RNG Report Forums 49erholics Anonymous 49ers Talk 2021 Training Camp Reply To: 2021 Training Camp

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RedBluff
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Barrows Mailbag from the Athletic:

Who’s been the biggest surprise overall so far and who’s been the quietest in camp? — Kamran A.

Trey Lance has been the biggest surprise — I didn’t expect him to be this good or this aggressive this early — but I can tell from the questions that we may be nearing Lance Overload and will highlight some others.

Pleasant surprises:

DE Dee Ford: I thought he’d be brought back very slowly so as not to awaken the back issues that sidelined him last season. Ford has yet to go through a full-load practice, but his Tuesday session was fairly extensive. You can tell that he’s testing himself: Using a speed rush on one play, trying out his bull rush on the next. His burst — what Ford’s game is built upon — is clearly not where he wants it yet, but he took a solid first step over the opening seven days of camp.

SS Tavon Wilson: It’s like he’s been playing in the 49ers’ system for five years. He and Jimmie Ward already have good chemistry and Wilson could step in at either free or strong safety if need be. Remember, Jaquiski Tartt is on the reserve/COVID-19 list but he also has been dealing with a toe injury. The longer he’s out, the greater the likelihood that Wilson not only makes the team but is a Week 1 starter.

WR Deebo Samuel: He showed off his deep-ball abilities at the Senior Bowl in 2019, but he’s mostly been used as a short-throw-and-go receiver to this point in his career. This summer, the deep ball is back. It’s something that Samuel worked on in the offseason and it’s also obvious he’s been careful about his weight — which hasn’t always been the case — in an effort to allow him to go fast.

A bit of a disappointment:

WR Jauan Jennings: With Jalen Hurd having a decidedly staggered return to practice, Jennings had an opportunity to grab hold of the “big slot” role that seems perfect for a physical receiver like him. Instead, he landed on the COVID-19 list. He should be eligible to come off it on Friday or Saturday provided he tests negative.

CB Tim Harris: He’s another young player who had a golden opportunity to make a mark. You can’t get upset at someone for being injured. Still, it’s clear that after all his medical issues at Virginia and with the 49ers that the team can’t rely on him for a big role this season. Harris (groin) reverted to injured reserve on Thursday.

WR Kevin White: On paper, he seems perfect for this offense: Big, fast, effective with the ball on his hands. He also spent nearly a year in this system, which should have given him a leg up on some newcomers to the system. White is good for a couple of catches per 11-on-11 period but remains very much in the middle of the pack as far as the pecking order.

I know it’s early, but should we be concerned about Aaron Banks? — Andrew K.

Aaron Banks. Been eerily quiet regarding his progress. Do we have a Chilo (the cum sucking cow) Rachal situation? — Chris D.

It’s clear there are things that Banks has to clean up.

This is Kyle Shanahan on July 28: “Just watching it live, he does some good things and he’s got a lot of rookie things, too.”

Here’s offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel on Wednesday: “A lot of the stuff that we ask them to do is a little different than they’re used to. So he’s attacking it. But with that, you’ll jump offside sometimes. You’ll be a little sloppy in your technique because you’re not used to it. He can’t turn his brain off right now before he goes and plays. (But) that’s something that we’re not really concerned about at all. It’s a natural progression that all players really go through.”

Last year, there were a couple of offensive linemen who looked awful the first week of practice but who, by the end of training camp, were noticeably better. My sense is that will be the case with Banks, who seems to have dropped weight over the offseason and who, athletically at least, appears able to adapt to the 49ers’ zone-blocking scheme.

It should be noted that no rookies are working steadily with the first-stringers at this point (although Trey Sermon often will rotate in with the top offense). Without Emmanuel Moseley, Harris and Dontae Johnson, did third-round pick Ambry Thomas get first-team snaps at cornerback? No, those repetitions went to Ken Webster. Which is to say, the 49ers are hesitant to award/anoint any rookies in the first seven days of camp, including Lance.

Still, the situation bears monitoring. Banks was the one draft pick who seemed to elicit wildly different assessments from talent evaluators. And when the 49ers shook up the position on Wednesday, they did so by inserting Colton McKivitz, not Banks, into the starting lineup. Unlike cornerback, the shakeup wasn’t caused by injuries. The 49ers wanted to get a look at someone else at right guard and clearly don’t think Banks is ready to run with the ones. Yet.

When Trey Lance has run the ball in team drills, how do these plays end since he can’t be touched by the defense? Are they training him to slide? Is he running out of bounds? Do they just blow a whistle when a defender gets close? — Kiran B.

Observers know it’s a big run if there’s no one around him, obviously. Most of his runs have ended with Lance going out of bounds or being “tagged” by a defensive back, which brings a whistle. I have not seen him slide. My sense is that the vast majority of his runs so far would have been sizeable gains. On Wednesday, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst snuffed out a zone-read play and tagged Lance in the backfield. It was the first designed run Lance has taken that wasn’t successful. Suffice to say, neither he nor any of the QBs have taken any big hits, inadvertent or otherwise.

