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July 28, 2013
Training camp D4: Spillman starts, but Reid shines at safety


C.J. Spillman "started" at free safety during today's training-camp practice, but it was another safety who stood out. Practicing with the second-team defense, first-round pick Eric Reid had an interception during team drills and also nicely broke up a pass to Anquan Boldin later in the session.

On the interception, Reid read the eyes of quarterback Scott Tolzien, who was scrambling out of the pocket. Reid had an excellent break on the ball, caught it well in front of the would-be receiver and would have been gone for a touchdown in a game situation. On the pass break up, he came from behind Boldin and used his long arm to swat away a Colin Kaepernick pass.

Craig Dahl had been working with the first-string defense at free safety. Whether it was a coincidence or not, Dahl had a rough practice on Saturday and was with Reid on the second team today. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on Friday said that the free-safety competition is a four-man battle among Dahl, Reid, Trenton Robinson and Spillman.

As documented in the previous blog, the 49ers are starting to get thin at wide receiver. The one who stood out today is perhaps the least known - Chuck Jacobs. The undrafted rookie out of Utah State is only 178 pounds, but he is cat-quick and he had several catches today.

So did Chad Hall, who hauled in a long pass from Kaepernick down the sideline during 11-11 drills. Kaepernick looked good at times Sunday, but he and the offense were not as sharp as they were the day before. Several of Kaepernick's passes were tipped or batted, including one that was intercepted by cornerback Tramaine Brock.

Defensive end Tony Jerod-Eddie batted down one of Kaepernick's attempts while nose tackle Glenn Dorsey knocked another straight into the air. Inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite also nearly intercepted a Kaepernick pass in the middle of the field.

Here's the breakdown of targets and catches during 11-11 and team drills:

Chad Hall: seven targets, four catches, one drop
Anquan Boldin: five targets, four receptions
Chuck Jacobs: five targets, four receptions
Ricardo Lockette: four targets, no receptions. (In fairness, Lockette (hip) was obviously hurting on three of them)
LaMichael James: two targets, two receptions
Marlon Moore: two targets, two receptions
Jewel Hampton: one target, one reception
A.J. Jenkins: one target, no receptions.

I found a flaw in the Jewel. One of the more lively drills Sunday was a pass-protection session between running backs/tight ends and linebackers. Hampton, who has looked very sharp as a runner this offseason, struggled to block oncoming linebackers, including Wilhoite, who blew him backward five yards.

Hampton, however, didn't fare as badly as B.J. Daniels. The quarterback/running back/returner was asked to block fellow draft pick Nick Moody. Moody dispensed with any fancy moves, went right at Daniels and put him on his back for a pancake. Undrafted rookie running back D.J. Harper looked good in the drill, even against NaVorro Bowman. So did tight end MarQueis Gray.

Ian Williams continues to practice with the first-team defense at nose tackle. On the first play of team drills, he got underneath guard Alex Boone and flushed Kaepernick from the pocket. Williams has an excellent motor and he won't be easy to dislodge from the starting unit.

Observed: running back Kendall Hunter (Achilles') sprinting - like a blur - on a side field. His speed seems to be back. All that's left is to practice cutting and change of direction.

- 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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