San Francisco 49ers

49ers TCD4: Kaepernick goes deep, but defense wins the day

San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner (99) goes through drills during an NFL football practice Thursday, June 9, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif.
San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner (99) goes through drills during an NFL football practice Thursday, June 9, 2016, in Santa Clara, Calif. AP

SANTA CLARA -- Following a day off from practice, the 49ers defense was ready and the offense was rusty.

Thursday's session -- which was conducted in full pads -- was marked by numerous dropped passes by receivers and by break ups and interceptions by defensive backs.

During an early period of practice, receivers DeAndre Smelter, Devon Cajuste, Jerome Simpson and Quinton Patton all dropped passes on successive plays. On the next snap, rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson picked off a pass. Long-armed and rangy, Robinson stood out in the spring for his aggressive style of play, and he's followed that with a strong start to the summer session.

There's a running competition among the defensive players to see who can tally the most big plays in practice. Players get one point for a pass break-up, five for an interception, etc., etc. Robinson won the challenge in spring practices, but as safety Eric Reid noted, the tally started over with training camp.

Cornerback Jimmie Ward also had an interception, his coming on a sideline pass from Colin Kaepernick during seven on seven drills. Robinson, Ward, Tramaine Brock and Kenneth Acker all recorded pass break-ups during the session.


One of the themes of training camp so far: No young receiver has distinguished himself. One of them, Eric Rogers, seemed to struggle with an leg/knee issue during today's practice and took himself out of the session on a couple of occasions. Bruce Ellington, meanwhile, jammed a finger on a fastball from Kaepernick. Both he and Torrey Smith, who seemed to tweak his knee, removed themselves from the final team-wide sessions on Thursday; neither seems to be badly injured.

One wideout who did stand out: Cajuste, an undrafted rookie from Stanford. He caught three straight passes from Kaepernick during seven-on-seven drills, all of them against cornerback Dontae Johnson. The first was a deep throw, the second were nice snatches by Cajuste -- who measures 6-4, 227 pounds -- in traffic.


Of the two quarterbacks competing for the starting role, Kaepernick had the better day, although both he and Gabbert (and the 49ers offense in general) struggled with defensive pressure. Up until Thursday, Gabbert had had the longest throws of camp. Kaepernick, however, connected on a 45 yarder to -- who else? -- Torrey Smith against Brock. Kaepernick was 6 of 13 in team drills; Gabbert was 5-11.

Both Eli Harold and Tank Carradine got a chance to practice at right outside linebacker (opposite Ahmad Brooks on the left side) with the starting group during team drills. Aaron Lynch will serve a four-game suspension to start the season. Rookie Ronald Blair also took several snaps with the reserve units at right outside linebacker.


Cornerbacks Chris Davis and Keith Reaser each were worked into the first-string defense at nickel cornerback.

First-round draft pick DeForest Buckner stood out with a "sack" of Gabbert during team drills. He and Armstead lined up next to one another in the nickel defense and were difficult to handle.

Rookie running back Kelvin Taylor was beaten by a linebacker on his first attempt during blitz pick-up drills. But he came back strong on the second, drawing a high five from position coach Tom Rathman.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at

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