we’re just like, ‘Man, that dude he can bend.’ He can do it all, man. I’m excited for what’s to come for him. Because he had a couple of moves today I was just like, ‘dang, he’s got some good hips, bro.’ And he’s like a sponge, he just soaks up everything. And he doesn’t complain, he just gets to it and I love that.”
  • Samson Ebukam lamented that he wasn’t drafted by the 49ers. He was asked about the fact that he’s had three-straight seasons with 4.5 sacks and acknowledged it’s a goal to exceed that. But he said that if he had been in the 49ers’ system from the jump, he’d already have cracked that mark:

I played my whole college career as a defensive end. So if I came here and was playing defensive end as a rookie, with the bend that I had, that would have been just a different story, like I wouldn’t be sitting at four and a half sacks. I’d be gone.

  • Aaron Banks has been solid throughout camp thus far. He hasn’t been dominant, per se, which is tough for any offensive lineman in 11-on-11s with teammates, let alone without pads. But he hasn’t been noticed in a negative light like some of his cohorts. Trent Williams said he’s been one of the better players on the offensive line thus far and noticed that he put in a concerted effort to lose weight while retaining strength:

His body. You look at his body composition, you can tell that he worked. It’s one thing to lose weight and it’s one thing to lose weight and add muscle and you can tell that’s what he did. And I think that’s what’s allowing him to take advantage of all the talent that he has in that body and he’s going to ultimately reach his ceiling which I think can be really good.

The 49ers continue practice on Tuesday and Wednesday before an off day on Thursday.