ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The 49ers’ second day of practice with the Broncos was marked by more melees, Anthony Davis taking a few snaps at right guard and Blaine Gabbert's sharper performance, especially in the red-zone.
Gabbert was 6-11 in team situations with two sacks and two instances where he had to scramble out of trouble. During an early red-zone drill, he was 3-4, including touchdown passes to receiver Quinton Patton and tight end Garrett Celek.
"We were clicking," Gabbert said afterward. "I think we missed maybe one throw, but for the most part, the guys were running hard, the offensive line did a tremendous job blocking that front seven and just delivered the ball on time. The guys made some plays.”
Gabbert has been missing one of his favorite targets, slot receiver Bruce Ellington, over the last few days. Ellington injured his ankle in Sunday's game against the Texans. Another receiver, DeAndre Smelter, has been dealing with a hamstring strain, the same issue that slowed him in the spring.
Never miss a local story.
As a result of Ellington's absence, the team's two other slot receivers, DeAndrew White and Bryce Treggs, have been getting extra work. Treggs had a nice outing after suffering a couple of drops on Wednesday.
"They’ve been running their tails off.," Gabbert said. "It’s been tough work for them. But for guys like that, it’s the experience going against the (Denver's) ones, the twos, it’s invaluable. The more reps they get, the more comfortable they get in this system, it’s just going to help them in the long run. They’re doing a tremendous job.”
Gabbert and Driskel took the bulk of the snaps with Christian Ponder getting decidedly fewer than he did Wednesday. The practice as a whole was shorter -- 90 minutes total -- than Wednesday's. Colin Kaepernick threw more on Thursday than he did Wednesday, and Chip Kelly said the hope was that Kaepernick would play in the third preseason game, Aug. 26, against the Packers.
Davis, meanwhile, took the first two snaps at right guard in each team session before giving way to Andrew Tiller, who has been the first-string right guard since training camp opened. Davis totaled eight snaps at guard during team drills, though he also got some work there during one-on-one pass drills against the Broncos. Davis said he didn't know whether he'd see any time at guard in Saturday's preseason game. For more on Davis’ debut at guard -- and who’s idea it was -- click here.
Even though the 49ers and Broncos weren't in full pads, there was plenty of rough stuff. A lot of it happened on punt drills and involved the gunner from one team who was going against two blockers on the other. (49ers rookie conerback Prince Charles Iworah was particularly fierce in this drill).
One-on-one pass-rush drills also had several flare-ups. Zane Beadles, who scuffled Wednesday, was involved in another Thursday after defensive end Adam Gotsis put his hand under Beadles' chin strap and drove him backward. On the other field, another pugilist from Wednesday, Denver center James Ferentz, tore off 49ers nose tackle Garrison Smith's helmet and added a couple of punches to the body. Saturday's game should be, ahem, interesting.
On defense, Tank Carradine looked sharp rushing from left outside linebacker. He had two sacks on the day and was hard to block in one-on-one pass drills, too. Eli Harold is the favorite to start early in the season while Aaron Lynch serves a four-game suspension. But Carradine appears to be the stronger player at this point, and he has been the more effective pass rusher.
Speaking of Lynch, he did not practice after getting poked/punched in the eye during Wednesday's fracas involving Ferentz. Lynch was wearing sunglasses after practice. Again, Saturday's game should be interesting.
Arik Armstead (shoulder) did not practice but got a lot of conditioning work with strength and conditioning coach Mark Uyeyama. That seems to signal he will return to practice soon. Armstead also got more pass-rush work with Hall of Famer Charles Haley, who has become a de facto assistant coach.
“Charles can do whatever he wants," Kelly quipped. "I’m serious because I’m not telling him he’s got to leave. I think he’s really been an invaluable tool for us just because of the experience he has. He has a unique way of presenting it where he’s kind of funny, but I think when he gets really serious about pass rush there’s some tremendous amount of knowledge in what he has in his success in this league, his ability, that everybody recognizes, which is why he’s in the Hall of Fame. If he can impart some of that on some of our young guys, we want to have him around as long as Charles wants to be around.”