On the Field
Monday, the 49ers ran their first team offenses and defenses against scout teams as they tune up for Thursday night’s game against the Broncos. Colin Kaepernick started the day completing 12 of 13 passes in the first session of 11-on-11 drills before completing seven of eight later in the second portion, unofficially.
A.J. Jenkins hauled in six catches after being targeted eight times and looked good coming off his hamstring injury that sidelined him for much of the first week of training camp. Each of the 12 receivers on the 53-man roster suited up, including newcomers Austin Collie and Lavelle Hawkins, who continue to ease their way into the offense. With so many receivers now healthy, the team has the welcomed problem of trying to find enough reps to go around.
For the second-straight day, first-round pick Eric Reid worked with the first team defense which is all according to Vic Fangio’s plan to rotate different players into the free safety spot. The timing of Reid’s reps with the first team is worth pointing out with the possibility of going against Peyton Manning Thursday. C.J. Spillman and Trenton Robinson have both seen three practices with the first team to this point. Spillman is the No. 1 free safety on the team’s unofficial depth chart issued by the public relations department, but Thursday could be an opportunity to throw Reid into the fire against Manning as an early test.
Not much has changed in regards to Tramaine Brock taking over the role Chris Culliver left behind. Brock still appears to the favorite for the position and continues to put together a strong camp. Perrish Cox and Nnamdi Asomugha are also still in the mix, but haven’t seen as many reps with the first team nickle package as Brock.
Center Jonathan Goodwin put the pads on for the first time in a week, but did not see any reps in full-team drills as he wore a blue jersey, the same one Quinton Patton continues to wear that prohibits him from catching passes. Daniel Kilgore and Adam Snyder – the two favorites for the fourth and fifth linemen jobs on game day – got the reps at center in Goodwin’s stead. Greg Roman said he was unsure if Goodwin will play Thursday, but it’s likely he’ll sit out as a precaution.
Justin Smith missed practice again and continues to have his right middle heavily wrapped. The injury seems far from serious.
In the Press Tent
Greg Roman was asked about the center situation and whether or not Goodwin’s absence from practice has created a competition for the starting job.
“Everything is a meritocracy. Whoever competes and gets the job done at a high level will play or have a significant role. That’s just how we look at it,” Roman said.
It’s tough to gauge the level of coach speak offered by Roman, but him not assuring Goodwin the starting job is noteworthy considering Goodwin took $1.2 million pay cut (down from $3.7 million to $2.5) in the offseason. With $1 million of his deal guaranteed, the 49ers could potentially save $1.5 million in cap space – and a roster spot – on the unlikely chance they part ways with the 34-year-old and go with Kilgore, 25, who could be the future of the position. Goodwin is slated to be a free agent following 2013.
With Frank Gore getting his customary limited training camp action, there’s been a good battle brewing at running back. Jewel Hampton and D.J. Harper are looking to make an impact and give Anthony Dixon a run for his roster spot while Kendall Hunter continues to rehab from his torn Achilles. LaMichael James has been the team’s primary kickoff and punt returner.
Harper has the edge in pass protection over Hampton, which could be the deciding factor in the battle between the two. Roman didn’t indicate who had the edge now, but did mention how excited he was to watch them play in the preseason opener.
Donte Whitner also met with the media and discussed the adjustments he’s making while working with a new free safety every fourth practice. He’s said things haven’t changed from an assignment perspective, but the burden of communicating the calls has been the biggest change since the departure of Dashon Goldson.
“When Dashon was there, he had his side of the football field and had my side of the football field,” Whitner said.
“When you have guys new to just being out there with ones, it’s a different feel from being out there with the twos and threes...so that’s my job to make the other guy feel comfortable. Because no matter who it is, it’s going to be a guy that’s fairly inexperienced.”
Reid’s been getting the reps with the starters lately, and it appears the question isn’t if he’ll start, it’s when.
“Potential is always there. But potential can get you beat also. Again we’re going out there and playing some of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League,” Whitner said. “The guy’s always asking questions, very coachable. Very humble guy and you can tell he just wants to work. When he makes a mistake he’s not a repeat offender.
With defenders unable to make hits on offensive players, it’s too early to tell how well Reid is adjusting to the pros in his first 10 days of NFL training camp. His best chance at showing progress will come in preseason games.
Tackle Anthony Davis took to the media tent to answer questions Monday and talked about taking lumps in his first preseason in the league.
“I don’t know if (the rookies) want advice from me about first games and stuff like that. My first games didn’t work out well as a rookie. All you can do is keep working,” Davis said.
“I don’t really have an excuse. I just played like (expletive).”