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49ers Training Camp: QB play sharpening, defensive competition coming into focus

The defensive unit has shown up early and often throughout the San Francisco 49ers first six days of training camp. The offense has progressively gotten better each day, as the defensive line, especially Nick Bosa, has made their presence felt against their offensive counterpart.

Quarterback performance getting better by the day

Friday’s 11-on-11 drills went longer than normal. The 49ers ran about 70 plays from scrimmage as C.J. Beathard out-performed both Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens. Saturday, the 49ers only ran about 44 plays, including three field goals kicks from Robbie Gould.

The 49ers offense balanced their play-calling on Saturday, running the ball 19 times while throwing the ball 22 times.

Garoppolo: (20 snaps) 6-for-10 passing, touchdown to George Kittle

Beathard: (12 snaps) 5-for-6 passing, touchdown to Deebo Samuel

Mullens: (9 snaps) 2-for-5 passing

  • Ran the ball with Walter (x1), Coleman (x1), Breida (x2),
  • Completed passes to Hurd (x1), Mostert (x1)

Defense: Stock Up, Stock Down

Stock Up: Nick Bosa, Defensive-End

The 49ers number two overall pick has recovered from his early injury in OTA’s and has dominated early on in training camp. The former Ohio State defensive end has beaten veteran offensive lineman Joe Staley on multiple occasions, and just looks flat-out dominant so far. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh discussed Staley (a veteran) actually coming to Bosa (a rookie) for help in regards to improving his game against the young defensive end.

“Whether you’re a veteran or a rookie, you should always be looking to get better. Joe Staley is one of the best tackles in football because he’s always doing his homework, he’s always trying to find ways to get better. If you just look at a rookie and say, ‘Ah, he can’t teach me anything’ — I mean, we could all learn anything from anybody. I learn things from my kids every day and my oldest is eight. You should always be looking for knowledge, and it doesn’t matter who you’re getting that knowledge from, if somebody has something important to share with you, you can always learn. It doesn’t surprise me because Joe is where he is. He’s been in the league this long and he’s been having success, he’s had success for as long as he’s had.”

Stock Down: Adrian Colbert, Safety

Colbert shined throughout the second half of his rookie season in 2017. In 2018, Colbert battled injuries and struggled throughout the year.

The 49ers front office was expected by many to address the defensive backfield in free agency this offseason but remained confident in the talent they had in-house. Making moves to sign oft-injured cornerback Jason Verrett, and re-signing another frequently-injured player in Jimmie Ward, the message was clear, the 49ers believe in their guys.

So far, Colbert has not performed well in camp through the team’s first seven practices. He’s looked slower than normal and is often getting beat by whoever matches up against him.

Stock Up: Richard Sherman, Cornerback

Sherman came over to the 49ers last offseason after leaving the rival Seattle Seahawks. Coming off a nasty Achillies injury in 2017, Sherman’s upcoming 2018 season raised a lot of questions regarding his ability to perform at a high level. Because of his reputation around the league, opposing teams stayed away from Sherman last season, and for good reason. Opposite of Sherman was a second-year corner, Ahkello Witherspoon, and opposing teams picked on him all of last season. Their mentality was, why even test Sherman, while you can just attack the unproven Witherspoon’s side of the field?

Early on, Sherman has been noticeably faster than he was last season. At least a half-step, to a full step faster, Sherman looks more like his old self now, compared to all of last season.

Getting after the quarterback is the key to a good defense

The 49ers new defensive front has yet to play a game together, so it’s hard to gauge exactly how they will stack up against other front-sevens around the league. On paper, it’s clear that they will be much better at getting after the quarterback this season, compared to 2018. Consistent quarterback pressure can act as a chain reaction for success in other areas of the defense. With heavy pressure on the quarterback, it leaves little time to make a decision and create plays downfield, which benefits the secondary.

Defensive lineman Ronald Blair played a big role on the 49ers defensive line last season. This season, the additions to the rushing attack have created plenty of depth and competition, but Blair is not worried about earning a roster spot, instead, he’s excited about the opportunities it can create.

“It’s great for me, honestly. In the D-Line room, you always want weapons alongside you, that can help the room. For me, it’s a great experience having guys like Nick [Bosa] and Dee [Ford] work in and out. Just knowing how the league works, they will probably be double-teamed, which will probably open up some things for me, and vice-versa. If i wreak havoc, its going to open up stuff for them. In that room, its kind of ‘If i scratch your back, you scratch mine.’ It’s great for me, there’s no hard feelings at all, i love my teammates and those are good dudes.”

Other notes

  • DeForest Buckner was held out once again Saturday as he continues to deal with a mild toe-strain.
  • Saturday morning, the 49ers made a couple of roster moves, bringing in defensive lineman Jay Bromley and wide receiver Chris Thompson. The team placed Kapron Lewis-Moore on the Injured List and waived wide receiver, Max McCaffrey.
  • Robbie Gould got his first 11-on-11 field goal action Saturday, going 3-for-3 in short field goal kicks.
  • Post-practice, Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh discussed an internal competition among the 49ers, called the “Gold Digger Program,” where a gold football is handed out to the best performing player that day.

“You get points and all that stuff, and they’re very prideful on all that stuff. You guys see the gold ball rolling around. No money’s being exchanged or anything, but there is a self-pride and taking the gold ball to your group for that particular day.”

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