Today we talked about the two highlights of practice: Jimmy Garoppolo throwing the ball down the field, Brandon Aiyuk and Fred Warner headlining UFC 278.
A day full of subs
A few maintenance days and key starters opened the door for the youth to earn some first-team replays. Ka’dar Hollman, a freshman who appeared in seven games for the Packers last year, was the first cornerback in place of Charvarius Ward.
Jaylon Moore was the right tackle for Mike McGlinchey. I noticed that Ray-Ray McCloud doesn’t practice. His replacement? This player is called Deebo Samuel.
So much for facilitating Deebo’s re-entry as he did a lot of reps with the first and second teams. The pass separations that were for McCloud are controversial catches that Samuel is sticking with. Talanoa Hufanga found this out the hard way.
The center and right guard combination of Jake Brendel and Spencer Burford continued Tuesday. The coaching staff have praised Daniel Brunskill at every opportunity for the past year and a half. So I thought they would find a role for Brunskill. He’s occasionally rotated in the middle with the starters, but it seems like Brendel’s job is to lose.
The story of the traffic jam
Ty Davis-Price worked with the starters for the first time. He fumbled a pitch on one game and ran up behind his receiver, missing an open run on another. It wasn’t a great day for the rookie as he continues to adjust to NFL-level speed.
Elijah Mitchell had an impressive lightning pickup in third place. The 49ers have yet to figure out their third-down back situation. You have options. Trey Sermon is perhaps the best. He looks good. Sermon looks like a no-nonsense runner. He’s also the defender who feels most comfortable catching passes from backfield.
Running backs coach Anthony Lynn has been pushing to improve during individual open field drills. It seems like every running back is looking for a cut before it’s there. Mitchell is RB1 but if you had no idea who the starter was you would think it’s a different player in every practice session.
Both Sermon and UDFA rookie Jordan Mason ran over defenders. After removing the names on the back of the jerseys, they were the most impressive of the entire camp. But we’ll see if that changes once the defenses can attack you.
Bombs away to Grey
Aiyuk should have had another reception if Trey Lance hadn’t missed him with a miss. In one recent practice match, Aiyuk plucked a high-speed lance pass out of the air with his go-go gadget arms. He’s an impressive wideout.
I mentioned above the difference that Samuel makes. If Deebo is the menace below and above midfield, Brandon Aiyuk has made his living outside of hash.
Malik Turner would win the last receiver spot in my opinion. They see him as the recipient of the “bouncing ball” due to his use. The offense has thrown severe fade routes at Turner, who has had plenty of success. I found it particularly interesting during practice on Monday; They threw Turner a fade with the starters on the first game in the red zone period.
It was Danny Gray’s day as he flew past everyone that covered him all day. Gray won a few reps with go balls in 1-on-1s, and that carried over into team periods where he torched Ambry Thomas on the sidelines. This becomes an issue for Ambry, who has been dealing with it for six days.
There were so many wannabe sacks that it’s impossible to keep track of Lance’s stats. I had him 9-for-16. Lance’s positives and areas for improvement are consistent.
When pressured, which was often the case, Lance will continue to stay upright in the pocket, sliding when he has to and trying to make a throw. Not afraid to fit the ball into a narrow window, he aggressively pushes the ball down the field.
There are still replays where Lance sprays the ball and misses his target. A consistent platform helps. It’s encouraging that he’s finding success against the 49ers’ defense the more he plays.
They are a strong unit that has consistently dominated the line of scrimmage throughout camp. Lance had a battered pass, which is a sign he’s been staring at his target for too long. That’ll happen, then he’ll uncork a pitch on the sidelines.
He’s not there yet, but you can see why Kyle Shanahan has invested as much as he has in Lance, who is a unique talent. I have trouble distinguishing how many of Lance’s perceived problems are permanent or if it’s due to them going up against a defense that knows what’s coming.
Luckily, that’s a question that will answer itself in 2022.