Practice was scheduled to go until 1 pm, and the players yelled happily when they were told to hit the grass for post-practice stretching about a half hour early. Some teams called off their last practices of minicamp entirely, so this wasn’t surprising. No need to risk possible injury, plus Jim Harbaugh was extremely happy with what he saw this week as a whole.
“Outstanding. Really pleased. I thought our players are getting better and better at multiple positions on our team. I come out of this feeling really good that we improved as a football team, this week, over the nine weeks of the offseason training and stayed pretty much completely healthy. Coming out of here with no serious injuries, no keep-‘em-out-very-long injuries. Feel good about both of those things,” said a smiling Harbaugh, who when asked for details named just about every player on the roster.
However, it’s telling who he mentioned first before going position by position.
“Individual players, I thought LaMichael James really stood out this week. Kendall Hunter had a great camp. Really happy with Blaine Gabbert, his progress up until now and this entire week. Brandon Lloyd is standing out. Bruce Ellington is standing out.”
This was a much more enjoyable practice than Tuesday’s, from everyone’s perspective. It was a lot shorter, lasting about an hour. The action seemed more precise, with fewer balls hitting the turf and a few more passes that weren’t checkdowns. Not a lot, but Tuesday’s offense was about as vanilla as I’ve seen during any session here in Santa Clara.
After practice, Harbaugh spoke to the team for a while about staying out of trouble. You can check that out here. For practice details, keep reading.
– The offense looked much crisper today than what we saw Tuesday (shameless plug: I missed yesterday’s practice to go on “The Blitz,” where Ann Killion and I finished in a tie for second behind Dan Dibley). The last play of the day was a touchdown pass to the left front corner of the end zone to Ellington from Josh Johnson, finishing up a 10-minute stretch of red zone work.
– Vance McDonald dropped a few balls on Tuesday, but none that I saw today. The second-to-last play of minicamp was a lob Kaepernick threw into the end zone that the big tight end went up and grabbed. If McDonald can put in some extra work on the Jugs gun over the next month, he could make a name for himself in his second year with Vernon Davis missing all this time.
– The best pass play of the day was probably a 20-yard throw from Gabbert that Lloyd caught along the right sideline.
– Carlos Hyde has really good hands (more on that in a future post). He caught a swing pass from Johnson at one point, turned upfield and left Shayne Skov in the dust.
– Nick Moody broke up a pass and looked pretty good when paired with Patrick Willis.
– Chris Borland looks comfortable in there as well, and he even held the door open for about 10 of us as we left the practice field. Whether or not he’s nice makes no difference to the 49ers, but that was the kind of gesture you don’t see too often from professional athletes.
– Harbaugh wasn’t bluffing when he mentioned James first. He looks really confident in punt return drills, and he showed nice burst when running after the catch. Sure, there’s no contact, but he definitely didn’t spend the offseason sitting on the couch. We even saw James catch a … wait for it … screen pass!
– Ellington led the way in receptions with four, followed by McDonald and the incredible Anquan Boldin (who simply works his ass off every single second he’s on the field) with three. Quinton Patton, James, Carlos Hyde, Hunter, Kevin Greene and Asante Cleveland all had two catches each.
– I’m not sure whether Gabbert will ever put it together, but he’s got all the physical tools. He’s a much more fun project for Harbaugh than Colt McCoy was, in any case.
– A lot of people have asked how Tank Carradine looks. It’s tough to tell in this kind of setting with no pads and minimal contact, but he it’s easy to see that he looks healthy (because he’s out there) and MASSIVE (because he’s ginormous). If his knee is fine, he’ll be very difficult for the offensive linemen to deal with once the pads go on. Don’t sleep on Quinton Dial, either.
– Harbaugh had a lot of good things to say about the o-line. He mentioned pretty much everyone, but I’m thinking Marcus Martin might end up playing relatively soon. Joe Looney is getting all of Alex Boone’s first team snaps at right guard, and he looks far more confident than the kid we saw a couple years ago at this time (when he was a rookie and still recovering from his Lisfranc injury).
– Darryl Morris came awfully close to intercepting a pass from Gabbert today. He’s one of the cornerbacks who probably smiled to himself after Eric Wright decided to retire. Based on the level of play from the secondary this week, I’m not quite as worried about the team’s very young group at cornerback. Then again, we won’t be able to tell for sure until training camp and the exhibition season.
“Very pleased where our secondary is right now. The addition of Antoine Bethea. Eric Reid continues to grow. Tramaine Brock had a great camp again. His third year in a row for perfect attendance. I’ve handed out a perfect attendance certificate to Tramaine Brock and a t-shirt. New t-shirt this year. New design this year,” said Harbaugh, who showed us a shirt which read, “Perfect attendance 2014, The 49er way.”
– Patton had a massive dunk cam (without the cam) moment, sending an unsuspecting Brock tumbling to the floor with a powerful two-handed slam. Patton later broke the hoop entirely (it’s hard to tell, but the backboard is cracked on the bottom left). We all knew it was going to happen sometime.