Monday's practice was another sharp one for quarterback Brian Hoyer and his top three receivers, Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson; Reuben Foster had his third interception in four training camp practices; and yet another high profile safety, Jaquiski Tartt, had to leave the field with what appeared to be a rib-like injury.
Yes, there's a bit of a Groundhog Day feel to the 49ers' sessions. It seems like every one has included a deep Hoyer-to-Goodwin pass play, including Monday's when Goodwin beat cornerback Rashard Robinson for a deep touchdown. Goodwin got ahead of Robinson, then slowed down at the goal line, allowing Robinson to run by as the ball went past.
That play was preceded by a nice sideline-route throw from Hoyer to Aldrick Robinson, who had three long receptions (one from Matt Barkley) on Monday. Hoyer would have had a 50-plus yarder to Robinson early in the practice but Robinson -- who had beaten safety Vinnie Sunseri -- dropped the perfectly thrown ball.
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard may have had his best practice of training camp. He seemed to have more zip on his passes, perhaps a result of his growing confidence. His best may have been a thread-the-needle type throw to rookie tight end Cole Hikutini, who was utilized a little more due to fellow rookie George Kittle's hamstring injury.
Foster's interception came against third-string (fourth-string?) passer Nick Mullens over the middle. Kyle Shanahan said it was particularly encouraging to see because the first-round pick was victimized by the same play a day earlier.
"… It was a play action and he killed the fullback and went to tackle the back and the wide receiver was wide open behind him and he was still looking for run," Shanahan recalled. "He had the same play today and he didn’t fill up in the run, and he dropped back and got a pick. So it’s just, one play he got beat on bad yesterday and today we ran the same play at him and he got an interception off of it. That’s what you want to see."
Aaron Lynch also had an interception that came courtesy of a tipped pass by defensive lineman Chris Jones. The 49ers' defensive line is unique because it has so many tall players. At 6-1, however, Jones is not one of them. He just happened to have good timing on the attempt from Barkley. One of the tallest, Arik Armstead, also batted down a pass.
Lynch and Armstead continue to be handful for their respective offensive line opponents, both in one-on-one protection drills and in team situations. Garry Gilliam couldn't stop Armstead's inside move on a couple of tries early in practice. Nose tackle Earl Mitchell also continues to win all of his battled, this time against center Jeremy Zuttah.
First-round pick Solomon Thomas looked good against a fellow rookie in one-on-one drills. But he was shut down twice by starting right tackle Trent Brown. "I fared pretty well," Brown said after practice. "I'm still undefeated in one-on-ones."
Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the pads. Maybe the practices are starting to grow tedious. Whatever the case, the hitting seemed to ramp up Monday. Linebacker Malcolm Smith had a big hit on Goodwin while safety Chanceller James -- he continues to be very visible when he's on the field -- had two big "thuds" in run support on fellow undrafted rookie Matt Breida. Meanwhile, the first case of tempers flaring (no fists thrown yet) involved linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong during a kick-coverage drill.
With the 49ers' top three safeties out of action, the first-string duo was Sunseri (SS) and rookie Lorenzo Jerome (FS), who is looking like a genius pickup by GM John Lynch after the draft. Here's what I wrote about Jerome, an interception machine in college, in May. The problem is that the work that's usually divvied up among seven safeties now is down to four. Don Jones and James were the second-team safeties; the players rotated when the third-team defense was on the field.
The 49ers either must convert a cornerback (Will Davis? Adrian Colbert?) to safety or add a player to the roster.
The players have the day off on Tuesday. Strength coach Ray Wright, however, has made it enticing for them to come in to team headquarters. A team of 20 massage therapists and acupuncturists will be on hand to help players recover. The 49ers also can attend an 11 a.m. yoga class at the team facility. Massages? Yoga? No, it's not exactly Junction Boys, but those who take advantage probably will have a leg up when practices resume Wednesday.