I love training camp.
Not only is this the official start of the football season, but it’s also the only time we can see the 49ers practicing this campaign.
Talent and competition, frustration and expectation. It is football in its purest form, played by one of the best teams in the NFL.
Yes, the 49ers are just that, even with a first-year starter at quarterback. I don’t have to look at the other 31 teams to make such a determination.
Here’s what else I took from the start of camp and what I’m looking forward to in the coming weeks.
This 49ers Defense Is Going To Be So Good
» Training camp, especially the padless part, can fool you into believing some crazy things. But here’s something I’m sure will stand out in a few days, weeks, and months: This 49ers defense is sick.
Let’s start with the basics: There are no weak units in this.
We start, as the Niners do, in front.
This defensive line of the Niners is impressive. Consistently one of the best units in the NFL, now it’s completely healthy, with Nick Bosa looking like a $30 million a year player on one side, and a never-ending pool of plus pass rushers next to him.
How well this front blocks the run isn’t something we can determine just yet – we’ll need to look at padded practices, as well as see Eric Armstead and Jevon Kinlaw play together – but The pass rush to opposing offensive lines is going to cause hell.
Behind that defensive line is the best base-three linebacker crew in the NFL. The trifecta of Fred Warner, Aziz Al-Shayer and Dre Greenlaw is simply awesome. Warner is an All-Pro in his prime and his counterpart is a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
As starting from the outer corner of the Niners. It’s only been some practice, but the further you are from the ball on the snap, the easier it is to determine whether a player is good without a pad. Do cornerbacks even need pads?
Regardless, Charvarius Ward appears to be an ace pickup. He’s as impressive a press corner as I’ve ever seen and the Niners are encouraging him to jam to the line of scrimmage. The fight between him and Brandon Ayuk has been excellent, and with uber-athletic and always-ready Emmanuel Mosley and Jimmy Ward playing free safety, the Niners are in the weird spot where they both have Rush and they have good pass coverage. .
It’s usually a combination that creates defensive talent.
There are some questions, but not one of them seems so obvious as to devalue the overall operation: defensive tackle depth, linebacker depth behind the Big Three, starting nickel backs and strong defenses.
Let’s go ahead and go there till the end.
Hufanga has competition
» I came to the camp with serious questions about the fresh start strong security Talanoa Hufanga, mainly from what I perceived to be his shoddy coverage skills.
But he’s been rock solid in the camp so far, and I think he’ll make more appearances once the pads are put on.
That said, there is a good depth of protection for the Niners. I love what I’ve seen from George Odom and rookie Leon O’Neill. And Tarvarius has been excellent in the Moore camp so far, posting a two-intercept day on Saturday.
It’s still Hufonga’s work. He has given the Niners no reason to give it to anyone else. But he may still lose his job in the coming weeks, even if he has a strong camp.
It’s a tough league, the NFL. Hufanga is a tough player. I’m thrilled to see him the rest of the camp.
» Speaking of the rest of the camp, it should be noted that the 49ers have an odd schedule this summer.
There’s really only two weeks left in camp. The Niners’ first presidency game will be against the Packers on August 12 at Levi’s Stadium. This is effectively the end of training camp as we know it.
After that, the team will head to Minnesota for some important, team-defining practices against the Vikings and a preseason game. Its a big week.
But after that, I didn’t expect much to happen, with the third preseason game five days later.
Once the three preseason games are over, I’ll bet it won’t be long until the doors close for practice and we’re in regular-season mode with the first week of Niners Week 1. Will be
And that’s probably when they put in the real offensive playbook.
If you’re expecting a lot from pre-season games, a word of advice: No.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan has long wanted to punt pre-season games. This year’s narrowed exhibition schedule and the league’s singles cut date will give him a great excuse to do so.
for the offense
There are three big things in front of me from the offensive side of the ball.
» The first is that Dan Brunskill may be an offensive lineman, capable of playing from the front, but the “all” does not include the playing center.
Man can’t snap. full stop. Snapping isn’t something you pay much attention to unless it’s bad, and Brunskill’s snaps are noticeable. Left, right, bottom and top – there are photos of Brunskill’s shotgun anywhere but on the money.
I don’t want to give first-year starting quarterback Trey Lance a pass to play up and down, but it’s hard to succeed with this temporary offense line against the Niners’ defense (both opening tackles are sidelined) And impossible when photos are everywhere.
It’s early, but Brunskill should run out of time in the center. If he is unable to fumble the ball during a time without a pad, what will happen when he has a defensive tackle that will come all the way down to him?
I’ve liked Jake Brendel in previous camps, and he’s been fine in this one. Is that a starter-caliber center for the first time at age 29? I doubt that. But he is the best center this Niners team has ever had.
General Manager John Lynch and his staff have a “ready list” at every position. At the center, they have to prepare that list.
» The other big note is that I like the top four running backs from the Niners.
Elijah Mitchell looks like a real No. 1, Jeff Wilson looks lighter and faster, Trey Cerman looks bigger, and Tyrion Davis-Price looks like he has a chance to star.
The pass security in camp so far has been poor, but this line and the team can run the ball, especially with Lance demanding a defender or two.
On sermon, he appears to be part of a perfect third-bottom. The Niners don’t want him to carry the ball too much, but Preach is a strong pass catcher and his size should help with pass protection. I’m really excited to see their blocking this week.
And boy, am I excited to see Davis-Price — who looks like a linebacker in the backfield — run on some poor second- and third-string defenders.
(For what it’s worth, I’m also a fan of un-draft free agent Jordan Mason. He may actually be something down the line.)
» After all, the Niners have been mixing and mixing players on the offensive line, but I can see why they are giving rookie Spencer Burford the starting right guard position in the first place.
He’s big, he’s mean, and once the pad walks he’ll need to keep it up, I guess he can just hold the job.