On Thursday morning, the 49ers wrapped up their final training camp practice. I’ll share some of my notes/observations from what I saw during the last practice before the preseason kicks off Saturday against the Chiefs.
After showing a noticeable increase in confidence for a small stretch, Garoppolo appears to have regressed to the same quarterback we’ve grown accustomed to during his tenure as a 49er.
The highlight of the day for Garoppolo came during a two-minute drill, with the first team facing 3rd and 6. Garoppolo stepped up in the pocket and threw a dart over the middle to wide receiver River Cracraft for a substantial gain.
The lowlight of the day came on the play before, with Garoppolo throwing a near interception to B.W. Webb on a ball intended for Mohamed Sanu. It was a perfect example of one of the major flaws in Garoppolo’s game, as the ball lacked the requisite velocity and, as a result, was missing the placement needed to complete the throw.
Balls that end up behind the targets due to a lack of velocity is an issue that has plagued Garoppolo for some time now. However, Thursday’s practice was truly a microcosm of the Garoppolo experience as the quarterback looked beyond sharp throwing between the numbers and frequently faltered throwing to the boundary.
The 49ers’ explosive rushing attack will make defenses respect their ability to run to the outside. Still, on obvious passing downs, it will be interesting to see how Garoppolo responds when defenses eventually decide to take away the middle and dare him to throw outside.
The thing that stood out to me the most about Lance on Thursday was his improved accuracy throwing over the middle. Lance has shown a willingness to take chances downfield throughout training camp, but during Thursday’s practice, he attacked the intermediate area of the field with a rhythm I had not yet seen from him.
The highlight of the day for Lance came on a deep ball he placed perfectly on the back shoulder of Cracraft. Truly exquisite ball placement on a throw that traveled over 40 yards in the air down the left sideline. The ability to identify and place a ball away from a defender at that distance is simply remarkable and not something we have seen from any 49ers quarterback in recent memory.
The worst throw of the day for Lance came on a deep shot he took down the right sideline, leaving the ball too far to the inside of the field, allowing the cornerback who had inside leverage (Deommodore Lenoir) to make a play on a ball that honestly should have been intercepted.
The growth Lance has shown during camp has been remarkable, and his innate talent is clear as day. However, there are still some issues with clock management that will need to be sorted out before he is handed the keys to the starting job.
Four standouts from practice
In my opinion, Hurst has had one of the best practices of any player on the entire roster. I truly cannot begin to wrap my head around the thought process that went into the Raiders’ decision to let him walk. It’s flat-out organizational malpractice on every level.
Hurst has shown a deep bag of pass-rushing moves and the ability to constantly wreak havoc no matter who is lined up across from him. The defensive line is deep across the board, but I expect Hurst to have a significant role as a rotational pass rusher, with added value as a player who can consistently play inside on base downs as well.
The newly signed corner got a significant number of reps at nickel corner with the first team due to the absence of K’Waun Williams, and Webb filled in admirably. Webb logged a couple of impressive pass breakups and looked like a legitimate depth option for a unit that is desperate for any kind of reliable play beyond the starting secondary.
After a week or so of having his reps seemingly disappear, Cracraft put together by far his most impressive day yet. Cracraft was all over the place, making plays during 11-on-11s with regularity.
The two plays that stood out were a catch on a key third-down from Jimmy Garoppolo during the two-minute drill and hauling in a deep ball from Trey Lance that was on the shortlist of most impressive throws I’ve seen during training camp.
While the battle for the starting quarterback job gets all the attention, there has been a quieter battle between Sudfeld and Josh Rosen for the third quarterback spot. For the majority of camp, I’ve felt Sudfeld has been the more consistent of the two, and he added to that belief Thursday with a couple of very well-placed balls throwing downfield.
One, in particular, stood out. On 4th down during situational drills, Sudfeld dropped the ball into a bucket 25 plus yards downfield, a very catchable ball that bounced off the hands of Travis Benjamin.
Rosen has the elite arm talent, but Sudfeld continues to bring a much higher floor with the occasional throw that wow’s you. I think the consistency will ultimately win him the roster spot over Rosen.
– Nick Bosa, Javon Kinlaw, and Samson Ebukam all sat out of practice due to scheduled maintenance days.
– K’Waun Williams sat out due to a sore hip a day after an accidental collision with linebacker Dre Greenlaw after the two both attempted to make a play on a ball in the air.
– Arden Key sat out with a bruised quad. Key was noticeably shaken up after a play during 11-on-11s on Wednesday.
– Head Coach Kyle Shanahan said neither issue for Williams or Key is serious or long-term.