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May 29, 2012
49ers OTA notes: Absences give clues to depth chart

spillman.jpg

The 49ers held their second, media-accessible OTA practice today. There were a lot more absences than there were last week, and that gave a little insight to the depth chart on both offense and defense.

On offense, the players missing from the voluntary session included presumed starters Vernon Davis, Anthony Davis and Michael Crabtree, as well as receiver Mario Manningham. Ted Ginn and Joe Looney continue to rehab from injuries while some rookies, such as LaMichael James and Chris Owusu, cannot take part because their universities are still in session. Crabtree is somewhere in Mexico, according to this picture by a certain fellow wide receiver.

With Anthony Davis out, Alex Boone kicked out to left tackle with the first-team unit while Mike Person filled in at right guard. The second-team offensive line looked like this: LT Al Netter, LG Garrett Chisolm, C Daniel Kilgore, RG Derek Hall, RT Kenny Wiggins.

On defense, the missing players included starting safeties Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson (he has not signed his franchise tender) as well as cornerback Chris Culliver. Starting cornerback Carlos Rogers continues to rehab from a lower-body injury while draft pick Darius Fleming is out with a torn ACL.

The starting safeties were C.J. Spillman (SS) and draft pick Trenton Robinson (FS). The starting cornerbacks were Tramaine Brock and Tarell Brown with Perrish Cox entering in third-down situations.

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The three best-looking wide receivers early this offseason have been Randy Moss, Crabtree and Kyle Williams, who was easily Alex Smith's favorite target on Tuesday. Williams looked quick and fluid last year. If it's possible, he looks more so this year.

Having said that, first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins appears decidedly more comfortable than he did during the rookie minicamp three weeks ago. He made a nice diving catch in traffic on a throw from Scott Tolzien during 7-on-7 drills.

Said receivers coach John Morton: "He comes to work every single day and does exactly what we tell him to do, and he comes out and competes. He's going to have his ups and downs. But he fights through it." Jenkins is learning all three receiver positions.

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Tight end Nate Byham was laboring at times in practice today and seemed uncomfortable with the brace over his left knee to the point where he had the medical staff readjust the brace twice. Byham tore the ACL in that knee last training camp and he is trying to hold off Konrad Reuland to be the No. 3 tight end.

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Those practicing kick returns were, in order, Williams, rookie Nathan Palmer, rookie Deante Purvis, Jenkins, Cox and Kendall Hunter. NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis also took a turn running back kicks. Bowman, meanwhile, walked off the field following the end-of-practice team huddle carrying a plastic plate with a big, chocolate cupcake on it. His birthday was yesterday.

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No. 48 on defense, outside linebacker Kourtnei Brown, looks -- superficially at least -- a lot like Aldon Smith, who was wearing No. 48 at the beginning of last year's training camp. Both are tall with long legs and very long arms. Smith didn't jump out until full contact drills began in training camp, (and he later switched to No. 99). As of now, contact is forbidden in practice, and it's hard to say anything definitive about the young linemen and linebackers. But Brown certainly looks the part.

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Former Saint Jonathan Goodwin said he had mixed feelings about the bounty-related penalties given to his former squad. "Some of the penalties, to me, were shocking," he said. "It kind of surprised me. I knew the commissioner was going to take it seriously. I didn't think he would take it that serious. But he's the man in charge. If that's what he sees fit, that's what he sees fit."

Goodwin acknowledged he didn't sit in on defensive meetings while in New Orleans, but he said that he was surprised by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams' words before the 49ers and Saints met in a divisional playoff game in January. "Definitely new to my ears, for a guy that kind of knows Gregg and has, you know, been on bus rides and in meetings with him," Goodwin said. "That was my first time hearing anything like that."

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Snap watch: When the team practiced field goals, incumbent snapper Brian Jennings took all the reps with the first-team unit while newcomer Ryan Pontbriand handled duties with the second team.

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Both the first- and second-team offenses practiced their two-minute offenses at the end of practice. Alex Smith and the first team went against the second-team defense; Colin Kaepernick and the 2s went against the first-team defense. Here's how it went:

First team:
1st: Smith to Brett Swain left for a short gain
2nd: Smith deep pass, about 40 yards, that fluttered a bit but was caught by Randy Moss over Purvis to inside the 10-yard line.
1st Quick strike to Williams to the goal line.
2nd & G: Corner route to Swain that was just out of reach.
3rd & G: Over-the-middle pass to Walker that's batted down by Ricky Jean Francois
4th & G: Smith rolls right and hits Williams, who also is moving right, in front of Curtis Holcomb for the touchdown.

Second team:
1st: False start offense
1st: Kaepernick five-yard pass to Joe Hastings to the right side.
2nd: Kaepernick scrambles right for a big gain, 20 or so yards.
1st: Kaepernick over the middle to Hastings, who makes a good catch from his knees for five yards.
2nd: Kaepernick throws ball out of bounds.
3rd: Short pass to Hunter is tipped incomplete
Penalties (?) make it 4th and 15.
4th: Very nice pass to the left to rookie Brian Tyms for 16 yards and a first down
1st: Handoff to Hunter.
2nd: Incomplete pass to Nathan Palmer.
3rd. Pass to Tyms batted down,
4th: Pass left to Reuland is complete, but he's wrestled down by Willis short of the first down.

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Last week, defensive back Ben Hannula moonlighted as a wide receiver. Today safety Cory Nelms was in an offensive uniform and playing receiver. As you would expect, Nelms looked a bit shaky at the position. Hannula was back at safety, giving the team two, No. 35s at the position - him and Mark LeGree.

Defensive end Will Tukuafu, meanwhile, also was in a red jersey today and spent the afternoon as a fullback.

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW 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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