The 49ers were back on the practice field Tuesday for the first time following their preseason opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys. Coach Kyle Shanahan had the team back in full pads for the first of two sessions in Santa Clara before heading to Denver later this week for joint practices against the Broncos Friday and Saturday.
Let’s get to our observations from the sidelines.
The starting offense spent much of the practice working on ways to incorporate the running backs, which included a slew of shovel passes to Tevin Coleman, the expected Week 1 starter while Jerick McKinnon continues to work back from knee soreness surrounding his surgically repaired ACL. Coleman scored one of two touchdowns from the first-team offense in the period, with the other coming on a short pass over the middle to backup running back Matt Breida.
Jalen Hurd had another strong practice following up his two-touchdown debut against the Cowboys. He caught a handful of passes from Nick Mullens, including a long one during a live ball session setting up a touchdown. Hurd also got back into the end zone on a slant pass from Wilton Speight, who received his first full-team reps of training camp because C.J. Beathard was out with an apparent hand injury suffered late in win over Dallas.
Dante Pettis, who’s been written about a lot lately after being forced to play Saturday, beat Richard Sherman for a long pass down the right sideline late in practice. Pettis was a few yards beyond Sherman when Jimmy Garoppolo’s pass arrived, though Sherman appeared to be talking to the sideline about a possible communication issue.
Linebacker Fred Warner made a play early in practice by stripping running back Matt Breida and coming away with the ball. Emmanuel Moseley – during a one-on-one period in the red zone – intercepted Garoppolo on a throw intended for Pettis.
Perhaps the best throw and catch of the day went from Mullens to Richie James Jr., who made an impressive 20-yard grab along the left sideline on a well-placed throw to his back shoulder. James was able to get two feet in bounds. It set up a touchdown run from reserve running back Austin Walter.
With Trent Taylor out four to six weeks following foot surgery Friday, James’ chances at making the roster appear improved, particularly if the 49ers keep seven receivers on the 53-man roster.
Garoppolo unofficially completed 11 of 15 passes, though he missed a couple notable throws. The first was a toss in the left flat to Breida that would have been an easy touchdown. He also airmailed a wide-open Kyle Juszczyk as he was rolling right, ending a drive on a third-and-short.
Garoppolo’s biggest play was the completion to Pettis, but his toughest throw might have been one he made up the right seam to tight end Ross Dwelley, who was filling in for George Kittle who sat with a tweaked calf.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh was asked after practice about undrafted rookie linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, who had four tackles (one for loss) and a fumble recovery in Saturday’s win. Shaair’s college career at Florida Atlantic ended prematurely last fall when he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in October. He came back from the injury quickly and hasn’t been limited since being cleared by the medical staff for the start of training camp.
“He’s been doing good, he missed all of OTAs, undrafted rookie, he’s progressing the right way,” Saleh said. “These next two weeks are going to be big for him to prove the league’s not too big for him. So, still trying to make sure that we get a good evaluation on him before we speak up, we figure he’s still fresh in terms of just getting here. So this Denver week, Kansas City and of course that fourth preseason game will go a long way.”
Shaair appears to be behind veteran David Mayo and Elijah Lee on the depth chart, but an injury at the position could sneak him on to the active roster. For now, he’s a logical practice squad candidate.