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July 26, 2008
All the news from training camp, Day 2

The only full practice of the day is in the books, and while there were still a number of penalties and broken plays, I thought the quarterbacks looked a lot sharper than they did yesterday. Alex Smith was the "starter" this morning, and Shaun Hill will have that honor tomorrow morning. Mike Nolan cautioned that although it may seem like Smith is getting more work now, over the next few days the load will even out. Here's how the QBs performed in 11-on-11 drills, where overall there was a lot more shifting, more three-receiver sets, and more Martz-like wrinkles than yesterday.

Alex Smith

- Completes a short pass to Bryant Johnson that is slightly behind the receiver.
- Pass to Frank Gore incomplete when Gore slips. Jeff Ulbrich has tight coverage on the play
- Great pass to Vernon Davis. The ball hits Davis in the hands just as he's coming out of his break. Davis bobbles it initially but gathers it in and heads upfield.
- A swing pass to Gore is too far in front. Judging by Smith's body language, he expected Gore to be farther upfield.

Shaun Hill

- Whips a quick pass (hot read) to Josh Morgan
- Whips another quick one to Delanie Walker. Dashon Goldson sniffs out the play, and were this a full-contact practice, probably would have blown Walker up
- Deep pass falls to the ground with nary a receiver in sight
- Dominique Zeigler makes a leaping catch over the middle

Alex Smith

- Completes a short pass to Jason Hill
- Swing pass to Frank Gore goes off his fingers (drop)
- Completes a deep crossing pattern to Arnaz Battle
- Finally completes the swing pass to Gore.

Shaun Hill

- Incomplete to Arnaz Battle
- Quick pass (hot read) to Delanie Walker
- A nice pass over the middle to Robert Jordan
- A nice sideline pattern to Jordan in front of Tarell Brown

Earlier in the practice, the 49ers went nine-on-nine (no CBs or WRs). These were all running plays, and the offense must have run 20 or so. I didn't see Moran Norris, last year's fullback, block for Gore on any of them. Instead, that role either fell to Zak Keasey or to one of the H-backs, Delanie Walker or Billy Bajema. Norris did get into the action, but usually was blocking for Michael Robinson or DeShaun Foster.

While Norris is a powerful lead blocker, Keasey is a better pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Another reason he is getting more playing time: He is faster than Norris and is effective in getting out in front of Gore on running plays to the outside.

Isaac Bruce practiced sparingly this morning, and the team is making sure they don't wear down the 35-year-old veteran this summer. With Ashley Lelie out with a calf injury (not good news for Lelie), the top three receivers were Bryant Johnson, Arnaz Battle and Jason Hill. Battle said he is only practicing once a day to avoid the knee issues he's had in previous summers. If you'll recall, Battle has had to have his knee drained of fluid several times over his career.

Damane Duckett went down with a left knee injury after locking up with Tully Banta-Cain in one-on-one blocking drills. The big tackle lay on the grass for several minutes, but eventually got to his feet. He was later seen moving around gingerly in the locker room with a bag of ice on the knee. Deshaun Foster also banged his knee on a delayed screen but it didn't appear to be a long-term injury.

Joe Staley spent in the night in the hospital getting treatment (antibiotics) for his infected bite. He's out of the hospital now. What bit him? Nolan said no one is quite sure but that it wasn't a dreaded brown recluse spider.
brown recluse.jpg

I took tabs of who won and lost the blocking drills. Here's the partial tally

Eric Heitmann vs. Ronald Fields.
I. Fields
II. Heitmann

Justin Smith vs. Adam Snyder
I. Smith throws Snyder to the ground
II. Snyder holds his own and gets a good-natured pat on the helmet from Smith for congratulations

Roderick Green vs. Duckett
I. Green beats him outside
II. Duckett holds him off but in a real game might have gotten an illegal hands to the face penalty

Vernon Davis vs. ..
I. ... Parys Harlason ... Davis wins
II. .... Louis Holmes ... Holmes goes bye, but because of a false start
III. .... TBC ... Draw
IV. ... Green ... Davis wins

Kentwan Balmer vs. Chilo Rachal
I. Rachal
II. Balmer (Rachal whiffs on his block)

Walter Curry vs. Cody Wallace
I. Curry puts Wallace on his back
II. Wallace fights him to a draw, gets nice applause from rest of o-line.

The 49ers ended practice in a team-drill situation. One of the things of note was that Justin Smith continues to line up all over the field. He again played a lot of outside linebacker, but also lined up at left, not right, defensive end. In one alignment, he was the middle of a three-man line with Roderick Green on one side and Ray McDonald on the other. The bottom line is that the 49ers are experimenting with all sorts of formations this summer and that Smith is at the center of that experimentation. Said Nolan of Smith: "He's going to be attacking the line of scrimmage as much as he can."

The offense mostly ran the ball during the final drills. There were several penalties on both the offense and defense. When the second-team defense jumped offside two times in a row, d-line coach Jim Tomsula - a Bee-rows favorite - went apoplectic. Pointing to the first-team defenders standing behind him, Tomsula yelled, "Ge 'em out! Get 'em out!" and the first teamers relieved their second-team counterparts.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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