Watch No. 2 overall draft pick Nick Bosa practice with 49ers
The 49ers held their 10th practice of training camp Wednesday. The most notable development was rookie defensive end Nick Bosa walking off the field with an apparent lower leg injury.
Here are some other observations from the sidelines in Santa Clara.
The first-team offense was nearly perfect during a red-zone period early in practice. Jimmy Garoppolo completed four straight passes for touchdowns alternating between two of his favorite targets, slot receiver Trent Taylor and tight end George Kittle. The defense, namely Richard Sherman, was clearly frustrated with the developments.
The first Garoppolo touchdown pass went to Taylor in the back left corner of the end zone; the ball floated just over linebacker Fred Warner. Kittle found a soft spot in zone coverage and stopped at the goal line, where Garoppolo found him just before Kwon Alexander could get there. Then Taylor ran a similar route to the other side of the field for the quick score. And the four-straight scores culminated with Kittle beating reserve safety Marcell Harris on a fade route in the back right corner of the end zone.
It was easily the offense’s most productive red zone period of training camp, which could portend to growth in an area where the 49ers were worst in the NFL last season – albeit without Garoppolo for the final 13 games.
Defensively, coordinator Robert Saleh said after practice the secondary was working on some new coverages in the red zone and there were communications breakdowns that led to the scores. That could be worth keeping an eye on after the secondary struggled with its communication throughout all of 2018, leading to allowing 35 passing touchdowns, second-most in the league.
Backup tight end Ross Dwelley continued his strong showing during training camp and appears to have a stranglehold on the No. 2 job behind Kittle. During a two-minute drill late in practice, he caught a series of passes from Nick Mullens, including a long post route splitting the safeties and a touchdown catch, where he beat backup linebacker LaRoy Reynolds.
Bosa’s injury was the most important moment of practice, particularly if he’s forced to miss significant time. Otherwise, the most important moment might have come between drills, when Richard Sherman lit into his teammates on defense when the group huddled following a Marquise Goodwin injury (more on that below).
Sherman, who’s noticeably healthier this season after his 2017 Achilles tear, has taken on a more vocal leadership role this summer. Perhaps it’s because he’s healthier and he can hold his teammates to a higher standard. Or, perhaps he sees this improved version of the roster as a real playoff contender. Maybe it’s a combination of both.
The defense was torched in that red zone period and it seemed like the “dog days” of training camp could be here.
“Sherm is an outstanding leader,” Saleh said. “His message was, ‘You’re getting to a point in camp when it’s easy to feel sorry for yourself. You want to be a champion, champions rise to that every day.’ And so he wanted his team to finish strong.”
As mentioned, Garoppolo was sharp in the red zone, which was clearly the highlight of his day. He completed 5 of his first 6 passes, and then during a move-the-ball period found Marquise Goodwin and tight end Levin Toilolo for big gains. It was enough for Garoppolo to take the next snap in victory formation in a game scenario when the team needed first downs to kill clock to seal a victory.
Garoppolo’s final pass attempt ended practice. It came early in a two-minute drill when he looked for Kittle on a short pass over the middle. Linebacker Fred Warner reached around Kittle to break up the pass, deflecting it to the far side of the field, some 15 yards, to Sherman. It was Garoppolo’s second interception in as many days after going the first eight practices without being picked.
The interception Tuesday came on a catchable pass dropped by receiver Kendrick Bourne. Wednesday’s pick might have been a case where Garoppolo tried to fit a pass into a tight window.
Saleh said earlier in training camp that second-year defensive back Tarvarius Moore was “even close to being an NFL-ready safety by Week 1.” But that could be changing as Moore has taken first-team reps at free safety for most of the past week after playing his rookie season at cornerback.
“So he’s getting a lot closer,” Saleh said. “He does not lack athletic ability, it’s just (learning) that position. He’s smart, he’s learning pretty quick. When his feet are on the ground and he’s in the box or he’s in the middle of the field, he’s got great physicality to him. I’m excited about the direction he’s going in.”
Presumably, the 49ers will reinsert Jimmie Ward back as the starting safety once he comes back from his broken collar bone, which could be next week during joint practices with the Denver Broncos. But Moore playing well in his practice reps with the starters allow the coaching staff to feel better about depth at the position should Ward suffer another injury.
Cornerback Jason Verrett, who had gotten off to a strong start to training camp, exited early Wednesday with an ankle injury and went for an MRI afterwards, the team said. He appeared shaken up after making a spinning tackle on running back Raheem Mostert in the open field early in practice working with the second string. Ronald Blair III (groin) and Arik Armstead (calf) missed Wednesday’s practice, joining Dee Ford on the shelf and leaving the defensive line thin.
It led to DeForest Buckner getting nearly all his practice snaps at defensive end, a position he’s played rarely during his three seasons. Saleh indicated Buckner’s work there was mostly due to the injuries to the defensive ends, though he wouldn’t rule out Buckner playing there some during the regular season.
Receiver Marquise Goodwin, just after Bosa left practice, stumbled at the top of a route and stayed on the ground in pain, receiving attention from the medical staff. He was seen back on the field later in the session and did not require an MRI afterward.
Slot corner K’Waun Williams has missed the last handful of practices with a knee injury and it’s unclear when he’ll return. It’s allowed second-year pro D.J. Reed to work with the starters. Emmanuel Moseley is the remaining slot cornerback. Malcolm Smith missed his second straight practice with a hamstring injury. He suited up but did his own rehab immediately after warmups. Defensive lineman Jamell Garcia-Williams missed another practice after suffering a head injury, the 49ers said.