Sweltering Northern California heat and COVID restrictions made for a different viewing of 49ers training camp. On the first day open to the media, we got a glimpse, from a distance, of what this 2020 Niners team coming off a Super Bowl loss would feel like.
And, so far, they looked the same: Big, fast, with the same upbeat dancing from Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner, and veteran calm from Richard Sherman and Jimmy Garoppolo. They appeared confident and crisp, ready to take on the season if it started tomorrow.
When first entering the facility and scanning the field, what stood out was the largest person on the turf. He had a #99 on his back. It was Javon Kinlaw, the rookie first-round draft pick out of South Carolina. You know a player's dimensions when they're drafted and can look up the roster to gauge where he is among his teammates, but this was the first time we really got to see him alongside the rest of the team.
In sizing him up over the day, it seemed Trent Williams, 6-5, 320, was the only other guy on the field that could match him physically. In re-confirming later, I did see Kinlaw is the same height and only a pound less than Williams. It was a sight to see — mind you, the pads haven't come on yet — and he worked it to his advantage during position and team drills.
In the position drills, Kinlaw's power was on display as he pushed the sled and squared up to use his whole torso to clobber the bag like Switowski in The Longest Yard.
Then we went to team drills, which were across the field. Not only is it further away, but there are players lined up, so you're looking for action between. But that's when I saw my favorite thing of the day. What stuck with me was early in the first team session, Kinlaw, at what I believe was the RDT spot, got off the ball quick, and had this intense collision with the OL. There was almost concussion from the impact, like an explosion.
The pass was complete to the running back in the right flat, but that thump Kinlaw delivered is what I saw and what stood out to me.
More Camp Observations:
Jordan Reed and Jalen Hurd being eased back, Hurd because they’re being careful with him and Reed because he doesn’t know the offense yet. Reed appeared to be moving well on the side field; smooth, agile, and there was ease in his pass-catching.
Jimmy Garoppolo has the knee brace back on but there are no visible concerns in his movements, he looks as good as ever.
Jason Verrett was doing 1:1 drills with the coaches while the DBs did group work.
Tavon Austin and J.J. Nelson were signed, confirmed by the 49ers.
Kyle Shanahan put on his QB hat, tossing the ball to the LBs to get their hands ready.
JaMychal Hasty might be the 49ers UDFA RB to watch. He stood out at least twice:
Weaved his way through the defense for a good gain on an early attempt.
Got a pitch and immediately shook a defender in the backfield and navigated his way for what probably would've been a medium gain.
There was another sighting where he got free down the left sideline, but I didn't see what happened in the front seven — if he deserved it or the defense let him finish the play.
Dante Pettis was fielding punts in practice.
Sherman patrolled the field during practice. He observes and converses with staffers and players, either learning or coaching. It stands out on a field of guys locked in drills. He is a true player-coach.
Jerick McKinnon had juice, both as a runner and pass-catcher. His best play was a nice extension for a ball over the middle. The view was slightly obstructed, but it might've been a Texas route, which went roughly 10 yards.
Raheem Mostert's speed stood out all day. He scoots down the field so fast — the D lets you in practice but he got down there so quickly.
Trent Taylor ended the 9th period of practice with the catch of the day, a one-handed reel-in toe-tapper on the right sideline from C.J. Beathard. He tried one earlier on an out route from Garoppolo but didn't manage to bring it in. The 49ers slot receiver who played so well just a couple seasons ago and has been working his way back from injury couldn't have asked for a much better start.
Media courtesy San Francisco 49ers