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49ers Practice Report: Trey Sermon stands out in lead opportunity



© Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

It was the final open practice of training camp, and the last before the 49ers face live action in Friday night’s preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers.

Meh day for Trey Lance

After perhaps his most impressive practice of training camp, Lance was a mixed bag on Wednesday, with a few bad misses.

I had Lance at 10-of-20 on the day.

He led off a with a deep shot attempt to Deebo Samuel. It was in a tough spot, with a tight window to try and fit the ball into Samuel between coverage, but it hit his hands.

It’s hard to tell if it was a drop and definitely wasn’t an easy catch. It would have represented a spectacular connection from both players if Samuel had caught it.

Here’s the bad stuff:

  • Had a bad, short incompletion to Brandon Aiyuk. He didn’t see Talanoa Hufanga lurking on the backside and Hufanga came crashing down and broke the pass up.
  • Missed Trey Sermon on a quick throw to the flat. It hit Sermon in one hand, but he had to reach for it and it wasn’t an easy catch.
  • Ugly throw well behind George Kittle over the middle, dangerous opportunity, Fred Warner got a hand on it.
  • Had a couple passes swatted by edge rushers, one by Nick Bosa, and another by a couple players. He needs to be better at throwing at different angles and pump faking to avoid tipped balls on those sort of plays.
  • Ended the day on a sack by Charles Omenihu against Trent Williams. Lance was pressured to his right and stepped up the middle and into the sack on otherwise good protection from Williams.

The 49ers ran a few sets of two-at-a-time series when one unit would run two plays, then shuffle out. It looked like preparation for Friday’s preseason game, making sure that units were comfortable getting on and off the field.

It wasn’t necessarily a bad day for Lance, just not a wholly impressive one. Like he did on Tuesday, he ran plenty, looking comfortable when he’d find glimpses of daylight.

There were a few quick completions, the most eye-catching of which was a jumping, quick pass to Kyle Juszczyk over a rushing defender.

He also had a really well thrown deep ball, but Ray-Ray McCloud couldn’t separate from Ka’Dar Hollman and make a play on it. Those two got tangled up, but no flag was thrown.

The crispest throw of the day was a roughly 20-yard out route to Brandon Aiyuk. Lance delivered just as Aiyuk was starting to come out of his break, and the ball arrived to an outstretched Aiyuk, where only he could catch it, along the left sideline.

That connection continues to look much stronger than the one with Samuel, who had a drop over the middle on a pass from Nate Sudfled, and a couple plays when he didn’t separate.

The throw of the day was a roughly 55-yard touchdown from Brock Purdy to Brandon Aiyuk down the left sideline for a touchdown. It was a dime that hit Aiyuk in stride at about the 15-yard line.

Trey Sermon excels in Elijah Mitchell’s stead

There was no Elijah Mitchell in practice on Wednesday. There’s no word yet on why.

But that meant Trey Sermon was given the bulk of the carries.

And Sermon was excellent. He still has that fluidity he showed off in college with his running style, but he’s being a little more decisive and trusting his vision more.

He’s got the frame of a power back, but runs with the finesse of a smaller runner. That said, he has enough physicality to take on contact.

That all combined on Wednesday. While it’s really difficult to tell how runs would actually go given the half-tackle edict defensive players are under, there were a number of plays when Sermon reached the second level, cutting back efficiently and creating space for himself. He also had a couple of catches in the flat and turned upfield well.

Jordan Mason remains a standout, and presents the 49ers with a question of how they’ll protect him from game action in order to keep him on the practice squads.

As far as the offensive and defensive lines are concerned, there weren’t many new developments from days prior. Alex Barrett remains a surprisingly impressive player rushing from the inside.

Nick Zakelj was at least not beaten in every one-on-one like in days prior.

Drake Jackson needs to be rushing against someone not named Alfredo Gutierrez. He got four 1-on-1 reps, losing his lone one opportunity rushing at nose, but easily winning all three reps on the outside against Gutierrez twice and Justin Skule once.

Skule remains a pretty rough watch.

Probably the most interesting rush was Samson Ebukam, who beat Trent Williams with a spin move to the inside. He and Javon Kinlaw combined for a would-be sack on Lance in 11-on-11s.

Kemoko Turay also looks like he’s going to be a productive rusher. He has a clear 1-2 punch that he sets up well by rushing with a speed, bending rush to the outside. It’s the perfect setup for what is an elite reverse spin move which continues to fool just about everyone he faces.

At long last, though, we’ll finally get to see this team against players wearing another jersey. That should tell us quite a bit more, especially as it pertains to running backs and special teamers.