49ers Blog and Q&A

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

August 9, 2009
Training camp week in review

One week of training-camp practices is in the books. Here's a quick summary: At this point a year ago, it was impossible to say who was leading the quarterback competition because Alex Smith and Shaun Hill looked so awful. This year it's hard to judge because they both look sharp. There are many reasons for this switcheroo, including the fact that both are a year wiser, they have better targets in the passing game and that Smith has gotten over his shoulder injuries. The biggest difference, however, is the teaching methods of Mike Martz v. Jimmy Raye.

Martz' style was akin to tossing your four year old in the deep end and seeing if he/she can stay afloat. Raye, meanwhile, is carefully teaching the kid the proper strokes before nudging him into the pool. That is, Martz threw the whole playbook at his pupils - hundreds and hundreds of plays - at once, forcing them to learn on the fly. The result is that the players felt overloaded (by design) and struggled early in training camp. Raye is putting quality over quantity. He has fewer plays, but he wants his team to master them before moving on.

Whose method is better? Smith and Hill, both of whom felt last year's competition was rigged for third-party candidate J.T. O'Sullivan, are far, far, far happier under Raye. But we won't have the true answer to this question until the regular season.

Who's looking good.

  1. Vernon Davis. Yes, he got into another practice-field fight. And no, he wasn't exactly contrite afterward. And yes, he appears to be operating in a parallel universe called "Vernon's World." But the guy has looked awesome so far in an offense that promises to lean on the tight end in the passing game. He even caught a pass over his shoulder yesterday, something that flummoxed him greatly last season.
  2. Frank Gore. If I were the 49ers, I'd give Gore the Han Solo treatment - freeze him in carbonite and then thaw him out three days before the opener. That is, Gore looks so good right now that you don't want to risk an injury before the games start to count.
  3. Ahmad Brooks. Parys Haralson's week-long hip injury may have been a blessing in disguise. It gave Brooks valuable playing time with the first-string defense and likely reassured coaches that Brooks can play there in a pinch. No one is anointing Brooks as the second coming of Lawrence Taylor, but it does seem that moving him from inside linebacker to outside linebacker has unlocked his potential.

Who's not.

  1. Jason Hill. While Brandon Jones, Josh Morgan, Isaac Bruce, Arnaz Battle, Dominique Zeigler and even Micheal Spurlock have jumped out at times early in training camp, Hill has been lost in the shuffle. Perhaps he's still working his way back from the hamstring injuries that slowed him this spring. The bottom line is that with Jones out for perhaps two months, Hill will get an opportunity to prove to Jimmy Raye that he is deserving of a bigger role.
  2. Bear Pascoe. The Bear, as he's known in the press trailer, really struggled during his first week. But that's probably by design. The coaches are purposefully being hard on him because they want to be able to count on him this season. A good sign: Pascoe looked like he started to bounce back on Saturday. Here's a story I wrote today on Pascoe's hard-knocks education.
  3. Thomas Clayton. To be honest, I don't know if Clayton is having a good camp or not because he rarely makes an appearance in team drills. Based on number of carries, rookie Kory Sheets appears to be ahead of him on the depth chart. Not a good sign for a guy who has been tantalizingly close to making the 53-man roster the last two years.

-- 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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