From Tuesday through Thursday, the San Francisco 49ers will come together for their one (and only) mandatory minicamp. Just like during the OTAs, no pads will be worn and no contact is allowed. So that means judging defensive linemen, offensive linemen and linebackers will be next to impossible beyond whether or not they’re healthy enough to take part.
Luckily, the hierarchies within those respective position groups are more or less figured out. And what’s great about getting to watch these practices — and what I’ll try to convey over the next few days — is that receivers, tight ends and running backs will still run routes, with cornerbacks and safeties trying to stop them from catching passes. So, taking that into account, here’s what I’ll be focusing on:
– One player who I’m really interested to see in action this week is someone who might be hurt by the minicamp rules on contact: Nnamdi Asomugha.
“There will be no contact work (e.g., “live” blocking, tackling, pass rushing, bump-and-run) or use of pads (helmets permitted) at minicamps,” Article 22, Section Five of the CBA states.
Asomugha is known for his abilities as a press corner, so disallowing the bump-and-run part of his game will force him to show his coverage skills in open spaces. Asomugha signed a deal with no guaranteed money, and his spot on the 53-man roster is no sure thing. He’s a smart player with skills the 49ers can use, and he’d certainly provide a different look to opposing teams (Asomugha is really tall for a corner — shockingly so in person). However, he isn’t a guy who can help on special teams and there are already three corners ahead of him on the roster.
– I wrote about Eric Reid on June 6, and after a short interview session it was hard not to be impressed by his attitude and intelligence. He admitted he made some mistakes while rotating with C.J. Spillman and Craig Dahl at both safety spots, and spoke enthusiastically about studying his playbook to make sure those errors don’t happen again. When a smart guy with that much physical ability wants to put the work in, improvement usually follows.
– A lot of fans have mentioned Trenton Robinson and his place on the team. I haven’t paid much attention to Robinson, and I’ll work on changing that this week.
– A lot has been said about the competition at the “X” and “Z” receiver spots, and it’s pretty easy to judge these guys in person (as long as you can see what’s going on and a row of 49ers aren’t blocking the action). At last week’s open practice, Chad Hall seemed to be getting open a lot. Same with Quinton Patton and Marlon Moore. Another player who seems to get a lot of targets is tight end Garrett Celek. Brent’s younger brother made the team as an undrafted free agent last year, and while his hands aren’t perfect he has a knack for getting open. Vance McDonald is new to the 49ers’ offense and didn’t do as much during 11-on-11 drills last Tuesday; we’ll see if he makes a few more plays this week.
That’s who I’ll be watching like a hawk — and no, that isn’t a Dashon Goldson reference. If there are any specific players you’d like me to check out, let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to add a note or two about those players as the week progresses.