Camp Report Day 3: Pads Bring out the Best

The 49ers practiced in pads for the first time Saturday, but it looked like they had been doing so for weeks. The quarterbacks had good days while the defense looked sharp at the same time, oddly enough. Quarterback play aside, the day was highlighted by performances from Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, Stevie Johnson and Tramaine Brock.

After a lackluster passing performance from Colin Kaepernick in the team's second practice Friday, the offense was humming when the pads came on Saturday afternoon.

It wasn't an overly physical practice to be sure. But the passing game looked crisp and much of the team's new batch of receivers look like they're closer to midseason form than the group that struggled during the early portion of 2013.

But while quarterbacks unofficially completed 29-37 passes (78 percent) the defense still managed to look good.

How? It's clear the coaching staff is making a point to avoid contact, and often times Saturday the defense was where it was supposed to be coverage-wise on passing plays. Defenders weren't allowed to play the ball like they would in a game situation, allowing the offense to complete their passes at a high clip.


Physically Michael Crabtree had his best showing during practice since suffering his Achilles tear during OTAs last season.

He looks quicker in and out of breaks. And there's no hesitancy in his game. The explosion he might have lacked early in his return last season - particularly in his first game back against the Rams when he failed to score on his 60-yard reception down the right sideline - appears back.

In full-team drills, Crabtree made five grabs, including an impressive one-handed snare deep over the middle from Blaine Gabbert.

He wasn't alone. Anquan Boldin was in his typical form while newcomer Stevie Johnson looked spry and unhindered by a hamstring injury sustained in the offseason. Quinton Patton also made some plays, including a touchdown grab over the middle on a Kaepernick fastball during 7-on-7s.


Speaking of Gabbert, he was impressive in team drills as well. He completed eight of his 10 passes, including his final five all to different receivers.

Kaepernick started off his afternoon struggling to hit Crabtree and Vernon Davis in corner routes to the deep right. But he finished his afternoon with a flurry connecting on his eight passes of the day.

Four of those completions were check downs to running backs, which is a positive sign for the offense. The 49ers had just 48 receptions from running backs last season with Bruce Miller accounting for 25. Kaepernick utilizing his check downs could potentially be a very useful tool for the offense in 2014.


Tramaine Brock had a very nice day defensively, despite starting the day off slow during 7-on-7s. He was beaten by reserve wideout David Reed on two occasions.

But he turned it up during the full-team session, making the day's only interception when he jumped on a throw from undrafted rookie QB Kory Faulkner over the middle.


I haven't gone through to transcribe the entire session yet, but general manager Trent Baalke gave the team's beat reporters and impromptu interview session following the practice that lasted 47 minutes.

Without the exact quotes, here are some of the highlights:

Baalke said that he would not comment on Alex Boone's holdout. But he did say he feels "real good" about the open competition at right guard. He mentioned Joe Looney in particular, who stepped in and played well against the Rams last season after Boone moved to left tackle to replace the injured Joe Staley. Looney has been getting the majority of the reps with the first team at right guard. Adam Snyder has also rotated in.

Baalke indicated the team is expecting to be notified of Aldon Smith's fate soon, saying "we know it's going to happen sooner rather than later."

No meeting has been set, but Baalke said the league has been in contact with the team about a potential meeting between Smith and commissioner Roger Goodell. Smith was sentenced last week to 11 days of work crew, to be completed on Mondays.

Baalke also said running back Marcus Lattimore (currently on the active NFI list) did not suffer a setback since practicing with the team during OTAs. Lattimore was slowed by a hamstring during the offseason program and the team continues to be cautious with his pending return.

With neither Anthony Davis or Justin Smith practicing since coming off their offseason shoulder surgeries, there was question as to why they weren't placed on an injury list.

The answer, Baalke said, was because keeping them on the active roster allows them to participate in the team's morning walkthroughs - which players on NFI or PUP are prevented from doing.

Bruce Ellington, who was taken off NFI Friday, dressed in pads for the afternoon session but did not take any reps. Baalke said he expects Ellington to be back soon and he was taken off the NFI list so he could also participate in the walkthroughs.


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