The 49ers on Thursday dug in for their first training camp practice of the 2018 season. With their first two draft picks signing their rookie contracts within the last week, the team had 100 percent attendance. I was in Santa Clara taking it in, and had some notes to share from my seat.
49ers Standouts Ahkello Witherspoon:
-- Witherspoon, the team's second-year cornerback out of Colorado, was very impressive. He was the first player to hit the field and start warming up. He had a different swag to him than his peers.
-- His confidence carried over to team drills where the 6-foot-3 corner was fluid, aggressive and technically sound. Witherspoon nearly intercepted the first play from 7v7. Peeling off of his guy, he jumped an out route that was just out of his reach.
-- On one of the following plays in 7v7, his guy went away - and with his eyes, Witherspoon drove down on the crosser full speed forcing the throw elsewhere.
-- Shortly after that Witherspoon broke up what looked like a bang 8 (short post but deeper than a slant). That was a route the 49ers had trouble with in the 2017 season.
-- It wasn’t all roses for Witherspoon to start camp. He gave up a deep comeback to Marquise Goodwin. The coverage was there but Goodwin broke off his route about 20 yards downfield and Jimmy Garoppolo dropped in a nicely-timed pass.
-- Overall Witherspoon looks to be picking up from where he left off in 2017, and actually looked better than I expected. But it’s just one practice. Marquise Goodwin:
-- Before practice really kicked off, Goodwin could be spotted catching passes by himself from all four 49ers quarterbacks. Sideline passes and short screen type throws.
-- During EDD’s (everyday drills) Goodwin was seen running crisp routes and catching passes effortlessly. That continued during 7v7. The speedster caught several passes and exploded towards the end zone.
-- In team drills with Ahkello Witherspoon guarding him Goodwin had his most impressive play of the day. Goodwin pushed up field full speed giving the illusion that he was running either a go route route or deep post, but around 20 yards he broke his route off in about three hard steps and sat down in the open window showing his numbers and catching a perfectly-placed ball from Garoppolo.
-- It's clear Goodwin is far from being the one-trick pony deep ball receiver he was portrayed to be in Buffalo. The Defense -- As a whole the defense was very impressive, forcing a lot of tight-window throws that mainly fell incomplete or were highly contested catches. The first-team defense was flying around making it tough on the first-team offense to move the ball. Richard Sherman:
-- Sherman for the most part looked fine. Nothing too alarming. I didn’t think he looked 100% confident out there. A few times during EDD’s I saw him backpedal, turn and run, and take an extra step instead of bursting out. During a run/play action team period, free-agent signee Jerick McKinnon ripped off a run down the left sideline; Sherman was in pursuit but didn’t make a real effort to tag off on McKinnon. I’m assuming he’s just easing his way back, but it was just something I noticed. 49ers Rookies
-- I first noticed James, the seventh-rounder out of Middle Tennessee, running smooth routes and catching passes with ease during warmups.
-- James had the catch of the day. He outran the coverage and reeled in a bomb down the right sideline from Beathard, who threw a dime that landed in James' arms as he raced to the end zone.
-- Moore, the third-round pick and safety converting to cornerback, ran with the second unit. His play of the day was an interception that he ripped away from fellow rookie Dante Pettis.
-- Moore looked comfortable at corner breaking up another pass about 30 yards downfield that was intended for Richie James. Dante Pettis:
-- The 49ers' second-round pick was the first up when punt return drills started, catching sky-high punts with ease and making a move before heading upfield.
-- During rookie minicamp, Pettis was called out by a 49ers beat writer saying he didn’t look like a natural receiver and was scared to go over the middle to catch passes. During 11v11 team in camp Thursday, Pettis lined up on the outside with Greg Mabin guarding him; Pettis did a nice foot-fire and shock release, pushing Mabin out of the way, and caught a nice slant over the middle while making a couple defenders miss.
-- Pettis was also targeted down the right sideline in 7v7 where he got behind the corner and helping safety, but the ball was slightly overthrown by second-year quarterback C.J. Beathard. Fred Warner:
-- Warner ran with the second unit backing up linebacker Brock Coyle. He did a great job in coverage forcing tight-window throws and short passes that he ran down for short gains. Overview -- Other guys who made plays: Kendrick Bourne, George Kittle and Cole Hikutini.
-- Overall it was an excellent first practice for the 2018 49ers with wins by both units and production out of a lot of young players. I look forward to seeing if the team takes another step in the right direction Friday.
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