SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers were out of pads and in shells on Thursday, which usually augers a good day for pass catchers like wide receivers and tight ends. And, lo and behold, members of that group made several nice plays in the end zone during red-zone drills.
What easily would have been the play of the day -- perhaps the play of camp -- was turned in by rookie receiver DeAndrew White, who was running along the end line of the end zone when Colin Kaepernick, under pressure, fired a laser beam in his direction. White skied for the ball, grabbed it with one hand and seemed to get both feet in bounds. But as he landed the ball squirted out, which (just ask Dez Bryant) means he didn't continue possession through to the end of the play.
Meanwhile, tight end Vance McDonald had a second straight day where he was the quarterbacks' favorite target. He caught two touchdown passes during 11-on-11 or team drills. He and Kaepernick also connected on a nice timing route in the middle of the field that afterward had Kaepernick getting congratulations on the offensive sideline. Vernon Davis also got in on the touchdown action as did Torrey Smith. Smith also had a nice, corner-of-the-end zone grab over cornerback Shareece Wright.
With Aussie media members watching practice, Jarryd Hayne also had a dazzling snag, a leaping catch across the middle of the field on a pass from Dylan Thompson.
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On defense, Nick Moody had a nice pass break up on a throw to tight end Derek Carrier, who was back after sitting out Wednesday with a stomach bug. Jimmie Ward nearly had a length-of-field interception return but could not quite gather in the pass from Blaine Gabbert that bounced off the hand of running back Mike Davis.
Eli Harold was out with a minor muscle strain. Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch got most of the work out outside linebacker with Corey Lemonier, Shawn Lemon and Marcus Rush rounding out the position. It will be interesting to see if Lynch, who is gradually working his way back into playing shape, starts Sunday against the Cowboys or if Brooks and Lemonier are in with the first-team group.
Joe Staley was given a veteran day off. Rookie Patrick Miller lined up with the first-team offensive line. Miller has had a rocky camp. But coaches obviously see potential in him because he gets a lot of snaps each practice at left tackle.
Meanwhile, Brandon Thomas, who has been lining up at right guard, saw most of his action at left guard with the second-team offensive line. The starting offensive line Sunday promises to be the same as it was last week: Staley at left tackle, Alex Boone at left guard, Joe Looney at center, Marcus Martin at right guard and Erik Pears at right tackle.
Geep Chryst's brother, Rick, who is the former commissioner of the Mid-American Conference, watched Thursday's practice.