After training camp ramped up Monday when the San Francisco 49ers practiced in pads for the first time, Tuesday’s practice featured a struggling, inconsistent offense overmatched by their defensive counterparts.
Quarterbacks not looking sharp
Tuesday was a rough day for 49ers quarterbacks. Jimmy Garoppolo struggled, having one of his worst practices early on in camp.
Finally appearing recovered from his torn ACL, Garoppolo has been rusty early on, putting together a couple of poor performances already. Monday’s practice featured a deep touchdown pass to Richie James Jr. as well as Garoppolo’s first scramble out of the pocket for 15 yards. Having that instinct to take off, run and eventually slide to the ground is important for Garoppolo because it was the first time he’s been in that situation since his injury. Scrambling is a big mental hurdle for any quarterback coming off a serious knee injury.
Aside from Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens performed okay at best against the second- and third-string defenses. Under pressure, all three quarterbacks were forced out of the pocket at times, which even resulted in multiple check-downs and incompletions.
Defensive line stifles the run
After the 49ers revamped their defensive line this offseason, most of the talk has been about the pass rush and their ability to get after the quarterback and finish off sacks. The defensive front showed Tuesday that they not only can get after the quarterback, they can stuff the run as well.
Both Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman struggled early and often against the 49ers front seven. Towards the end of 11-on-11 drills, each were able to break off a nice run or two but were stuffed at the line on most running plays.
One back outperformed the others Tuesday, former Rice University RB Austin Walker. At a position group featuring Breida, Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Raheem Mostert, and Jeff Wilson Jr., Walker’s chances of making the roster are very slim. If an injury emerges to any of the 49ers leading backs, the competition at the bottom of the depth chart will begin to heat up.
The one key addition to the 49ers defensive line, and its not a player. Defensive Line Coach, Kris Kocurek was brought on this offseason and has made his presence felt. His high-energy, loud, passionate coaching style has turned some heads. His drills are truly a treat to watch, and players have (so far) come to really respect what he’s done thus far.
Post-practice, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh explained Kocurek’s impact on the team:
“I’m a firm believer that if you possess two traits as a football coach, you can be whoever you want as a football coach. If a player knows that you genuinely care about their well-being, and their ability to get better, and if you have the ability to help them get better with your techniques and schematic knowledge, you can be crazy every day, you can be calm every day, you can be whoever you want every day. If they know that in your heart, that you truly care about their well-being, and if a player knows what you’re telling them can help them make plays on Sunday, you can be whoever you want. His personality doesn’t wear on anybody, because he loves his guys, he cares so much about all of their well-being. He also knows what he’s talking about…”
The 49ers completed their first two days of padded practice with no major injuries, and will be off Wednesday. Practice resaumes Thursday and carries into next week before the first preseason game at home against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, August 10.
Safety Jimmie Ward was activated prior to Tuesday’s practice. Ward fractured his collar bone at the beginning of OTA’s back in May.
With the heap of injuries the team sustained last season, the 49ers decided to take a new approach with their medical staff. The staff, along with coaches, has designed a new conditioning and workout schedule that differs from how the team did things in the past. Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh said that the training program is “no longer old school.”