Chris Cook had an interception in today's practice. That normally wouldn't be momentous enough news to lead off a notebook, except for the fact that interceptions have been Cook's nemesis thus far in his career.
The former second-round pick didn't have a single interception in four seasons (and 30 starts) in Minnesota, and improving his ball skills – turning, locating the ball in the air and then jumping up to retrieve it – has been a major point of emphasis for Cook during the spring and summer sessions in Santa Clara. Here’s what I wrote about that process in June.
“That was a nice play by him today,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “The receiver (Brandon Lloyd) did not go up and compete with him. I don't think the receiver knew the ball was thrown to him. So it ended up being a little bit easier play than normal. But the fact remains that he did go up and get it, caught it and that's a good thing.”
Fangio was characteristically stingy with compliments today. Rookie linebacker Chris Borland, for example, also came away with an interception off a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
Asked about Borland, Fangio said, “I'm not sure what he's seeing all of the time. He's got really good instincts. And sometimes he thinks those instincts are taking him to a play, aborting his own assignment, and he's gotten burned on that a few times. He's got to learn that the quarterbacks in this league can be looking here and quickly come back (there). He's been burnt on that a few times.”
Again, that's Fangio. He's never in a rush to shower a player with compliments, especially a rookie.
Asked on Sunday why the 49ers have five quarterbacks – one more than is typical – in training camp, Jim Harbaugh said it was because all five passers were good players.
“I do like having the young player in as well, Kory Faulkner, and seeing what he can do and giving him an opportunity. He’s been really good to be around and he’s soaking it all in, taking it all in from some very good players that are at his position.”
The 49ers, however, cut Faulkner today after claiming offensive lineman Michael Philipp off of waivers from the Dolphins. The 49ers were getting low on lineman after rookie Fou Fonoti was waived/injured this morning and five quarterbacks simply became impractical. In addition to Fonoti, Anthony Davis (shoulder) and Marcus Martin (ankle) are out with injuries while Alex Boone is holding out for a better contract.
Philipp is listed as 6-foot-4, 328 pounds, and he played both right and left tackle at Oregon State. The Browns signed him as an undrafted rookie immediately after the draft, but he got cut following Cleveland’s rookie camp.
Adam Snyder filled in at right guard with the second-team offense on Tuesday.
A few starters were not on hand for today's practice, including cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver and left defensive end Ray McDonald. All three are dealing with lower leg or ankle injuries. None is considered serious.
Perrish Cox played left cornerback for Brock and Cook was on the right side for Culliver. It also allowed first-round draft pick Jimmie Ward to get work with the first-team defense as the nickel cornerback (which had been Cox’s role).
Fourth-round pick Bruce Ellington returned to practice after recovering from an ankle injury. As expected, he joined Cox, Devon Wiley and Quinton Patton in punt-return drills.
Colin Kaepernick's accuracy has been a topic this training camp. But the starter was easily the best of the five quarterbacks – Faulkner hadn't been cut at that point – during a drill midway through practice. The coaching staff again used the 6-foot tall butterfly net in the drill, but the opening this time was positioned perpendicular to the ground and facing the quarterbacks.
Kaepernick and the others had to dodge a large plastic ball that was rolled in their direction and then fire a pass into the net from about 15 yards away. The type of trajectory needed for a successful pass – a frozen rope in the middle of the field – fit Kaepernick's strength, and he went 4-4, albeit with a couple that were rattled through the rim.
There has been an echo of that drill in 11-on-11 situations as well. That is, Kaepernick is best when firing passes straight across the middle of the field -- on crossing patterns, for example -- and not quite as accurate on touch passes to the corners or sidelines.
Kaepernick, however, had a strong session today. While practicing the hurry-up offense, he hit Anquan Boldin twice on short receptions, then threw a nice sideline pass to Michael Crabtree for a first down. On the next play, Ward blitzed from his nickel cornerback spot but no one picked up Crabtree. Kaepernick easily hit him for a 50-plus yard touchdown.
Fangio wasn't happy about that, either.