A couple days after an unpadded practice, the 49ers returned to action on Friday. The pads were back, and while there was no Javon Kinlaw, the overwhelming majority of players were involved.
11-on-11s took a step forward, with the first move-the-ball period of camp, and Kyle Shanahan appearing like he was working more intentionally to beat the defense, or at the very least, throw a few new wrinkles at them.
Lance performs well
It’s ill-advised to take too much stock in the highs and lows of camp. It’s the median that tends to be where the truth lies, and in how players progress from the start to the end.
Trey Lance has generally operated in that middle ground. He’s going against a stellar defense and was missing the likes of Mike McGlinchey and Trent Williams in the early days of camp.
It’s unclear what sort of edicts he’s under from Kyle Shanahan in terms of processing. The end result of the play is not nearly as important as the process, and Shanahan may be encouraging him to focus on the process of going through his reads even on plays when, in a game situation, he might make a different decision.
That’s all to say, Lance was quick on Friday. His process was quick. His decisions came before pressure. In prior days, he’d taken a few sacks, not all of which were his fault.
While he did face some pressure and some would-be QB hits, there weren’t any cut-and-dry sacks on Friday.
He was efficient and incisive at delivering the ball.
That’s not saying that he was always delivering 30-yard dimes down the sideline. Most were decisive, bulleted checkdowns. But over the course of his career, he’s going to need to throw more of those than the deep balls, so seeing him hit those repeatedly, making a firm decision after surveying his options, was encouraging.
By my count, he was 9-for-13 on the day. Below are his incompletions, in order:
- A deep-ish ball thrown safely beyond JaMycal Hasty, who was well-covered by Azeez Al-Shaair. It was effectively a throwaway with pressure coming and Hasty, who might be on the outside looking in, not separating.
- A drop from Malik Turner against Charvarius Ward. Ball was on the money.
- Deep incompletion to Deebo Samuel. Samuel couldn’t track the ball and stopped running, but Lance put it in a spot where only Samuel would have a chance at it, despite impressive coverage ot the outside by Emmanuel Moseley.
- In the last set of move-the-ball drills, slightly overthrew Ty Davis-Price to the flat. Pressure was coming off the edge and Davis-Price was just releasing, so the ball had to be thrown, and it was a safe throw, despite falling incomplete.
He had a very nice quarterback draw up the middle that looked like it would have been good for 10-plus yards in a game situation.
There weren’t any of those deep connections on Friday, with Samuel missing the main opportunity, but Lance continually delivered on quick outs, balls to the flat and medium-to-short-range throws over the middle.
It’s the touch on shorter throws, especially, that has been a concern, so his ability to hit on those is a point for optimism.
The running back mix and Jason Poe
It’s as deep a running back room as the 49ers have had in a while. Elijah Mitchell is the clear lead, but everyone else has a fairly compelling case.
JaMycal Hasty has probably done the least to impress thus far. He was the team’s third-down back last season, which has always seemed an odd role given his diminutive, 5-foot-8 stature. There were a few occasions when he was just too short of a target and that showed up again on Friday. He hasn’t done enough as a pure runner to separate himself.
Trey Sermon has looked pretty fluid and solid through these first couple weeks. When he’s decisive, it shows up.
Tyrion Davis-Price, though, might be the most fun to watch. He runs like a boulder flying down a hill.
This is not so much a prediction as much as it is an eventuality. At some point in the preseason, he’ll absolutely demolish a linebacker. He did it in college, and even though it’s not a full-speed, full-tackle situation in padded practice, he’s laid some hits on 49ers linebackers and safeties.
There’s a real knack for lowering his shoulder and powering through contact that makes him an intriguing prospect. He also had an excellent, ankle-breaking cut against Marcelino McCrary-Ball today that sent McCrary-Ball stumbling back and tallied another five-plus yards to the carry.
The other guy to watch has been Jordan Mason. Even on a short run in which a couple people swarmed him in the backfield, he demonstrated the strength and physicality to power through those hits and push forward. He’s a forward progress guarantee.
For the 49ers, the biggest challenge may be keeping Mason on their practice squad, and figuring out how to deal with the preseason without showing him too much. He’s shifty, powerful and runs with a strength-base that combines finesse with power.
Without any one-on-ones for the offensive and defensive lines, it’s tough to assess how everyone performed. You can watch offensive line, but that’s all you can watch on any given play to really track progress.
Daniel Brunskill continued to look shaky in snapping the ball to Trey Lance, and might be likelier as the team’s starting right guard than center. And even then, he’ll be battling Spencer Burford, who has been impressive at that spot thus far.
But one player who did stand out on Friday was Jason Poe. He’s built like a bowling ball, in a squatty, 6 foot flat frame. He anchored extremely well against Robert Nkemdiche, who had been haranguing most of the team’s interior offensive line throughout camp. There were at least three pass rush reps on Friday when Poe stonewalled him.
There’s not too much else to report from Friday’s practice, other than a couple nice catches in traffic from Austin Mack (the team waived fellow receiver and fellow Mack, Taysir, earlier in the day).