Taylor Jacobs is still the 49ers' No. 3 receiver according to Mike Nolan, but Ashley Lelie has narrowed the gap.
"Taylor's probably a half-step ahead," Nolan said at his Monday afternoon press conference.
In fact, Nolan said that Lelie is the primary backup behind Darrell Jackson at the X or split-end receiver position. Jacobs, meanwhile, is the primary backup behind Arnaz Battle at the Z or flanker position. The real question, of course, is which guy gets onto the field a week from today when the 49ers go into their three-receiver sets.
Jacobs has been the team's offseason darling beginning with an impressive showing at minicamp and OTAs. However, he failed to make an impact in games, something that Redskins fans will remember as Taylor's shortcoming when he was with Washington.
Lelie, meanwhile, has had the exact opposite offseason. He didn't practice at all this spring due to a quad injury, then started slowly in training camp because he had to pick up a new offense. But he has excelled in games and led all 49ers' wide receivers this preseason in catches and receiving yards.
With Jackson out with a hamstring injury today, Lelie saw a lot of action with the first-team unit, perhaps the most action he's seen all summer.
"Close but definitely not enough," he said when asked whether he's built up a comfort level with Alex Smith. "It's never enough. But I got a lot of reps today."
Oh captain, my captain! The NFL this season is borrowing a page from the National Hockey League by allowing five players a team to wear a "C" on their uniform. Like hockey, the "C" designates the team's captains. Every team will have players proudly wearing the "C" this season. Every team, that is, except the 49ers.
As Nolan explained today, he has 10 players he considers captains: Walt Harris, Jonas Jennings, Derek Smith, Marques Douglas, Nate Clements, Arnaz Battle, Eric Heitmann, Moran Norris, Trent Dilfer and Joe Nedney. Nolan didn't want to have to narrow that list to five, so he decided not to have anyone wear the "C" at all.
"I have twice the limit, so I'm not going to do it," Nolan said.
Nolan said that eight of the captains are the leaders of their respective position groups - Battle of the wide receivers, Nedney of the specials teams, etc. Two others, Harris and Jennings, make the list because they are the team's NFL Players' Association representatives.
Congratulations to rookie cornerback Tarell Brown, who won the team's second annual Thomas Herrion Award. The honor is given to the late-round draft pick or undrafted free agent who best exemplifies the spirit of Herrion, the rookie lineman who died shortly after a preseason game in 2005. Brown was a fifth-round draft choice out of Texas who looked good all summer and figures to be a part of the 49ers' nickel and dime coverage units this year. The irony is that Brown probably wouldn't have been a fifth-round choice - thus qualifying him for the Herrion award - had he not shown up in a couple of police reports in the months leading up to the draft. Brown, however, has been a model citizen since being drafted by the 49ers and said he was honored and humbled to receive the award today.
It's been a month since Frank Gore has practiced full time and it shows. Gore looks incredibly fresh, scampering through holes like a jack rabbit. He also reported no problems with the padded glove he'll wear to protect his still-healing right hand. Will he wear it in the game? He's not saying. After all, the Arizona Cardinals are likely scouring the papers for information.
-- Matt Barrows