Young 49ers defensive linemen hit the sled in OTA session
The 49ers wrapped up their final OTA session on Thursday. They have a mandatory, three-day minicamp beginning Tuesday. After that, they are off until the start of training camp in late July. Here are the observations from Thursday’s practice:
The 49ers have made it through the spring mostly healthy. A couple of cornerbacks, however, went down late in the session. The first was Chris Davis, who continues to line up at nickel back with the first-team defense. He appeared to collide with a couple of other players and had to be helped off the field. He seemed to be OK.
A few plays later, Dontae Johnson, playing right cornerback with the second-team defense, went down in a heap while clutching the back of his left leg/knee. He had to be helped off the field. Rookie Rashard Robinson* took over Johnson’s duties the last few plays of the session. Robinson looked good; he played on both the left and right sides at various points Thursday.
Jimmie Ward, meanwhilem continued to play right cornerback with the first-team defense with Tramaine Brock on the left side. It’s been three straight weeks with arrangement and, at this point at least, they are the frontrunners to be the starting duo in Week 1.
Tackle Trent Brown was not on hand for the voluntary session. He had been playing right tackle with the second-team offensive line. Meanwhile, Brandon Thomas, who had been lining up with the first-team offense at right guard, was present but was kept out of all of the 11-on-11 sessions. The lines were composed like this:
First team: LT Joe Staley, LG Zane Beadles, C Daniel Kilgore, RG Andrew Tiller, RT Erik Pears
Second team: LT John Theus*, LG Ian Silberman, C Marcus Martin, RG Blake Muir*, RT Fahn Cooper*
Third team: LT Norman Price, LG Muir, C Colin Kelly, RG Alex Balducci*, RT Theus*
Like Thomas, the 49ers medical staff seemed to be taking it easy on receiver DeAndre Smelter, who is coming off an ACL tear. Rookie Devon Cajuste* was back at practice after going down with an apparent leg/ankle injury earlier in the OTAs. Under head coach Chip Kelly, the receivers are divided among left side, right side and slot. This is mainly where the following have been practicing:
Left: Quinton Patton, Dres Anderson, Eric Rogers, Cajuste
Right: Torrey Smith, Jerome Simpson, DiAndre Campbell, Aaron Burbridge,* Smelter
Slot: Bruce Ellington, DeAndrew White, Bryce Treggs*
If the season started tomorrow, Smith, Patton and Ellington would be the starters. Patton struggled a bit Thursday with a couple of passes going off his hands. Ellington also dropped a short pass from Blaine Gabbert on a crossing route.
Ahmad Brooks (minor injury), Ian Williams (ankle) and Glenn Dorsey (ACL) remained out of practice, although Brooks continues to rehabilitate on a side field. Veteran kicker Phil Dawson is on hand this week and, presumably, will be here for next week’s minicamp. He and undrafted rookie John Lunsford* alternated on long field goal attempts with Lunsford banging one in from 50-plus yards.
At inside linebacker, both Gerald Hodges and Michael Wilhoite worked alongside NaVorro Bowman with the first-string defense. Ray-Ray Armstrong was with the second unit, often next to Nick Bellore or Shayne Skov.
A pair of undrafted defensive linemen, Darren Lake* and Demetrius Cherry*, continue to receive extra attention from position coach Jerry Azzinaro during individual periods. That’s a good sign for a young, undistinguished player. Both pass the eyeball test. Lake is 6-foot-3, 329 pounds and is competing at nose tackle along with Mike Purcell and Garrison Smith. Cherry is 6-5, 297 and has been lining up at right defensive end. Both have been playing with the third-team defense.
Safety L.J. McCray is being worked into the defensive rotation more often after recovering from a knee injury that cut short his 2015 season. He has been pairing with undrafted rookie Jered Bell* with the third-team defense. Jaquiski Tartt and Marcus Cromartie have been working with the second-team defense; Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid are with the first.
The day’s most exciting play happened at the end of practice when quarterback Thad Lewis seemed to have White open deep on the right side. Someone got a hand in White’s face, however, and the ball bounced off his facemask into the hands of Keith Reaser, who was playing nickel cornerback with the second-team defense. The offense practiced more running plays on Thursday than they seemed to do in the other sessions that were open to reporters.