All offseason, Jim Harbaugh has talked about how the defensive line is a “position of strength” for the 49ers. That's been on display over the last two days of padded practice, including on Sunday.
The second-team offensive line has been overmatched, even when starting linemen Justin Smith (shoulder), Ray McDonald and Glenn Dorsey aren't on the field. Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs have been filling in at defensive end with the first-string string defense, and Jerod-Eddie flashed in Sunday's practice.
Their backups, Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial, also have looked good. Dial is very big and he got the better of first-team (for now) right tackle Jonathan Martin on a couple of plays late in the practice. And that's not mentioning Lawrence Okoye, who is perhaps the strongest player on the team and someone who has been hard to handle at times, especially on his bull rush.
The big dilemma for the 49ers: Who stays and who goes when rosters are reduced late next month. NFL teams must trim rosters to 75 players by Aug. 26. they must be down to 53 men on Aug. 30.
Cornerback Tramaine Brock, who looked excellent on Saturday, appeared to tweak his ankle and did not take part in the second half of practice. Neither did fellow starter Chris Culliver, who walked into the locker room before practice was over. Neither injury appears serious.
They were replaced in the starting lineup by Chris Cook and Perrish Cox. The 49ers will not have a depth chart until September. But it's clear that Cook is their No. 3 option and Cox is the No. 4.
Backup right guard Fou Fonoti limped off the field and did not return. The undrafted rookie had been lining up at right guard. If Marcus Martin is back at practice soon, he could play center, which might send Dillon Farrell to right guard..... Receiver Kassim Osgood also was fighting through an ailment but willed himself back into the rotation at receiver.
A couple of safeties had interceptions in the practice. D.J. Campbell had one in the back of the end zone off a deflection. Blaine Gabbert was trying to hit Stevie Johnson during 7-on-7 drills. Later in the practice, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who has looked good, connected with David Reed on a deep cross against Cox. On the next play, however, veteran Antoine Bethea intercepted McBLT on a deep sideline throw intended for Devon Wiley.
As far as defense, I though Chris Borland and Nick Moody both stood out. The 49ers defense was blitzing up the middle quite a bit, and Borland was leading the charge. If Vic Fangio decides to pick a two-man combination – one on base downs, another on nickel – to replace NaVorro Bowman, the Borland-Moody combination might be a winner.
Some offensive players also stood out. Vance McDonald continues to have a good training camp. And Michael Crabtree has looked very strong early on. At one point, Crabtree lined up against top draft pick Jimmie Ward, who has been excellent in coverage, in the slot. The veteran receiver easily spun away from the rookie for a short pass from Josh Johnson.
In the not-so-good department: Carlos Hyde and Jewel Hampton will get a huge portion of the summer carries from this point on, and both looked good at times with the ball in their hands. But Hyde let another pass through his hands early in 11-on-11 drills, which was a problem in Thursday's opening practice as well.
Meanwhile, Jon Baldwin has made no impact whatsoever at receiver. Baldwin may be dealing with an injury, as was the case in the spring. But he has no urgency or intensity about him. And that's what he needs on a roster brimming with talented receivers.
The 49ers have a day off today. And that gives me a chance to hold a live chat about everything that’s gone on over the last four (Wait? It’s only been FOUR?? It feels like a lifetime) days. Log onto www.sacbee.com/live to take part. The person who sends in the best question gets a brand new Hyundai Elantra.*
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.