“I think it’s fair to make the statement that it’s a different offense, 2014. Because we’ve got some new guys in, Brandon Lloyd has been out there everyday. He’s done a great job of taking advantage of his opportunities. Stevie Johnson’s another guy. So, we’ll see how it all goes,” said 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman a couple hours before the team’s first minicamp practice.
“But, whatever we’re doing, it’s pretty basic right now in what we’re doing.”
Ain’t that the truth.
Today’s practice wasn’t exactly scintillating. That’s putting it mildly. The defense wasn’t allowed to do much of anything, and the offense took basic to a whole new level of checkdowns and nondescript runs. Here were the highlights.
1. No one got hurt
That I noticed, anyway. Frank Gore watched practice, Jimmie Ward took part in pre-practice stretching (and that was it), and Michael Crabtree called it a day after catching a few throws during positional drills.
2. Anquan Boldin looks like Anquan Boldin
Boldin came over during drills and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade out of the cooler near us, but it might has well have been … alright, a “fountain of youth” reference was going to sound pretty clumsy there. But Boldin, who didn’t get much work during OTAs, caught five passes that I counted, second on the team. He looks just like he did a year ago, which is good news for the 49ers because he was their best receiver throughout 2013, from OTAs on.
3. Bruce Ellington is a keeper
The 49ers have a fairly deep receiving corps this season, so who knows — they could cut Ellington and make me look pretty stupid. But I highly doubt that’s going to happen. I don’t know if a receiver runs good routes, because I don’t know what the routes are. But Ellington makes quick, decisive, efficient strides. No wasted movement. And best of all, his hands are very solid. I counted six receptions for Ellington, more than anyone else during today’s practice, and no drops during positional drills, 7-on-7s or 11-on-11s. Plus, I only put stars next to five above-average receptions in my notes. Even then I was probably being generous, but Ellington caught two. (The others were on catches made by Lloyd, Kassim Osgood and rookie TE Kevin Greene.)
4. I got to see two RBs for the first time (at full speed)
It’s impossible to gauge how well a running back is going to perform in games based on carries that come during non-contact practices, but Marcus Lattimore caught three passes and Carlos Hyde caught four. Hyde’s teammates seem to enjoy yelling his name when he makes difficult catches, including one in traffic and another over-the-shoulder grab of a pass Kaepernick threw during warmups. I wrote earlier today about the things Roman and Jim Harbaugh said about both running backs (Roman had high praise for Hyde’s mental capabilities), and I’m sticking with what my hunch has been ever since the draft — Hyde is going to play A LOT this season, and I’m not sure about Lattimore. I’d love to see Lattimore stick, but I’m not sure it’s going to happen. Plenty of time left, however.
5. Stanford representin’
Shayne Skov broke up a pass. That’s all I’ve got here.
6. The guys like Lloyd
Boldin gave Brandon Lloyd some pointers early on during practice, and Colin Kaepernick talked to Lloyd a couple times about routes. He’s definitely new to the offense (he ran to the line of scrimmage late one time and looked mildly embarrassed), but he also made a nifty diving catch on a short pass from Josh Johnson.
7. Blaine Gabbert didn’t throw any interceptions
I didn’t notice any INTs at all today, actually. There were several passes that were batted at the line of scrimmage (most from Kaepernick). As for Gabbert, he seems like a bigger, stronger version of Colt McCoy. He’s decent, but if Kaepernick gets hurt … uh oh.
That’s pretty much all I’ve got, besides a few other things.
– Rookie safety James McCray (out of some school called Catawba) broke up a pass and showed nice effort diving in hopes of grabbing an INT on one of the rare deep passes that were thrown today.
– Vance McDonald didn’t drop every pass thrown to him (just about a third or so).
– Don’t let the commercial fool you — Harbaugh was wearing the same old pleated khakis today as always.