It was the hottest and longest day of training camp thus far. As is wont to happen in those circumstances, tempers rose.
And it didn’t take very long.
Aiyuk vs. Warner
Two plays into 11-on-11s, Brandon Aiyuk took issue with Fred Warner.
As anyone who has witnessed Warner practice will attest, he is an agitator. Aiyuk earlier called him “annoying,” after a halfhearted tiff, and Warner said the day after that he chose to bother Aiyuk specifically in camp as a way to bring his potential out of him.
There were two dustups on Tuesday.
Aiyuk made a move at Warner well after that second play and a fight broke out, with a substantial scrum surrounding the two.
That wasn’t the last of it for either one.
Later, Warner — who is a maniac on the field, and has a propensity to hit a bit too hard at times — absolutely clocked KeeSean Johnson, who was slow to get up.
And again, it was Aiyuk getting into it, but not with Warner. It wasn’t immediately clear who Aiyuk was tangled up with, but he went to the ground with someone and another scrum ensued. Robert Nkemdiche, who’s been yelled at by coaches on multiple occasions for full-on tackling, had to be pulled out of the fight by assistant defensive line coach Darryl Tapp.
Nkemdiche, by the way, should make the team if he can avoid getting cut for hitting too hard or potentially injuring another player. He’s been dynamic, but reckless.
Kyle Shanahan promptly drew both sides together for an extended huddle, discernibly reaffirming the fact that players are, in fact, all members of the 49ers.
Aside from that moment, tempers seemed to cool. Coaches seemed a bit more aware of unnecessary defensive intensity, like a low hit from Dre Greenlaw on Kyle Juszczyk which got him a talking to from Johnny Holland and DeMeco Ryans.
It’s an extremely fast, aggressive defense with a leader in Fred Warner who loves to be bothersome. These things happen.
That said, it wasn’t an entirely tempestuous day.
Trey Lance finds his weapons
It was a pretty solid day from Trey Lance, with the offensive line holding up far better than it had in days prior. His worst moment was a near interception over the middle that Talanoa Hufanga nearly pounced on, but that was the only glaring error.
He was 10-of-16 on the day and had some excellent, tight window throws to all three of George Kittle, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.
Aiyuk seems like he’s outstretched for just about every ball, and Lance seems to know just how wide of a catch radius he has at his disposal. Those two are in an outstanding rhythm.
The ball to Samuel might be considered slightly behind him, but it had to be. It was a closing window that Lance fired into over the middle and a throw in front of Samuel would have left in in harm’s way and put the ball in danger, too. Samuel, of course, caught the ball behind him, and did the same thing later in practice with Nate Sudfeld.
The ball to Kittle was one of the nicer plays for Lance on Tuesday. It was another tight window, and he had to throw a low ball to keep it out of harm’s way. Kittle reached and dove for it, with both he and Lance fulfilling their end of the bargain.
But maybe the most impressive day was Danny Gray. He’s been good for one or two deep balls a practice, almost exclusively with the second team.
It’s something where he’s sort of disappeared on non-9 routes.
That changed, while the deep threat remained. He caught three shorter to intermediate passes on Tuesday, rattling off a fair few yards with every opportunity.
One of those was an eye-catching, leaping grab over the middle against George Odum.
His next, and final two catches, were roughly 35-to-40-yard receptions from Nate Sudfeld. He snagged one far down the left sideline, and tore the other away from Ambry Thomas along the other sideline.
For a raw player with some concerns about size and catching reliability, he was proactive and imposing on Tuesday. If he can provide any flexibility in his route running (and show he can block), he’ll be a nice addition to the receiver room, even in year one.
Offensive line vs. Defensive line
This was the first day of one-on-ones between the offensive and defensive lines. Unfortunately, Javon Kinlaw did not participate, though he was involved in limited reps for team drills.
On one of those reps, Kinlaw was pancaked by Aaron Banks. Trent Williams was not bloviating when he described him as one of the 49ers’ better offensive lineman. His assessment that he added strength while cutting weight appears accurate thus far.
The obvious matchup to watch in those reps is Williams against Nick Bosa. This time around, Williams won both reps convincingly.
Bosa got at least one sack in team drills and caused another with an easy pressure on Jaylon Moore.
Moore’s not looked all that impressive. He’s been OK. There’s essentially a battle between him, Colton McKivitz and Justin Skule for the swing tackle spot.
Skule has looked wretched, while McKivitz had a fantastic day, winning just about all of his one-on-ones. He’s solid in the run game and had a key, second-level run block on Monday, so if he shows any sort of consistency in defending the pass rush, he’ll have a very good shot at making the roster.
Two of the interior linemen who stood out, in addition to Banks, were Spencer Burford and Jason Poe. Right now, it’s hard to see anyone else taking the starting right guard spot away from Burford, and that includes Daniel Brunskill.
Poe, because of roster limitations, being and undrafted free agent and his size, seems like he’s probably destined for the practice squad. But he’s something. His shorter stature means he’s consistently providing issues for interior linemen trying to be the low man. Poe’s usually the low man, and he’s a freak athlete who battles.
He stonewalled Kevin Givens on one attempt, and while Givens came back at him strong on another, Poe recovered well. He’s a very intriguing prospect.
As for Brunskill, yikes. He’s getting worked in one-on-one drills. Why that’s not everything, and centers are often involved more in handing off assignments and working double team blocks, you steal need some pass protection competency.
Right now, Brunskill’s not demonstrating that. Jake Brendel, who’s also an upside athlete, looks like the much better center option. Undrafted free agent Dohnovan West is currently struggling.
There’s not too much new on the defensive line. It looks like a stellar, deep group. They made Brock Purdy panic on back-to-back sacks, looking scared and penned in. He was would-be sacked at least three times.
Drake Jackson was the beneficiary of at least two of those opportunities. It still doesn’t seem like he knows what he’s doing — he described himself as a “reactive” rusher who rushes based on what a lineman gives him — but he’s getting to the quarterback despite that.
- There was no Charvarius Ward, Mike McGlinchey or Flannigan-Fowles today
- Jordan Matthews was seen on crutches with a knee brace leaving the facility after practice
- Jimmy Garoppolo went through his throwing routine during practice on the side field behind the fan stands; he started at the 20ish-yard range, then worked up to 50 yards, throwing about 10 balls, then working back to 15-yard slants. He looked good, throwing a spiral and looking unimpeded in his throwing motion.
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