The San Francisco 49ers began their voluntary OTAs this week and allowed the media to watch their practice Wednesday. The new 90-man roster feels far deeper than it was at this time last year, but it's still early in the process. The prevailing theme from Wednesday - one that will be covered frequently during the offseason - is how depth will impact a number of different positions. It should make for a very interesting training camp and preseason.
There were some notable absences from practice Wednesday including Stevie Johnson, Frank Gore, Jimmie Ward, Carlos Hyde, Chris Culliver, Jonathan Martin, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Jon Baldwin, Vernon Davis, Ian Williams and Justin Smith. We'll get to those absent players later.
-The highlight of the practice was when 304-pound Lawrence Okoye chased down Darryl Morris on a kickoff coverage drill. Morris is one of, if not the fastest player on the team. Okoye's play along the sideline drew a rousing response from his teammates.
-Johnson's absence allowed Brandon Lloyd to get a lot of work in and have a nice day. Lloyd, who turns 33 in July, was out of football last season. But he looks like he's in very good shape and showed a good rapport with Colin Kaepernick. The duo connected on a touchdown along the right boundary where Lloyd had to slide to catch the low throw and get two feet in bounds during seven-on-sevens.
"Seeing really good things," Harbaugh said of Lloyd. "Seeing surge off the line of scrimmage. He's got the ability to burst at the top of his routes. He runs excellent routes. Acrobatic type of catches that he's able to make. Really good hands...It does not seem like a guy that's had a layoff from football for a year."
Lloyd enters a suddenly crowded group of receivers behind Anquan Boldin and Michael Crabtree. The team used fourth-round picks in consecutive seasons on Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington, who are all in competition for playing time and appear unlikely to go anywhere. Add special teams ace Kassim Osgood to the fold, and the receiving corps could become one of the most heated battles in camp. Could the 49ers end up keeping six receivers on the 53-man roster?
-The defense spent its second day working without All-Pro middle linebacker NaVorro Bowman. As expected, Michael Wilhoite worked with the starters during team drills while Chris Borland and Nick Moody also received a good share of reps. Wilhoite looks like the favorite to land the starting job in Bowman's absence for now.
-Many eyes have been fixed on Marcus Lattimore, who is coming off his red-shirt season after his horrific knee injury suffered in his last game at South Carolina. Lattimore is participating in practice after a hamstring injury limited him during rookie camp.
"He's really been coming back from that (hamstring) day by day more so than from the knee. You talk to him and the knee feels good," Harbaugh said.
A running back might be the toughest player to gauge with the pads off, simply because they aren't asked to do a whole lot in these OTAs. Lattimore is still not showing much explosion, but that could be because of his recent hamstring injury as Harbaugh mentioned.
For now, Lattimore is taking his reps like a player would in pre game warmups - going through the motions and making sure he's making all the right steps. It's simply too early to tell if and how much he's recovered from his knee injury both mentally and physically. We will know more once the pads come on.
- Corner Chris Cook, a free-agent acquisition this offseason, saw most of the snaps opposite Tramaine Brock with the starters while Culliver continues to work back from last year's injury. Both he and rookie Dontae Johnson are listed at 6'2" giving the cornerbacks a distinct infusion of size.
- Eric Wright appeared to suffer an ankle injury early in the session ending his day early.
And now the absent players:
— Ward - the team's first-round pick - is still recovering from his offseason foot surgery and has said he plans on being 100 percent in time for the start of training camp. If you remember, Ward ran a 4.47 40 on his injuried foot during his pro day, a few days before undergoing surgery.
— Culliver is being worked in slowly while at the tail end of his recovery from his ACL tear suffered in training camp last year. Jim Harbaugh said he has been at the facility "quite a bit."
— Anthony Davis had offseason shoulder surgery and isn't participating, as expected.
— Harbaugh said Martin came down with mononucleosis and is in the final stages of the illness.
— Boone's absence comes as no surprise following the report saying he's unhappy with his contract. Harbaugh declined to comment on the situation.
— Gore has been seen at the team's facility. Frankly, there's no reason for him to participate (showing myself out).
— Baldwin is at the facility but appears to go be going through an undisclosed injury.
— Williams appears to be in the final stages of recovering from his broken ankle suffered in Week 2 of last season. Glenn Dorsey took the first-team reps at nose tackle while Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs were the others getting the majority of reps along the defensive line. Ray McDonald participated sparingly.
— Vernon Davis and Justin Smith were absent and Harbaugh made sure to remind the media afterwards that these workouts are voluntary. The team's mandatory minicamp is June 12-13.
— Stevie Johnson was "working through something."
— Hyde was absent while attending the NFLPA's rookie photo shoot in Los Angeles.
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