49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

June 5, 2013
OTA session: Hampton becomes bell cow, Patton is prolific


The 49ers held their final OTA practice of the spring on Tuesday. How is that significant? It's not. The team will hold a three-day minicamp, the first mandatory session of the offseason, next week. All three days are open to the media per NFL rules, and that will be the best indication thus far of where things stand for the defending NFC champions.

The first thing to note from Tuesday was who was absent either because they are coming back from injuries or had previous engagements. That groups includes: OLB Ahmad Brooks, CB Tarell Brown (non injury), WR Anquan Boldin (non injury), WR Michael Crabtree, CB Chris Culliver (non-injury), RB Frank Gore, RB Kendall Hunter, G Mike Iupati, RB LaMichael James, WR Mario Manningham, CB Carlos Rogers, OLB Aldon Smith, DE Justin Smith, OT Joe Staley, WR Kyle Williams and S Donte Whitner (non injury). It also includes rookies DE Tank Carradine, RB Marcus Lattimore, DE Quinton Dial and OT Luke Marquardt.

In addition, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha did not take part in any team drills. However, he did not seem injured as he stayed after practice for 20 minutes to work with safety/cornerback Michael Thomas on the nuances of press coverage. The 49ers coaches appear more than willing to allow younger players to get repetitions while veterans like Asomugha remain on the sideline.

With Brown, Rogers, Culliver and Asomugha out, the top cornerbacks were Perrish Cox and Tramaine Brock. They got the most work with the first-team unit, although seventh-round pick Marcus Cooper also was worked in. Cooper had an interception of Colin Kaepernick early in practice.

The only healthy running backs were Anthony Dixon, Jewel Hampton and undrafted rookie D.J. Harper. This was our first chance to get an extended look at Hampton, who was injured for most of last season and who seemed to get the lion's share of the carries. OTAs, of course, are non-contact, and the emphasis is on the passing, not the running, game.

Still, Hampton looks quick and 100 percent healthy. His forte is running on the inside, and one of his strengths is the ability to make sharp moves in tight spaces. He told me after practice that he is working on patience in the trenches, something at which another inside runner, Gore, excels. I'll have more on Hampton later this week.

Newcomer Dan Skuta mostly played inside linebacker when he was with the Bengals. In the two practices I have seen, however, he's lined up at outside linebacker. In fact, he has been playing first-string outside linebacker opposite Parys Haralson with both Brooks and Aldon Smith out of action.

That might be bad news for some of the youngsters hoping to land a spot at outside linebacker. Haralson has looked very good -- man-on-a-mission good -- after missing all of last year with a torn triceps. Skuta, meanwhile, has the advantage of being a special teams stalwart. According to his agent, the 49ers have been experimenting with Darius Fleming - he was injured Tuesday - at inside linebacker. The other two at the outside linebacker position are Cam Johnson and third-round pick Corey Lemonier.

Brooks' injury is unknown. However, he was on the injury report with a shoulder injury at the end of last season and into the playoffs. And he had a bag of ice on his shoulder as he left practice yesterday. None of the injured defensive players appear to be injured badly and all are expected back for training camp.

The longest pass of the day was hauled in by Vernon Davis on a throw from backup quarterback Colt McCoy. Davis beat cornerback Lowell Rose and safety Darcel McBath to catch the ball along the sideline and then sprint into the end zone for what must have been a 50-yard score.

Wideouts Quinton Patton, a fourth-round pick, and Chad Hall had the most prolific afternoons with Boldin absent. Patton couldn't hang onto a Kaepernick fastball on a crossing route during a red-zone drill and spent the next few moments shaking his sore right hand. However, Kaepernick came back to Patton's direction when the offense was closer to the goal line and Patton hauled in another laser on an out pattern for the touchdown. Hall also scored during the drill.

Drops, however, were common. Patton, A.J. Jenkins, Marlon Moore, Hampton, Garrett Celek, Kassim Osgood and fullback Alex Debniak all dropped catchable passes. Osgood actually was struck in the eye when an unexpected pass from B.J. Daniels connected just above his facemask. He went down for several seconds but returned to practice. Daniels runs a lot of read-option plays and, to me at least, continues to be impressive. He's not always accurate but is able to keep plays alive with his feet. I shall call him MiniKap.

First-round draft pick Eric Reid has been rotating in with the first-team defense. On Tuesday, he, Craig Dahl and C.J. Spillman were in that rotation. Reid mostly has played free safety - what Dashon Goldson played the last two seasons - but the goal is to learn both spots. Thomas and Trenton Robinson were the second-team safeties.

Still have questions about the 49ers? Really? This is a 1,000-word report. A lot of ground was covered. I'm starting to think that you have a problem. I mean, it's June for crying out loud. Don't you have other hobbies? Ok, ok. Stop crying. I'll answer your question during this morning's live chat. You can log onto www.sacbee.com/live. it starts at 11 a.m. sharp.

-- 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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