Ahmad Brooks restructured his contract today, giving the 49ers $2 million more in salary cap room. If today’s practice was any indication, that money might be earmarked for a Michael Crabtree extension very soon.
Before the 49ers ended individual warmups and started *really* practicing today, Colin Kaepernick and Crabtree played catch. Then the team moved to one-on-one, seven-on-seven and 11-on-11 drills, and the two continued playing catch.
Kaepernick, by my highly unofficial tally, completed 20-of-27 passes in all. Five of those completions went to Crabtree, who also caught a pass from Blaine Gabbert (who was 12-of-17). Here’s a rundown of Crabtree’s day.
- Crabtree bobbled a Kaepernick pass on the run before securing it, with Perrish Cox covering him in one-on-ones.
- That drill was moved to the red zone, and Crabtree went up and over Cox to catch Kaepernick’s jump ball for a touchdown in the right side of the end zone, near corner.
- In red zone seven-on-sevens, Kaepernick found Crabtree on a 15-yard post for a touchdown against … Cox.
- In 11-on-11s, Crabtree victimized Chris Cook on another 15-yard pass from Kaepernick to the left sideline.
- On the very next play, Crabtree was all alone near the goal-line for a 20-yard touchdown from Kaepernick. Jimmie Ward blitzed and there was miscommunication on who was supposed to cover Crabtree (I believe it should’ve been Antoine Bethea, but I can’t say that with any certainty).
- Gabbert’s lone pass to Crabtree was a five-yard out route completion. The throw was wobbly and high, but Crabtree leaped and hauled it in before Dontae Johnson or Craig Dahl could get there.
“Even the end of last season he wasn’t 100 percent and he was making plays for us. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do now that he’s 100 percent,” said Kaepernick.
“He’s a step or two quicker now. He has burst out of his routes. He has burst when he catches the ball. He looks really good out there.”
Crabtree appears to look as strong and fast as ever. He’s a quiet person by nature, and most of his social media posts over the last few months either supported Team USA during the World Cup or let everyone know he’s working out every day. The motivating forces are many: he’s in a contract year, he appears to be all the way back from his Achilles tear, and then of course there’s the whole Richard Sherman angle. But Kaepernick insisted Crabtree wasn’t any more fired up than usual this offseason.
“That’s him every season. Every time he steps on the field he’s not playing to have fun. He’s not playing just to be out there. He’s playing to win. Whether it’s on that route, on that block, whatever it is, he’s doing it to win.”
Other than Crabtree, the most targeted receivers were David Reed (five receptions, including a highlight-worthy touchdown grab in red zone one-on-ones) and Brandon Lloyd, who caught four passes.
Lloyd is probably the most polarizing player around camp, at least as far as the media is concerned. A lot of the writers think he’ll be one of the 53 in September. I don’t think he’s making the team unless one of the top four receivers — I’m including Quinton Patton in that group — suffers a significant injury. He’s a fantastic route runner, something Dontae Johnson referenced in his post-practice interview. But he doesn’t exactly match the “he’s a football player” template Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman seem to prize. He’s not much of a blocker, and he isn’t someone Kaepernick can count on to lay his body on the line across the middle.
There are other ways to help a quarterback without catching balls in traffic, too. Cook intercepted Josh Johnson (who completed 5-of-10 throws with a couple interceptions and generally looked mediocre throughout) on a deep post intended for Lloyd, who ran his route as if Cook wasn’t even there.
“Yeah, (Cook) had a nice interception. Went up and caught the ball at the high point there and made a nice catch,” Vic Fangio said afterward.
“That was a nice play by him today. The receiver did not go up and compete with him. I don’t think the receiver thought the ball was being thrown to him. So, it ended up being a little bit easier play than maybe normal. But, the fact remains that he did go up and get it, and caught it and that’s always a good thing.”
Maybe Johnson shouldn’t have made the throw, but the 49ers don’t seem like a team that would choose to roll with receivers who are content to just let interceptions happen — even during training camp practices.
News and Notes
— Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver, the team’s No. 1 and 2 cornerbacks, both sat out with “little nicks” in their “leg area,” according to Fangio. Ray McDonald also has a “little leg injury that he’s nursing.”
— Frank Gore played sparingly, picking up two carries near the end of practice. Carlos Hyde and Jewel Hampton split the remaining carries, while new arrival Alfonso Smith caught one pass.
— Jonathan Baldwin started out practice with a running stride that made him look either injured or very stiff. Midway through practice he headed to the weight room, and then trotted back to the field a few minutes later. I don’t remember him even taking any reps … it doesn’t look like his NFL career will last too much longer.
— Bruce Ellington practiced in full for the first time. He caught one pass, got one carry on an end-around (which gained a couple yards — maybe), and was part of the punt return group.
— Cox, Ellington, Devon Wylie and Quinton Patton — in that order — practiced returning punts at the end of practice. Each Colton Schmidt punt was caught, except for one that Ellington let bounce a couple feet in front of him.
— Chris Borland had an interception off a pass deflection by Mike Purcell. Borland’s one of those guys who flies around and looks great. However, when I asked Fangio about him, the 49ers defensive coordinator said the rookie middle linebacker still has a lot to learn.
“He’s not being tentative. He’s kind of being over, not sure what he’s seeing all the time. He’s got really good instincts. And sometimes he thinks his instincts are taking him to a play and he’s aborting his own assignment, and he’s gotten burnt on that a few times. So, he’s got to learn that the quarterbacks in this league can be looking here and quickly come back here. And, he’s been burnt on that few times.”
— The word “tentative” came up because that’s how Fangio described Dontae Johnson.
“Like a lot of rookies, he’s got a little tentativeness in his play right now, not always sure exactly what to do. But, I think he’ll get there. He’s got good size. We feel he’s got good enough speed. Just keep waiting for him to feel the urgency and really turn it up. And I don’t think he’s quite there yet. I think he’s still feeling his way through knowing what to do, the NFL game, etc. But, hopefully he’ll kick it up a notch here in the next three weeks at some point.”
— Aldon Smith is wreaking havoc, just like when I last covered practice on Thursday. One of the best things about playing quarterback for the 49ers is knowing that Smith is never allowed to actually hit you.
— There was a little … well, it wasn’t quite skirmish … more like a heated argument between Glenn Dorsey and Anquan Boldin. Nothing came of it.
— Shayne Skov tipped one pass that fell incomplete, but he got pretty angry with himself on a couple completions across the middle (Chuck Jacobs and Vance McDonald). It’s definitely a learning process for the rookies, which is why Michael Wilhoite is playing with Patrick Willis on the first team defense.
— Vic Fangio sent a public message of sorts to another middle linebacker, Nick Moody.
“Well, he’s looked a whole lot better than he did as a rookie, just from an assignments standpoint. But, he’s still got to fight to be more consistent. He’s got to get the inconsistency out of his play.”
— Kory Faulkner got the last two snaps of practice, handing off to Hampton and Hyde. It was announced after practice that Faulkner (the No. 5 QB) was released to make room for undrafted rookie Michael Philipp, a tackle from Oregon State.
— At the very end of position drills, Jim Harbaugh demonstrated the proper footwork himself … at least four or five times. In the last rep, he dropped back a few steps and threw it about 10 yards to Kaepernick. Kaepernick dropped the pass, prompting a little laughter amongst the quarterbacks and Harbaugh, whose smile was about a mile wide for a minute or two afterward.