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

July 27, 2013
Training camp D3: Vernon Davis goes deep ... again and again


It wasn't exactly a complaint. Or a lament. It probably is best classified as a notation. But during last year's regular season, tight end Vernon Davis pointed out that after years of establishing a rapport with Alex Smith, he now had to start over again with Colin Kaepernick.

Davis was in the midst of a six-game stretch in which he caught just six passes for 61 yards and no touchdowns. He wasn't happy. But he and Kaepernick started to get hot in the playoffs - 12 catches, 254 yards, one touchdown in three games - and that chemistry has continued this offseason.

In the first three practices of training camp, Davis has been by far the offense's top big-play threat, something that was underscored in today's session, the first padded practice of the year. Davis caught several deep passes from Kaepernick, including one on a rope in front of safety Craig Dahl. The prettiest pass - and a very good sign for Kaepernick - came on on a deep, touch pass down the left sideline that dropped in over safety C.J. Spillman and into Davis' hands.

On the other hand ... it's early, but there have been no obvious risers in the wide receiver competition to play opposite Anquan Boldin this season. Kyle Williams has been the best of the bunch, and he and Kaepernick hooked up for a long touchdown - he beat rookie safety Eric Reid - during 7-on-7 drills. In fact, he and Boldin were the "starters" when the first-team offense initially lined up in 7-on-7 drills. But Williams seemed to tweak a muscle and was held out of practice from that point forth. Williams later said he's fine, but that's the question mark with him - can he stay healthy for a whole season?

The question for A.J. Jenkins is, 'can he stay on his feet?' Jenkins had another mixed day. He had a very nice catch and run at one point. But he also had an outright drop and was seen sprawling on the ground with little or no contact at other points of the practice.

One of the better catches of the day was turned in by Marlon Moore, who had a diving reception across the middle of the field in traffic on a high fastball from Kaepernick. But that was Moore's only catch of 11-on-11 drills. None of the other receivers, including Ricardo Lockette, has jumped out so far, either.

Here's the tally when the 49ers were either in 11-11 or team drills. The first- and second-year players had an extra session at the end of practice, which inflates their numbers.

A.J. Jenkins: eight targets, three catches, one drop
Vernon Davis: four targets, four receptions
LaMichael James: four targets, four receptions
Anquan Boldin: four targets, three receptions
Chuck Jacobs: four targets, two receptions
Vance McDonald: four targets, one reception
Ricardo Lockette: three targets, two receptions
MarQueis Gray: two targets, two receptions
Jewel Hampton: two targets, two receptions
Garrett Celek: two targets, one reception
Chad Hall: two targets, one reception
Marlon Moore: two targets, one reception
Charly Martin: two targets, no receptions
D.J. Harper: one target, one reception
Frank Gore: one target, one reception
Kassim Osgood: one target, one reception
Anthony Dixon: one target, no receptions

Why didn't rookie receiver Quinton Patton have any catches? He has a soft cast on two fingers of his left hand. That's likely why he has been wearing a non-contact jersey in practice and why he has not been targeted. No word on whether Patton was Kaepernicked.

One play that deserves mention: Kaepernick flipped a perfectly placed pass to LaMichael James on a delayed screen to the right that would have gone for a huge gain in a real game. What made it work was the timing and the fact that right tackle Anthony Davis got 15 yards down field and blocked Dahl, who would have had an angle on James at the sideline.

McDonald had a couple of drops during 7-on-7 drills. ... Dahl was beaten in 7-on-7 drills when Lockette got behind him and B.J. Daniels nailed him for a long touchdown. "Yuck!" Dahl yelled when he realized he had allowed Lockette to get behind him. (Actually, it only rhymed with 'Yuck.')

Second-year outside linebacker Cam Johnson had another strong practice, including a sack when he got past rookie tackle Carter Bykowski. Johnson finally is healthy, and he garnered praise Friday from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.

I thought backup inside linebacker Nate Stupar had a good afternoon. He got a lot of repetitions and seemed to be all over the field. At one point, he tipped a pass from Colt McCoy to McDonald in the middle of the field. It went into the air and was intercepted by Spillman.

Meanwhile, practice ended when Daniels attempted a deep sideline pass to McDonald. The rookie tight end let up for a moment on his route, which allowed another inside linebacker, Nick Moody, to position himself for an interception.

Finally, you're probably wondering how British rookie Lawrence Okoye fared in his first-ever contact practice. The verdict: He wasn't awful. In fact, Okoye handled himself nicely early in practice in pass-rush drills against offensive tackle Kenny Wiggins.

Like Okoye, Wiggins is tall and long-armed. With Okoye rushing from the left defensive end position, Wiggins stood him up on his first attempt. Okoye was guilty of encroachment on the second go-around. But on the third, he got low and inside of Wiggins and collapsed the pocket.

As a third stringer, Okoye got a lot of reps at right defensive end during team and 11-on-11 drills. He had trouble finding the ball and was uprooted and shoved to the side a lot by guards Mike Iupati and Wayne Tribue, who have a real advantage in leverage against the long-legged Okoye. But again - he wasn't embarrassed, and it has to be considered a positive first step for someone who never went through a full, contact practice until 2:30 p.m. today.

- 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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