San Francisco 49ers

49ers TC3: Joe Staley sits and the offensive line stumbles

Joe Staley, who is easily the 49ers’ best offensive lineman and who might be their best player, sat out Monday’s practice. That was not good news for the offensive line.
Joe Staley, who is easily the 49ers’ best offensive lineman and who might be their best player, sat out Monday’s practice. That was not good news for the offensive line. The Bee

SANTA CLARA -- How would a 49ers offensive line function without its best player, left tackle Joe Staley? The team got a glimpse of that scenario Monday when Staley was given a so-called vet's day off. And the result was not pretty.

The team's third full practice of training camp was marked by false starts, blown assignments, ineffective throws to check-down receivers and quarterbacks scrambling due to breakdowns. Rookie Trent Brown got the first chance to start in Staley's spot. Brown has the size and wingspan an offensive line coach is looking for, and he's flashed ability here and there since May.

But he clearly needs to get in better shape and to get stronger. He was overmatched at times by his primary opponent, outside linebacker Aldon Smith and in one-on-one drills by Smith's backup, good-looking rookie Eli Harold. Alex Boone also filled in at times at left tackle with the would-be first-string offensive line. That's one of the reasons whey he is playing left, not right, guard this summer. Coaches feel it will be an easier transition for him if he has to replace Staley at tackle.

The various offensive line compositions without Staley:

1A: LT: Trent Brown, LG Alex Boone, C Joe Looney, RG Marcus Martin, RT Erik Pears

1B: LT: Boone, LG Andrew Tiller, C Looney, RG Martin, RT Pears

1C: LT: Boone, LG Tiller, C Martin, RG Brandon Thomas, RT Pears

2A: LT Patrick Miller, LG Ian Silberman, C Martin, RG Thomas, RT Brown

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The offense seemed poised for a bounce-back in momentum when Vance McDonald broke down the seam for what would have been an uncontested touchdown. But Kaepernick's pass when through the tight end's outstretched hands.

Kaepernick also should have been a completion to Anquan Boldin on a short underneath throw. His pass, however, ricocheted off of Boldin and was snatched by cornerback Tramaine Brock, his second interception in as many days.

Rookie outside linebacker Marcus Rush also had an interception when quarterback Dylan Thompson was scrambling down the line of scrimmage to his right. Rush mirrored him and, just as Thompson was releasing a short pass, leaped up and snatched the ball. It was an outside linebacker's dream scenario as there was no one between Rush and the end zone.

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The 49ers used their nickel defense a lot more often Monday than in the first two practices. Brock continues to be the primary nickel cornerback with Jimmie Ward still not taking part in team drills. When Brock is at nickel, Dontae Johnson enters the game to play outside cornerback. Defensive end Darnell Dockett took some snaps during the nickel sessions, his first of training camp.

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Rookie DeAndrew White had a couple of catches but otherwise had a quiet outing for him. It also included a drop and a play in which cornerback Leon McFadden knocked away a pass. The better undrafted rookie receiver on Monday may have been Dres Anderson, who had two nice catch-and-run plays. Anderson is very technically sounds. He gets low in his breaks, which is something that coaches love. Perhaps it was noteworthy today when, while listing the team's young receivers, offensive coordinator Geep Chryst mentioned Anderson before White. (Or maybe he was doing it alphabetically; we'll find out in a month).

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One-on-one pass rush drills should be especially interesting Tuesday when the pads go on. Even in shells, however, there were some compelling matchups. Nose tackle Ian Williams, for instance, put an impressive spin move on Boone, blowing past the guard in the process.

First-round draft pick Arik Armstead also continues to look good in this drill. He put a solid bull rush on Looney on one of his snaps. On the other, he shoved Martin backward a few steps, then received a few congratulatory helmet slaps from teammates when he was finished.

The most eye-catching series was turned in by Ahmad Brooks, who pancaked first-year tackle Sean Hooey. Brooks has stood out early in training camp and he instigated some of the false starts on the right side of the offensive line.

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Reggie Bush has yet to take part in a training camp practice, although he does not appear to be injured. Aaron Lynch worked out on a side field with a trainer as he works his way back in shape after dealing with injury issues in the spring. Center Daniel Kilgore watched practice while leaning on a pair of crutches and wearing a plastic boot on his surgically repaired ankle. That is, it does not look as if he will be ready anytime soon and could miss all of training camp.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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