Thursday at practice

The one thing that stands out from watching the team practice is that the defense is way ahead of the offense at this point in time. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that the defense will have to carry the load this season while the offense tries to find its identity. Here's a report on Thursday's practice including updates on Alex Smith.

Lets take an overview from both sides of the ball.


First-round pick QB Alex Smith isn't technically the starter but he took a majority of the first-team reps. Smith looked terrific in all facets of his game. He made all the throws and displayed good footwork. What was interesting is that he didn't wear the typical red jersey that quarterbacks wear that means don't hit the quarterback. Head coach Mike Nolan said he trusted the defense not to hit him.

RB Kevan Barlow looked good at times in drills but caught the ire of running backs coach Bishop Harris who got on Barlow for not being aggressive in their two-minute offense.

Rookie RB Frank Gore didn't find a lot of running room but when he did he was able to run to daylight. Gore looks like he'll be used as a change of pace and also handle some passing situations.

WRs Brandon Lloyd and Arnaz Battle worked with the first-team offense. Lloyd is clearly their best receiver and made some outstanding catches during their morning practice. Battle doesn't get a lot of seperation in his routes and is looking like more of a possession receiver.

Veteran WR Johnnie Morton looks like he'll handle the No.3 role and is seeing time in the slot. Former Arizona Cardinals WR Jason McAddley had a pretty good performance and made several good catches including one for a score in their red zone offense. He offers the team good size which they lack at the position so he has a good chance to make the final roster.

The tight end position is in good shape with starter Eric Johnson and key backup Aaron Walker. Rookie Billy Bajema is competing for the No.3 job and made an outstanding diving catch in traffic in live contact drills.

The offensive line is young but has talent. Unfortunately, starting LT Jonas Jennings suffered a finger injury earlier this week and it was confirmed Thursday that he'll have a surgical procedure done which will keep him out 6-8 days. Jennings said after practice that he might be back closer to six days instead of eight. The other problem is his potential backup, rookie OT Patrick Estes suffered a right finger injury during Thursday's practice and may not be able to replace Jennings as of now. So it's possible that the team won't have either of their left tackles for their first pre-season game. Backup OL Tim Provost may have to fill in.

Special teams wise, rookie P Cole Farden had a fine practice performance Thursday morning. Farden had great hang time and depth on his punts.

Defensively, their front seven is clearly the strength of the team.

What we found interesting is on passing downs or nickel situations, they have OLBs Julian Peterson and Andre Carter play with their hands down.

The 49ers are in very good shape at linebacker with Jamie Winborn outside and inside players Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich. Depth is decent with Brandon Moore, Saleem Rasheed, Richard Seigler, Max Yates and Ray Wells.

The secondary is where the issues stand. Other than SS Tony Parrish, they have questions at FS and both CB spots. Some actually feel that second-year player Shawntae Spencer is their best CB. That tells you something. That doesn't bode very well for veteran CB Ahmed Plummer.

Overall, this looks like a 5-6 win team unless their offense makes some big strides as the season progresses.

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