49ers training camp: The Week 1 Wrap
Best new development: It actually looks as though the 49ers will have a set of receiving targets that as a collective group will be NFL worthy this season. That's a distinction the team couldn't honestly claim each of the past three seasons. Vernon Davis promises big things at tight end, with Delanie Walker also showing promise there, and the addition of Darrell Jackson and Ashley Lelie and emergence of Taylor Jacobs means the 49ers will have some quality to put on the field next to holdover starting flanker Arnaz Battle. Offensive MVP: It's Davis, just as it was during spring drills, as several of the team's top skill players seem to be coming along slowly. It must be said that several of the team's offensive linemen get votes here, and perhaps this distinction should be split evenly among them. Worst tussle: A little camp scrape between teammates in the heat of battle never hurt anyone, but we can't see much value in Vernon Davis facing up with Larry Allen for a session of ill will and going at each other's throats. Davis is ruffling some feathers with his cockiness, and some of the veterans are going to start to make the bill come due. That said, it would have been an interesting bout to watch had coaches and players not intervened during Saturday's altercation. Allen is the undisputed heavyweight champion, but I'm not sure I'd want to mess with Davis and his guns. No grace period: The 49ers want to know what Thomas Clayton has in him and can do for the team, and they want to know right away. The sixth-round draft pick was overworked during the first week of camp as the team wants to see if Clayton has the potential to seriously challenge Michael Robinson and Maurice Hicks for the backup role behind Frank Gore, or if the team should be putting its focus on the two veterans in the role instead. Worst break: It's that fractured bone in the middle of Gore's hand, the one he got in a non-contact individual drill during the first padded practice of camp. It will limit the team's star for the remainder of the summer, and he may not play in the preseason at all. Worst angst: It's Gore, who wants to be out on the field practicing with his team so badly that all he offers is sad eyes when anybody comes near. It's almost as though he feels embarrassed that he's hurt. Best emergence: We saw Taylor Jacobs come on a bit at the end of last season, but through the first week he was one of the full-fledged standouts of camp, getting behind defensive backs, running pretty routes, catching everything in sight, and even showing he might be able to contribute as a kick returner. In the process, he has made a tight competition at wide receiver even tighter. Best defensive rookie: It's first-round draft pick Patrick Willis in a landslide, and Willis gets votes for defensive MVP and even camp MVP. He is a special talent who looks NFL ready with the potential to make an impact now, as in today. The whispering from the sidelines is that the 49ers knew Willis was going to be good, but they didn't know he was this good. Defensive MVP: After his standout performance in Saturday's scrimmage, it probably can be said that outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain had the strongest, most consistent first week of camp of any player on the team. He comes to work, he already has taken on a leadership role and he has been much stronger against the run than advertised. But it's his specialty - pass rushing - that makes him look like a defender who can really make a difference for the Niners this fall. Banta-Cain has been a load coming off the edge, and he has made several offensive linemen look bad. First runnerup: Nate Clements. Best offensive rookie: Joe Staley is making quite an impression and also gets some votes for offensive MVP. Given his seemingly rapid development, it's a little surprising the team hasn't been working him in more with the first unit, but that's probably more a reflection on the solid play of incumbent right tackle Kwame Harris. Staley still will get a shot at the job in the preseason, and he just might take it. Biggest letdown: Let's just hope Darrell Jackson plays better than he practices. That has been his MO most of his career, and should be taken into consideration that he is gradually working in with a new team while nursing a toe injury that goes back to last season. But still, it would be nice to see the team's potential No. 1 receiver start acting and playing like one. Best playmaker: Nate Clements has a nose for the ball, and he's not the kind of cornerback who sits back and lets plays come to him. He goes out and gets them and aggressively attacks the football. He has had several interceptions where he simply has used his strength to take away the ball from receivers. He has locked down receivers throughout the week, though his eagerness allowed some to get behind later in the week after he started camp yielding absolutely nothing on his edge of the field. Bittersweet farewell: Rest in peace, Bill Walsh. The team's legendary Hall of Fame coach has been battling leukemia for three years, so the time was going to come. He died on July 30, one day after the opening of the 49ers' 62nd training camp, and he truly was the man who started it all and made the 49ers what they are today as the founder, architect and patriarch of the San Francisco dynasty. A city, a football franchise and a huge legion of fans will be indebted to him for eternity.
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