5 most-interesting 49ers to watch in training camp 2017
Solomon Thomas was not on hand when the 49ers' first training camp practice of 2017 began Friday, but he was in uniform and looking on from the sideline when it ended.
In the interim Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, signed his four-year contract. After putting pen to paper, he put on his uniform and then went through his conditioning test with strength coach Ray Wright. (He passed).
He didn't get onto the field for any snaps Friday but should do so for Saturday's session, which will be his first with the 49ers since a rookie minicamp in early May. Like all practices this summer, that session begins at 10 a.m.
As was the case in the spring, Tank Carradine lined up at the so-called "big end" position where Thomas likely will be worked in. Ronald Blair lined up there with the second-team defense. Blair had an interception off a tipped pass.
Thomas said he weighed in at 276 pounds and that he has no plans to change his weight. He also expected to get some snaps as an inside pass rusher, which was where he was most effective at Stanford.
Another defender who grabbed an interception off a tip: linebacker Reuben Foster, who was going through his first-ever NFL practice. Like most rookies on the squad, Foster primarily worked with the third-team unit, lining up at weak-side linebacker next to fellow rookie Donavin Newsom. Foster did get some reps with the second-string unit late in the session.
On the interception, rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard wanted to hit receiver Kendrick Bourne on a short throw over the middle. Nickel corner Prince Charles Iworah was in coverage, the pass was tipped and Foster grabbed it out of the air.
Starting safety Jimmie Ward pulled a hamstring muscle during the team's conditioning test on Thursday and did not practice Friday. His injury does not seem severe -- Ward was seen running on a side field -- but the 49ers will be cautious with it.
In his absence, his high-school teammate, Jaquiski Tartt, played free safety with the top unit while Eric Reid continued to play strong safety. When the second string was on the field, rookie Lorenzo Jerome played free safety while Vinnie Sunseri played strong safety. Sunseri can play both safety positions and also is an asset on special teams, giving him a solid chance to make the final squad.
Don Jones (FS) and rookie Chanceller James (SS) were the safeties on the third-team defense. James has caught the eye of evaluators and with continued progress stands a good chance of sticking around in 2017.
Another player who took his first snaps with the 49ers this year: pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, who mostly worked with the second-team defense but who also took some first-team repetitions in the nickel packages. Some of you have wondered what the nickel alignment looks like. Well, on one play, Dumervil and Eli Harold were the edge rushers with Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner rushing from inside. Harold continues to get a lot of snaps with the first-team defense in relief of 30-something Ahmad Brooks. Harold looks good this offseason; he tipped the pass that Blair intercepted at the line of scrimmage.
Armstead continues to line up at the "Leo" spot on base downs. He has slimmed down considerably since last season when he was listed at 292 pounds. Armstead reported to camp at 274.6 pounds, though that may be a little low for him: He, Buckner, Blair and Harold all worked out in Hawaii in recent weeks where the heat may have drained some of their water weight. All four reported a little lighter than they weighed in the spring.
The offensive line continues to change with every segment of practice. Early on the composition looked like this:
LT Joe Staley
LG Joshua Garnett
C Daniel Kilgore
RG Brandon Fusco
RT Trent Brown
Jeremy Zuttah also got some snaps at center (and at right guard) with the first-team unit while Garry Gilliam took some snaps at right tackle. Coaches likely will continue to look at different arrangements before starting to hone a starting five by the end of training camp.
Marquise Goodwin continues to show a nice rapport with quarterback Brian Hoyer, catching two passes for significant gains on Friday, including a deep crossing route that was caught in front of Tartt. Meanwhile, DeAndre Smelter, who is one of the few bigger-bodied receivers on the roster, used that body to wall off the cornerback along the sideline.
One of the other bigger-bodied guys, rookie B.J. Johnson III, went down early with a left knee injury. He was walking around gingerly with a bag of ice attached to the knee, and the injury did not *appear* to be severe.
Reid and cornerback Dontae Johnson appeared to collide on a pass play with Johnson bearing the brunt. He had to be helped off the field and was replaced by Keith Reaser.
Receivers Aaron Burbridge and DeAndre Carter, as well as tight end George Kittle, all dropped passes. Kittle, however, also made several snags during the session and afterward got a shout out from veteran linebacker Malcolm Smith for his elusiveness. Kittle is one of the few (the only?) rookies who routinely gets first-team repetitions.
Conversely there also were some dropped interception chances. Nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams seemed to have Adrick Robinson walled off on a sideline throw from Hoyer. But he mistimed his leap and the ball sailed over his hand into Robinson’s arms.
The most prominent addition to training camp: A 35-foot ramp -- it looks like a ski-jump ramp -- has been erected on southwest portion of the practice area. The ramp is 60 feet long and has a 30-degree incline. Wright, the team's strength coach, had a similar structure when he was with the Texans.
We are soliciting nickname ideas for this ramp. Leading one so far: Shanaramp.