Niner Noise was on hand for the fourth padded practice of the San Francisco 49ers’ training camp. Here are some observations from the most intense practice yet.
The sheer difference that football pads can make on the field is incredible.
Last Friday, I attended the San Francisco 49ers‘ last non-padded practice of training camp, where everything was very positive. Everybody looked clean and solid, and the team had a carefree vibe in practice.
It was like a G-rated version of football.
Even though most of today’s practice, the fourth padded practice of training camp, was not full contact, the session made an immediate jump to, let’s say, PG-13.
The light vibe ramped up to an overwhelming feeling of intensity. It felt like everybody was on edge. And no, it wasn’t because two fans wearing Cowboys and Rams jerseys were in attendance.
Here is my take on today’s gritty practice session.
Temper your expectations for Jimmy G
Now don’t freak out. I’m not saying all is lost for this team’s franchise quarterback, but there is no doubt in my mind that Jimmy Garoppolo had a bad day throwing the football.
Garoppolo had a tough time throwing the deep ball in the one-on-one sessions, often leading the ball out of bounds on deep throws. He didn’t get much better in seven-on-sevens, misfiring on a 15-yard throw to wide receiver Pierre Garcon, with the ball almost being picked off by safety Jaquiski Tartt. He missed a wide-open tight end, George Kittle, 25 yards down the sideline right after, again leading the ball out of bounds. A couple minutes later, Kittle ran a 15-yard corner route and had to make a one-handed grab on the sideline to bail Jimmy G out:
I was not satisfied with Garoppolo’s performance on the day until he lofted a beautiful, perfect deep ball to rookie wideout Dante Pettis, who beat cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, for a touchdown to close out practice.
Garoppolo has not been the most consistent player so far in training camp, sometimes erring on ball placement and sometimes throwing absolute dimes. Now, he still has four weeks of preseason and practice to straighten things out and practice to become more consistent, so I wouldn’t freak out.
I just want to err on the side of caution while setting expectations for Garoppolo. I believe and hope that he will improve as the season goes on, but for now, just temper your expectations. There was a lot of groaning from the audience today, and I don’t want unrealistically high expectations to be the root of unnecessary boo birds once the season begins.
Intensity reaches a high point
I was closely watching the one-on-ones that were happening on the far side of the field, when I suddenly heard the audience yelling and pointing to the linebacker group, where I saw shoving going on between some players (who I could not identify at the time). It got broken up very quickly, which is why I think no beat writers tweeted or wrote anything about this, and practice resumed as normal:
Again, don’t freak out about this. Yes, the 49ers have a uniquely close locker room, but a high level of competitiveness is always good to see.
It is clear that putting on the pads had a mental effect on the players to go harder in practice, and that powerful feeling in the air today just reached a boiling point, which led to the miniature scuffle.
Pettis, James, Bourne continue to impress
Pettis is going to be a star in this league. He has been the clear standout in training camp because he’s just about beaten every single poor defensive back on this team with his incredible route-running. I can totally see why head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch made the decision to trade up in the second round of this year’s NFL Draft to snag Pettis — he is most definitely worth the reach. His nifty abilities as a route runner, combined with his returner skills, just scream limitless potential.
Get excited about Pettis — he is the team’s future at the receiver position.
Fellow receivers Richie James and Kendrick Bourne continue to impress as well. James continued to show off his sure hands, as he somehow held onto a short dump pass smack-dab in between two linebackers, who popped him. He should definitely make the roster as a very solid depth receiver.
Bourne has definitely improved from year one. All offseason, he was posting his individual training on social media, and you can really tell that it paid off. He worked with the first-team in red-zone drills and caught a ten-yard strike from Garoppolo. Bourne’s especially hard work ethic has made him into one of my favorite receivers on the team, and considering who this team has at receiver, that is an incredible feat.
McKinnon, Breida to form a committee?
However, Breida had such a good practice today that I am now leaning towards the side of, “Oh yeah, they’re going to be in a committee.”
The second-year running back out of Georgia Southern had a couple of huge runs gashing the defense, which made me and the entire audience beyond excited. He also caught a touchdown pass from Garoppolo in the red-zone period. Breida has been by far the most dynamic running back out there on the practice field, and this is coming from a guy who is crazy high on McKinnon, who has noticeably gotten less practice reps.
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This is shaping up to be a full-blown committee between McKinnon and Breida, much like the Devonta Freeman-Tevin Coleman one Shanahan employed back in Atlanta.
Sherman is on track to return to prime form
Cornerback Richard Sherman‘s road to recovery from his torn Achilles suffered last season has been incredible. Sherman looks 100 percent out there, locking down his receivers even in the one-on-one drills, where he cannot press the receiver and he has no safety help over the top.
The videos of wide receiver Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon beating Sherman in one-on-one drills should be taken with a grain of salt. Those videos were taken during the first two padded practices, Sherman’s first time putting on the pads in a very long time.
The ex-Seahawk is going to be just fine out there this season.
Garoppolo’s errant and inconsistent accuracy, albeit very important, was really the only negative thing I saw today. I really hope that today was just an off day for him, because if he plays up to half of what is expected of him, this team has a very real shot at contending.
Bring on the preseason — this team is ready to take the league by storm.