49ers Blog and Q&A

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

May 17, 2010
OTA observations: Wragge lining up at center

It's important not to read too deeply into the depth chart of a mid-May OTA. There is plenty of roster jostling to be done over the next three months, mostly by rookies who will presumably be rising from where they find themselves in today. One depth-chart difference, however, caught my eye today.

When the second-team offense took the field, Tony Wragge was lined up at center. That's different from last season and from earlier OTAs when Cody Wallace was the primary backup to Eric Heitmann at center. Today Wallace was the third-team center. This could be only a temporary change - coaches might be testing to see how many positions Wragge can play - but it bears watching. I've been hearing that coaches haven't been particularly impressed by Wallace and are looking for a potential replacement. With Wragge at center, Chris Patrick was the second-team right guard. (The o-line depth chart is at the bottom)

Other OTA observations from Day 1:

• I thought Alex Smith looked sharp overall. He took the bulk of the snaps and hit Michael Crabtree on the sideline with his first pass of the day. However, he wasn't perfect. A downfield attempt to Crabtree fluttered in the air and caused two defensive backs, Reggie Smith and Tarell Brown, to crash into each other. Brown briefly left the practice favoring his right arm but soon returned. Smith also overthrew Crabtree and Josh Morgan on deep sideline patterns. He did, however, nail Ted Ginn on a 45-yard pass, but Ginn dropped the ball. Ginn also dropped a Smith pass that was then picked off by rookie cornerback Phillip Adams.

• At least two times a week, Smith takes a few of receivers out on the field to throw the ball around. The sessions are designed to build a rapport among Smith and his wideouts. After all, Ginn is a newcomer and Crabtree only arrived at the midpoint last season. Smith said he tends to work on the patterns that he feels are his weaknesses.

• Nate Davis only had a couple of throws in team drills and No. 4 quarterback Jarrett Brown had none. Davis' first pass was a downfield heater to Ginn. His second was a sideline throw to tight end Tony Curtis.

• With Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer absent, the starting cornerbacks continue to be Karl Paymah and Brown. Their backups today were Adams and Keith Smith. Newcomer Will James is still picking up the defense and was an observer only for today's session.

• The silver lining to Manny Lawson's absence? It's giving Ahmad Brooks more time to learn how to play linebacker. Brooks was used mainly as a pass rusher last year. This spring, he's playing in first-, second- and third-down situations, which means he's having to do a lot more coverage. He and Parys Haralson were the OLB starters; Travis LaBoy and Diyral Briggs were the backups. It will be very interesting to see whether Lawson or Brooks runs with the first-team defense when Lawson returns.

• It's striking how big the 49ers' running backs are. The smallest player is Frank Gore, who looks like he's about 215 or so pounds at this point. The biggest of the bunch is Jehuu Caulcrick, who is listed at 250 pounds. I'm looking forward to seeing him in a full-contact practice.

• When the 49ers last met, rookie receiver Kyle Williams was nursing a hamstring injury. Williams didn't get many - any? - repetitions at receiver today, but he was able to show his quickness on punt returns. He, Ginn and fellow rookie LeRoy Vann rotated on punt returns.

Offensive line:
LT Joe Staley, Barry Sims
LG David Baas, (r) Mike Iupati
C Eric Heitmann, Tony Wragge
RG Chilo Rachal, Chris Patrick
RT Adam Snyder, (r) Anthony Davis

-- Matt Barrows

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MATTHEW BARROWS

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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