SANTA CLARA -- Jarryd Hayne's introduction to fully-padded practices last week was -- eh -- a tad light. Sure there was some hitting and some blocking. But there was no tackling and because of that it wasn't a real introduction to America's most popular sport.
Today's session was different as it ended with a series of "live" goal-line plays. Hayne himself supplied the offensive highlight when he took a handoff, moved to his right, broke free of an arm-tackle attempt by safety L.J. McCray and then was slammed at the goal-line by linebacker Steve Beauharnais and defensive end Kaleb Ramsey. Despite all the contact, Hayne managed to get his the upper half of his body into the end zone for the touchdown.
"I thought that one was pretty rugby-esque ," said tackle Joe Staley, who was watching from the sideline. "It was kind of lateral, kind of bumping off people. I've seen very few clips of rugby but that's probably what it looks like."
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It was a nice effort, but make no mistake, the defense won the drill. On an earlier run by Hayne to the left, for example, right outside linebacker Eli Harold overran the running back, but lineman Tank Carradine did not, thumping Hayne to the ground shy of the goal line with a loud crack of the pads.
Running back Mike Davis also was stopped short of the goal line twice while the defense also recovered a fumble in the backfield. Several defensive players stood out, especially inside linebacker Shayne Skov, who ran to his left and dumped Davis behind the line of scrimmage on one of the plays.
Skov had a very strong practice overall, blitzing up the middle and otherwise showing up in the backfield on multiple occasions. He also made plays in the passing game. He displayed good technique in sticking a hand in front of Vernon Davis to break up a pass from Colin Kaepernick earlier in practice. Two plays later, he dropped deeper into coverage and knocked away a crossing-route-pattern throw intended for rookie receiver DiAndre Campbell.
Skov mostly has been playing with the second-team defense behind NaVorro Bowman and Nick Moody.
Quinton Dial missed practice with a sore knee. Tony Jerod-Eddie took most of the first-team snaps at right defensive end in Dial's absence. During the initial goal-line plays, however, Jerod-Eddie was on the left, Ian Williams was in the middle and Carradine -- back front his bout with an illness -- was on the right. Moody and Skov were in at inside linebacker and Ahmad Brooks also was lined up as an inside linebacker, a role he played to much fanfare against Carolina during the 2013 playoffs.
The first-team offense scored when Kaepernick rolled to his right and hit tight end Vance McDonald in the back of the end zone. Tailback Kendall Gaskins also scored on a wide run with the third-team offense. ... As is usually the case with “live” drills in training camp, the most cherished players do not participate. Therefore, there was no Staley, Carlos Hyde, Vernon Davis, etc.
Bowman showed more flashes of his former self when he split the right tackle and right guard to greet Reggie Bush in the backfield earlier in practice. Bush took a few handoffs on Sunday and also scored when Kaepernick hit him coming out of the backfield and Bush -- uncovered -- found plenty of room down the right sideline for a short touchdown.
Despite his struggles in shotgun, sixth-round pick Ian Silberman continues get repetitions at center (though when the quarterback is directly behind the center). The primary offensive line continues to be: Staley at LT, Alex Boone at LG, Joe Looney at C, Marcus Martin at RG and Erik Pears at RT. Silberman and Brandon Thomas usually take a few snaps each at right guard at which point Martin moves to center.
On Sunday it was Martin who had a botched shotgun snap. Kaepernick couldn't handle it and Brooks caught it on the ricochet. Brooks likely would have been off to the races for a 90-yard touchdown had it been a real situation
Rookie Trent Brown, who gave up an easy sack Saturday to Brooks while playing left tackle, was flagged for holding while going against fellow rookie Harold on Sunday.
Moody also continues to make plays in pass defense. He tipped a pass from Blaine Gabbert that safety Antoine Bethea seemed to scoop off the ground. The officials on hand, however, ruled it an incompletion.
Gabbert later hit receiver Jerome Simpson in the end zone for a touchdown. Simpson was jousting with cornerback Marcus Cromartie but came down with the ball. Cromartie otherwise had a strong practice. Kaepernick went to wideout Torrey Smith on back to back throws mid-way through practice with Cromartie in coverage on each. One was on a crossing route, the other a go route. Both fell incomplete.