49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

March 20, 2009
Niners thin at S and CB for first practice

Some observations from today's afternoon practice. There were four players, Ray McDonald (knee), Shawntae Spencer (knee), Arnaz Battle (foot) and Michael Lewis (?) who did not participate at all. In addition, union reps Walt Harris and Takeo Spikes were at a meeting today but will be back tomorrow.

With that in mind, the 49ers were short at two positions: cornerback and safety. In fact, the starting cornerbacks during the afternoon practice were Nate Clements and Allen Rossum. The second-team corners were Marcus Hudson and Rossum. Tarell Brown is here but did not practice today. He appears to be injured but there are no details yet. The 49ers seem to be moving last year's third-round pick, Reggie Smith, to safety. He and Goldson were the starters while Jimmy Williams and Lewis Baker were the backups.

Here was today's depth chart, which should be taken with a grain of salt due to the injuries/missing players and because, you know, it's freakin' mid March:

RDE: Justin Smith
NT: Aubrayo Franklin
LDE: Isaac Sopoaga
WOLB: Parys Haralson
MILB: Patrick Willis
TILB: Jeff Ulbrich
SOLB: Manny Lawson
CB: Nate Clements
CB: Allen Rossum
S: Reggie Smith
S: Dashon Goldson

Second team:
RDE: Demetric Evans
NT: Isaac Sopoaga
LDE: Kentwan Balmer
WOLB: Ahmad Brooks
MILB: Justin Roland
TILB: Mark Washington
SOLB: Jay Moore
CB: Rossum
CB: Marcus Hudson
S: Jimmy Williams
S: Lewis Baker

QB: Shaun Hill
WR: Jason Hill
WR: Josh Morgan
TE: Vernon Davis
RB: Frank Gore
FB: Moran Norris
LT: Joe Staley
LG: David Baas
C: Eric Heitmann
RG: Chilo Rachal
RT: Adam Snyder

Both Shaun Hill and Alex Smith got to work behind the first-team offensive line. It's too early to start charting completions, etc. and it's very evident that the team is in the infant stages of installing its offense. As far as Smith's arm, he hit Jason Hill on a nice crossing route and then zipped a pass to Dominique Zeigler, which Zeigler dove for but missed. Other passes, including a deepr crossing route to Josh Morgan, were off target. In other words, it was what you'd expect from a guy who hasn't thrown a practice pass since early September. ...

Here are some observations that I shall call "Barrows' eyeball" observations:

  • Jimmy Williams is a big guy. He looks to be about the same size as Michael Lewis. That is, he'd certainly big enough to play strong safety in the 49ers' scheme. Today he played free safety with Baker, a college linebacker, at strong safety.
  • It looks to me as if Vernon Davis is leaner. Over the past few years, he's had a definite weight lifters build, which may have hindered him as a pass catcher. I wonder if he's trying to improve his flexibility agility. Something to follow up on with Davis ...
  • The 49ers began the practice with a nearly hour-long circuit of drills that looked like something from a Marine Corps proving grounds. We're talking weaving in and out of cones, stepping over bags, lifting and carrying weight bags -- a true endurance workout. That was followed by practice. The day ended with sideline to sideline sprints that were run by every player on the team at the same time. The players went back and forth several times with the winners being Reggie Smith, Alex Smith and Patrick Willis. Those lagging at the back: Chilo Rachal, David Baas and Ahmad Brooks ... not what you want to see from a talented linebacker whose work habits have been questioned in the past.

The 49ers have made an offer to Steelers free-agent tackle Marvel Smith. Now it's Smith's turn to mull it over. He is expected to take the weekend to come to a decision.

-- Matt Barrows

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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