How is Jalen Hurd looking when he does participate? — Nick E.

He looks good — maybe a little lighter than he was in 2019 when he was around 225 pounds. He’s been smooth and powerful on his routes against air. But it’s all been versus air so far. He has to make a catch — or get a target — in an 11-on-11 situation.

Excluding Trey Lance, have any rookies stood out and earned a chance to get playing time this year (according to your expert opinion)? I would assume Trey Sermon but any others? — Jared T.

Aside from Lance, Sermon has stood out the most. He’s been steady as the No. 2 back and has looked better than expected as a route runner and pass catcher. The same goes for running back Elijah Mitchell. He was a little over 200 pounds when he ran his sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash at his pro day, but my sense is that he’s put on some weight since then. He runs with a bit of an upright stance and there’s been no tackling — or real hitting — so far. The preseason games ought to give us more clues about the running backs.

Elsewhere, fifth-round pick Jaylon Moore began training camp as the second-string left tackle — or swing tackle — which is a crucial position. That was largely due to Justin Skule’s ACL injury. Moore will have to hold off veteran Shon Coleman, who’s been getting some backup reps at left tackle, too, as well as Colton McKivitz and Tom Compton, who have mostly been playing guard but who take snaps at tackle as well.

What does DeMeco Ryans do differently than Robert Saleh? What has stood out? — Freddy P.

Nothing, really. Everything that Ryans will do this season Saleh probably did at times in previous seasons. It depends on what Ryans emphasizes. Like any good coordinator, he’s testing out all sorts of different things — coverages, blitz packages — early in training camp and is seeing what his personnel does best. My sense is that there might be more press coverage this season, more blitzing from linebackers and safeties and more overall aggressiveness.

Coming into camp one of the biggest questions was WR3 and the overall WR depth. How has that changed with the emergence of Mohamed Sanu and Trent Sherfield, as well as the progress of Jalen Hurd slowly getting back on the field? — Abed A.

At this moment, I suspect the depth goes like this:

Brandon Aiyuk
Deebo Samuel
Mohamed Sanu
Trent Sherfield
Richie James
Shanahan usually keeps six but he also could carry five with an extra tight end, Jordan Matthews, being the de facto sixth receiver. Obviously, Hurd and Jennings have a shot at that sixth spot. Hurd is talented enough to rise to No. 3. Travis Benjamin could overtake James for the No. 5 spot, but if it’s close I think the tie would go to the younger player.

Is Jordan Matthews doing enough to make the team at tight end? — Dom J.

The early — very early — returns have been good. He just joined the team on Saturday and only has been a tight end for a few months. So it’s impossible to make any real judgments. That said, he’s already been prominent in practice both as a pass catcher and as a blocker.

When it comes to the receiving aspect of the position, when Matthews lines up in the slot he’s essentially doing the same things he did when he lined up in the slot as a wide receiver. Shanahan refers to that spot as the “F” position no matter who’s there. In that way, he could serve as both the team’s No. 6 receiver (see above) and No. 4 tight end this season.

With what you’ve seen so far, has Lance been able to get the ball out of his hands as quickly as Jimmy Garoppolo? One thing I’ll say for him, Jimmy G never had that big windup and could always get the ball out fast. — Steve D.

Lance’s deep throw Sherfield the other day didn’t require much of a windup and is a good example of his talented arm. But to answer your question, Garoppolo still has the edge in release. Garoppolo’s is elite and he’s very good at hitting receivers and running backs in stride on short and intermediate throws. What stands out with Lance is that his arm is big enough to make throws all over the field, which Garoppolo simply is unable to do.

What has Trey Lance struggled with during camp? — Brian C.

Well, his media session was a tad dry.

We all like to talk about new additions to the team and rookies, but which player that was on the team last year looks like he’s taking a big leap forward? — Zack R.

Nose tackle Darrion Daniels probably is earmarked for the practice squad. There’s just too much talent on the interior defensive line for him to make the active roster. But he seems to be following the Kevin Givens path. That is, he’s a former undrafted player who got on the field a bit at the end of his rookie season and who seems to have taken a significant step going into Year 2.

Could you tell us a bit about Nate Sudafed and Josh Rosen? There is a solid chance one is Trey Lance’s backup next year. — Frank C.

I’d characterize it like this: Rosen is the more athletic of the two, has a really smooth delivery and looks comfortable and streamlined in his movement. But Sudafed has been the more accurate quarterback through seven practices.

It’s not close.

Colleague David Lombardi has been charting each of the QBs’ throws in 11-on-11 situations. As much hoopla as Lance has received, Sudafed has been the most accurate of the group in completing 16 of 21 attempts (76.2 percent), versus 51 of 75 (68 percent) for Lance and 54 of 87 (62.1 percent) for Garoppolo. Rosen? He’s been going against the same third-string competition as Sudafed and is 9 of 23 (39.1 percent).