On Wednesday, cornerback Perrish Cox bit on an underneath move by receiver Anquan Boldin but was able to recover in time to make a dazzling interception deep down field. On Thursday, he couldn't make up the ground.
During an end-of-half scenario early in practice, Cox bit on a double move from Quinton Patton, and Colin Kaepernick was able to hit the receiver for an easy touchdown. That led to a lengthy celebration ritual from Kaepernick and Patton and to some good-natured smack talk toward Cox, who got the better of the offense the day before.
But Cox ended up recovering from that play, too. He had a leaping swat of a Josh Johnson pass that was intended for Chuck Jacobs. On the final play of practice, he knocked away a short pass intended for receiver Bruce Ellington.
Cox has looked very good in training camp so far, and the only question is whether he's the No. 3 or No. 4 option at cornerback. Because starting cornerbacks Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver suffered nearly simultaneous injuries, it's been hard to tell. After all, Cox and Chris Cook had been their replacements with the first-string defense over the last two practices.
Today Culliver was back in the starting lineup at right cornerback while Cox was his counterpart on the left side. Of course, Cox has been playing on the left side while Cook has manned the right side, so the answer remains a bit cloudy.
The 49ers’ No. 2 tight end Vance McDonald was having a rough practice up until the end of the session when he snagged a rifle shot from Kaepernick down the center of the field. Last week McDonald was talking about how he's adjusted to the quarterback's “180 mph” throws, and this one was a true screamer. McDonald barely had enough time to get his hands up to catch the pass.
But McDonald had at least two drops – including one on a pass from Blaine Gabbert – up until that point. He also dropped a pass on Wednesday. And even his late-practice grab of the Kaepernick fastball wasn't exactly perfect. “We'd like to get them (McDonald's eyes) around a little quicker there,” offensive coordinator Greg Roman said.
Up until this point, Nick Moody had been playing the “Jack” linebacker spot with the second-team defense while Chris Borland has manned the “Mike” spot. Shayne Skov and Blake Costanzo have been the inside linebackers with the third-team unit.
Today, however, Skov, not Moody, was next to Borland with the second-string defense. It was hard to tell if Moody was hurt or not. He played some but seemed to be clutching at his hamstring after a play late in practice.
Some highlights of today's practice:
* Jimmie Ward, who always seems to be around the ball, nearly turned in the training camp's top moment when he dove for a tipped pass amid a pile of players on the sideline. It was close but no cigar for the rookie.
* Patrick Willis poked the ball from fullback Will Tukuafu after a short catch-and-run play in the flat.
* Ellington made an impressive running catch on a pass from Johnson. He's back practicing full time and is running most of his patterns from the slot position.
* Undrafted rookie Asante Cleveland had a busy day. He made several nice catches, including one in the back of the end zone from McLeod Bethel-Thompson.
* Anquan Boldin made several big catches during 11-on-11 and team drills. No Michael Crabtree, no Brandon Lloyd and Boldin making a lot of plays? What is this, 2013?
Ellington and Devon Wyle handled punt-return duties late in practice. Ellington flubbed the first attempt but was good on his next three. Wylie didn't have any mistakes despite a steady northerly breeze.
The 49ers practiced in shells after four straight padded practices. … Draft picks Marcus Martin (ankle) and Aaron Lynch (hamstring) were in uniform but didn't take part in the full practice. Both seem very close to returning, however. … Receiver Jonathan Baldwin was back after sitting out Wednesday's practice. …. Tight end Vernon Davis did not take part in team drills but seemed fine after practice. … Aldon Smith was back after his day trip to Los Angeles and was his usual disruptive self.
Finally, it seems that someone was flying a drone – perhaps a drone with a camera – on the soccer fields that are adjacent to the 49ers practice facility, which scrambled the team's security force. Fair warning: If you don't want your drone shot out of the sky by Jim Harbaugh, stay far, far away from 4949 Centennial Drive.