Colin Kaepernick, other San Francisco 49ers QBs air it out in practice
When we last saw the 2016 San Francisco 49ers, they were wrapping up their June minicamp. They report for training camp Saturday, with the first practice Sunday. Here’s a catch-up on what’s happened in between:
Colin Kaepernick is healthy
The former starting quarterback has been cleared for practice by doctors, which will allow him to participate in full for the first time in 2016.
The team is bound to tap dance around the word “starter” for at least another month, but Blaine Gabbert is the de facto starter and that’s unlikely to change as training camp opens. He ended the 2015 season as the starter and went through the offseason as the No. 1 quarterback. Kaepernick must be decidedly better than Gabbert this summer to supplant him.
New coach Chip Kelly’s quick-tempo offense includes a lot of practice snaps. How Kelly divvies up those snaps among his quarterbacks will be one of the most-scrutinized parts of training camp.
Anthony Davis is returning
Fans and observers of the 49ers are wondering why they don’t trade Anthony Davis after the right tackle’s June 2015 retirement left the team in a lurch and after he spent the better part of a year skewering former teammates and officials from afar.
A trade could happen, but now might not be the best time for several reasons. No. 1, Davis must be reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. No. 2, his trade value is low because of his recent behavior. And No. 3, the 49ers simply aren’t in a position to tell a young and talented right tackle to go away.
Erik Pears, who struggled at right tackle last year and, team officials explained, was a guard in the winter of his career, was back at right tackle during spring practices. Trent Brown, whom the 49ers believe/hope could be the heir apparent, didn’t arrive in good shape this spring.
So Davis, if he truly is ready to resume his career, should be able to reclaim his old spot. He’s leaner than he was when he played in Jim Harbaugh’s power-based offense, and he’s likely better on the move than his competition.
The question mark is Davis’ commitment. If it’s not there, then the 49ers must move on. If it is, then they either have a starter or someone who will demand more in a trade than they could get now.
Aaron Lynch is suspended
Lynch, arguably the team’s best pass rusher, will miss the first four games after violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, the league announced this month.
Lynch, who was last seen being tossed out of spring practice for fighting, entered the NFL amid concerns about his character, including a memorable rebuke by his college strength coach, and his suspension casts a shadow on what seemed like one of general manager Trent Baalke’s better draft picks in recent years.
Lynch’s absence will put focus this summer on two of Baalke’s other picks: Eli Harold and Tank Carradine.
As a rookie last year, Harold lacked size and power, but he worked hard to remedy that in the offseason. One of the more intriguing questions for training camp is whether Harold’s newfound bulk will be evident when the pads go on next week.
Carradine went in the opposite direction, losing 30 pounds as he moves from interior lineman to outside pass rusher. Carradine is entering his contract year and is itching to make a splash.
The 49ers now have an assistant GM
A man who worked closely with Chip Kelly in Philadelphia, who was ousted because of that connection, who preceded Kelly to the 49ers and who acted as a sort of Kelly translator – this is how he thinks, this is the type of player he likes, this is what went down in Philly – when Kelly was hired has a new title.
Tom Gamble goes from the nebulous “senior personnel executive” to the very specific “assistant general manager.” It’s an obvious stepping stone to being the guy who runs the draft and picks the 53-man roster.
At first blush, it’s a bad look for Baalke. If the 49ers falter again this season, the team will have to consider moving in another direction.