The 49ers defense served up a heaping portion of pancakes and interceptions on Sunday with Jimmie Ward, Perrish Cox, safety D.J. Campbell and even defensive end Demarcus Dobbs – who dropped into coverage – coming up with a pick.
The pancakes were the first course. During one-on-one pass-rush drills, left defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie put right tackle Jonathan Martin on his backside. You'll recall that Lawrence Okoye also victimized Martin with a decisive pancake last week. Jerod-Eddie also won the rematch with Martin although it was not nearly as one-sided as the initial matchup.
Earlier, the outside linebackers took turns rushing the passer against the tight ends. Fifth-round draft pick Aaron Lynch, who had been dealing with a hamstring injury, took part in the drill and showed his strength by burying tight end Vance McDonald. Lynch won the rematch as well.
Afterward Vic Fangio said the coaching staff would continue to take it easy on Lynch, whose hamstring is still not 100 percent. Fellow draft pick Marcus Martin also went through his most extensive practice of the summer. He and Dillon Farrell shared repetitions at center with the second-team offensive line.
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The 49ers, of course, were without all three would-be defensive line starters: Justin Smith (shoulder), Ray McDonald (leg) and Glenn Dorsey (bicep). Dorsey will have surgery Monday at which time it will be decided whether he will go on injured reserve or be placed on an injury list that allows him to return at the end of the season.
Second-year player Mike Purcell took all of the first-team repetitions at nose tackle with Quinton Dial working with the second-team unit. Fangio said Dial and Jerod-Eddie both would work on getting back up to speed at nose tackle, a position they've played some in the past but haven't done much of this offfseason.
Fangio did not have a time table for nose tackle Ian Williams' (ankle) return. He said Williams suffered a setback in the spring but has been making steady progress since then. Asked if Williams could be expected to be ready for the Sept. 7 regular-season opener in Dallas, Fangio said that hasn't been decided. The team has not made any contact with ex-49ers nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga at this point, though Fangio agreed that the numbers along the defensive line were starting to be a concern.
“We may only go into this preseason game (Thursday) with six or seven D-lineman playing, which is a low number for a preseason game,” he said. “... We’ll be ok as long as we can keep these guys upright. And it’s good work for a lot of those guys, because the guys that are left, (Tank) Carradine, Dial, (Lawrence) Okoye, Purcell, Dobbs, Jerod-Eddie, they’re all young guys at different stages in their career that need a lot of work and they’re going to get it.”
The defensive line configurations looked like this:
LDE Tank Carradine
RDE: Lawrence Okoye
As far as the interceptions, Colin Kaepernick threw two of them. The one that Campbell intercepted was tipped. Another Kaepernick pass also was tipped at the line of scrimmage. Linebacker Michael Wilhoite seemed ready to haul it in, but he collided with Anquan Boldin, who was running a shallow crossing route. Boldin bore the brunt of the impact and was slow getting up. He returned to practice, however, and seemed unaffected.
Kaepernick did not appear to see Dobbs on the second interception that came late in practice. Josh Johnson and McLeod Bethel-Thompson threw the other two interecptions, including the one that Ward grabbed. Ward continues to get praise from Fangio, who said the young cornerback/safety “does not repeat mistakes.” The arrow continues to point up for the first-round draft pick.
As was the case during the 2012 offseason, Johnson throws the prettiest, smoothest passes of all the quarterbacks. He hit Bruce Ellington on a 40-plus yard touchdown after the rookie receiver put a move on fellow rookie Dontae Johnson, a cornerback. He also connected on another deep ball, this time to wideout David Reed.
Ellington had a drop, but he overall had a strong practice. During one-on-one drills, he slipped coming out of his break but was still able to catch a Kaepernick fastball at his earhole as he was going to the ground. … Running back Carlos Hyde also looked good as a receiver, something which which he was struggling at the start of camp. He caught a long pass down the sideline from Kaepernick early in practice. Hyde is more comfortable after nine practices and it shows.
Reed, meanwhile, was in the midst of yet another tangle that ended with a player being banished from the field. After catching a short passing route, Reed was heading out of bounds when he was knocked to the ground by cornerback Chris Culliver. The 49ers were in pads but were not tackling or taking each other to the ground.
Reed threw the ball at Culliver and for the second straight practice, players had to be separated, which, again, is rare in the Jim Harbaugh era. Before the next play, Harbaugh stressed that they had to look out for one another and called for a new cornerback. Chris Cook went in and Culliver went out.
On Friday, receiver Anquan Boldin was sent to the locker room after he fought with cornerback Darryl Morris. Culliver only went to the sideline, but he did not take part in the last 20 or so minutes of practice. Culliver was chirping the loudest during and after the Boldin-Morris dust up on Friday.
Jonathan Martin didn't have a particularly good practice. It's certainly possible he is not yet at full strength after dealing with mononucleosis in the spring. Vance McDonald also continues to have trouble with drops. He couldn't hang onto a catchable pass early in practice, then couldn't come down with two seam-route throws in the end zone.
Granted, both were tough catches that were contested. But drops have been a theme of his training camp so far, and he didn't allay those concerns on Sunday. Campbell had a strong practice at safety and may have gotten a hand on the second end-zone pass to McDonald.
Safety C.J. Spillman was not practicing. He was wearing a mask like you might see in some futuristic movie about an outbreak, which suggests he is dealing with an illness. … Guard Adam Snyder, who has been fighting through what appeared to be an ankle/lower leg injury, did not practice. Farrell filled in at right guard. So did Michael Philipp. … Receiver Jonathan Baldwin* did not practice, nor did Michael Crabtree and Brandon Lloyd.
Inside linebacker Nick Moody was back after sitting out Friday's practice with a hamstring issue. He knocked over tight end Asante Cleveland on a running play. The competition at inside linebacker may be the best one of training camp, and Fangio said he's waiting for someone to separate himself from the pack. Wilhoite continues to take all of the first-team repetitions.
* Baldwin was cut on Sunday.