Blaine Gabbert made all of the 49ers’ first-team throws for the second straight day of practice while Colin Kaepernick comes back from what he described as “tightness” in his throwing shoulder.
Friday’s session was dramatically different than Thursday’s. Gabbert not only made 21 passes – as opposed to four in Thursday’s short, non-padded session – they mostly came against first-string Texans defenders. Kaepernick took six snaps in team situations. But they were either handoffs or keepers. He mostly stood behind the other 49ers quarterbacks and mimicked their movements, which was his routine in the spring practices.
Kaepernick said he wasn’t worried about his arm, which he said used to bounce back quickly when he was a high-school pitcher. He said he expects to start a game in the preseason and to play with the first-team offense. But the circumstances suggest that Gabbert will start Sunday’s preseason opener against Houston. The 49ers will make that decision either later today or Saturday.
Gabbert was 15-21 in team drills against the Texans defense. Those snaps included series in which the 49ers huddled and others that were the no-huddle, quick-tempo situations that Chip Kelly prefers.
His best pass came on a double move by Jerome Simpson, who was playing left wide receiver in place of Quinton Patton. Simpson got a step on Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye and Gabbert floated a perfect pass into Simpson’s hands. Gabbert also completed four straight passes – all of them short – during an end-of-half drill. Carlos Hyde caught two, tight end Vance McDonald (who played at Rice University in Houston and who is from nearby Winnie, Texas) caught one and running back Shaun Draughn caught the other.
Gabbert did not throw any interceptions. The first-team offense committed a fumble on a handoff; it was hard to see who was at fault between Gabbert and Draughn.
During a red-zone situation early in practice, Gabbert hit slot receiver Bruce Ellington for a touchdown (Ellington was crunched at the goal line by Bouye and safety Andre Hal). Gabbert also connected with tight end Garrett Celek, who beat linebacker Max Bullough, for a touchdown.
There were no melees like the one the Texans had with Washington last summer. And there were no major injuries. But this was the most physical 49ers practice to date, one that you actually could hear as well as see, After offensive players caught the ball, they were given a nice whack by their defensive counterparts. Several times the offensive player ended up on the ground. In that way, it was a nice warm-up for the preseason opener.
Arik Armstead (shoulder) went through individual drills but did not take part in any sessions vs. Texans offensive players. … Patton (hamstring?) didn’t finish practice and outside linebacker Eli Harold seemed to be nicked, too. Harold walked off the field with no obvious limp… Safety Eric Reid was excused from practice to be with his wife, who is expecting a baby. Jaquiski Tartt filled in and came up with an interception of Houston quarterback Brock Osweiler. … Receiver DeAndre Smelter was in uniform but did not take part in any team drills.
For the second straight day, one of the nicest throw-and-catch sequences was delivered by rookies Jeff Driskel and Bryce Treggs. Playing with the third-team offense, Driskel hit Treggs on a 24-yard pass down the left sideline against cornerback Kevin Johnson. Treggs has looked good all week, although he still is playing with the third-team offense. Because they do so much running, receivers routinely are cycled through the lineup. But here’s how they primarily were divided Friday:
▪ 1st team: Right WR: Torrey Smith; Left WR: Patton/Simpson; slot: Bruce Ellington
▪ 2nd team: Left: Dres Anderson; Right: DiAndre Campbell; Slot: DeAndrew White
▪ 3rd team: Left: Devon Cajuste; Right: Aaron Burbridge; Slot: Treggs
On the other side, Houston receiver DeAndre Hopkins lined up against both Jimmie Ward and Tramaine Brock at various points, drawing illegal contact penalties on both.
Rookie Joshua Garnett continues to play left guard. He allowed defensive tackle Brandon Dunn to get past him on one-on-one blocking drills. Later during a two-man stunt drill, he knocked nose tackle D.J. Reader to the ground.
Several prominent Texans defensive players were not on hand, including J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and Brian Cushing. The most well-known was nose tackle Vince Wilfork. cornerback Jonathan Joseph and edge rusher Whitney Mercilus, who gave left tackle Joe Staley a hard time on an outside run and bottled up Hyde in the backfield.
Ray-Ray Armstrong lined up next to NaVorro Bowman with the first-string defense.