Score one for the offense. After just missing Michael Crabtree on two passes in the end zone early in Tuesday's practice, Alex Smith and his teammates caught fire the rest of the morning in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills. The main beneficiary was tight end Vernon Davis, who, like he did routinely in 2009, ran down the middle of the field, got a step on the inside linebacker and hauled in three of Smith's passes for touchdowns. (And let the defense hear about it afterward). Davis has been trumpeting the "11-85" connection on Twitter for the past few days, and it was out in full force today.
Smith also hit tight end Delanie Walker, Crabtree and rookie receiver Kyle Williams for touchdowns. Williams had a nice snag on the side of the end zone over fellow rookie Patrick Stoudamire. Crabtree beat Tarell Brown for his touchdown, then added injury to insult by stepping on Brown's left foot. Brown sat out the team drills for the rest of the session but is expected to be OK. Seventh-round draft pick Phillip Adams filled in at cornerback and played well.
The session left offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye feeling good about his unit. "I think we're a little bit farther along at this time than I thought we would have been in terms of our personnel groupings - we finally got the majority of the guys back for the OTAs," Raye said. "Yes, we're pleased at this point with what we've seen."
In fact, Raye has a full roster. Frank Gore was back Tuesday after missing Monday's session. Michael Robinson also is back at practice, and no offensive players are out with injuries (although RB Anthony Dixon isn't practicing fully due to a hamstring strain). In addition, Stanford offensive lineman Matt Kopa may sign later today. Kopa suffered a foot injury in February and had been hoping for a sixth year of NCAA eligibility. But he said he thought his chances were slim and figured the best course of action would be to join a team. He has a physical later today. If he passes - and that's not a given - he'll sign.
Raye, meanwhile, had a different take than Mike Singletary on quarterback Nate Davis. On Monday Singletary said that Davis wasn't progressing as "fast as the coaches would like." Raye, however, explained that that was due in large part to new quarterback David Carr. Ideally the 49ers would like to give Davis a healthy number of practice snaps to accelerate his learning curve.
Carr, however, also needs a lot of snaps because he is learning the offense for the first time. "Because we have to get David Carr enough snaps to get ready and be familiar and get ready to play, and that takes away from Nate Davis," Raye said. He said he still has high hopes for Davis. "I would hope that ... he will be in competition with David Carr for the backup spot in August," he said. "I would hope that would be the case."
I sat down with Ricky Jean-Francois after practice. Aubrayo Franklin's absence not only means that Jean-Francois is the team's de facto starting nose tackle. He is the second- and third-string nose tackle, too. He joked that the 49ers were trying to kill him before training camp even started.
The fact of the matter is that all the repetitions are good for Jean-Francois. He has to read the offense a lot more than he did as a defensive end last season and certainly more than he did at LSU. The good news is that the comprehension is starting to come more quickly. The 49ers did not take a nose tackle in the April draft. So you might as well consider Jean-Francois the future at that position.
The 49ers don't want me reporting on the conditioning session - running from sideline to sideline several times -- that ends every practice. But they might tolerate this observation: Rookie Navorro Bowman challenging Patrick Willis to be the first inside linebacker across the finish line. In fact, the two pushed each other so hard that they were the first two players across when the session ended. Usually receivers and defensive backs are the first across the line.
-- Matt Barrows