SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Short arms.
If there’s one thing keeping Jason Poe from a more prominent role at guard, it’s the fact that his arms measure 31 inches long, which is what you might expect with a 5-foot-10 cornerback — not from someone who grapples with 6-foot-6 defensive linemen. Poe’s levers are 2 ¼ inches shorter than left guard Aaron Banks’ and 3 ¾ inches less than the 49ers’ other starter at guard, Spencer Burford’s.
“It’s going to be tough,” offensive line coach Chris Foerster said of Poe on Saturday. “It’s range. It’s how far do you get from here to here? He’s fast, he’s quick, but there’s just that (lack of) length, and that’d be the only thing that keeps him from doing it.”
That’s not to say Poe doesn’t have gifts. Foerster called him the second-strongest offensive lineman on the 49ers’ roster behind left tackle Trent Williams. And Poe might be the fastest of the group having run his 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds a year ago.
Chris Foerster today called guard Jason Poe (51) the 49ers’ second strongest offensive lineman. (Trent Williams takes first prize). Poe also may be the quickest … pic.twitter.com/fF5Z5dB9bt
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 5, 2023
His quick feet make him difficult to block in one-on-one battles. For example, he’s been the lone offensive lineman to frustrate defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, perhaps because at a shade below 6-foot-1, Poe is the rare blocker who has a lower center of gravity than Hargrave, who is 6-foot-1 ⅜ inches tall.
One solution to Poe’s short-arm limitations is to move him to center where long levers aren’t quite as critical.
Foerster said Poe has started getting a few center repetitions at the start of practice and that the goal is to regularly have him toggle among left guard, right guard and center in practices, something that veterans Jon Feliciano, Nick Zakelj and Keith Ismael are currently doing in training camp.
To do that, Poe has to master the offense and become a little more of a chatterbox. Foerster said he’s naturally buttoned-up in practice.
“He’s not a very verbal guy (as far as) line calls,” he said. “ … The center has to be able to communicate, and Jason’s got to learn how to do that.”
Odds & ends on Saturday
• Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel may grab the headlines, but backup receiver Willie Snead IV made easily the best catch of training camp on Saturday.
On his final throw of a move-the-ball drill, Trey Lance lofted a 25-yard pass to Snead in the left corner of the end zone. Cornerback Samuel Womack III had close coverage, and it looked like he’d either obstruct the ball or bat it away. Snead, however, reached behind Womack’s back and snagged the ball with one hand for a dramatic touchdown that had his offensive teammates mobbing him in the end zone.
Earlier in practice, quarterback Brandon Allen hooked up with Snead on a go ball deep down the left sideline. The receiver caught it just beyond two defenders, then managed to keep his feet and run into the end zone for a 60-yard score.
Snead was active for four games last season but did not record a catch. He’s competing with Chris Conley, rookie Ronnie Bell and Tay Martin to be the 49ers’ No. 6 receiver when the season begins.
• With Brock Purdy taking a scheduled day off, Lance and Sam Darnold divvied up the first- and second-team snaps. Both finished 8-of-13 in 11-on-11 situations, though they arrived at the statistic very differently.
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Darnold started off 4-of-4. But most of those came on short throws, including a shovel pass to Samuel on his first attempt. He struggled on downfield attempts, including one to a wide-open Aiyuk along the right sideline. Darnold saw the broken coverage, but he couldn’t muster much zip on the throw, which hung in the air and allowed safety Tashaun Gipson Sr. enough time to run from the center of the field and break up the pass. Darnold also misfired on a deep pass to Ray-Ray McCloud.
Lance, meanwhile, started out 0-for-3 in 11-on-11 situations but seemed to find his rhythm when the offense was backed against its own goal line. He hit Deebo Samuel on a quick crossing route during that drill, then later hit Samuel and Aiyuk on more smartly thrown passes across the middle. That’s a bread-and-butter throw in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and it’s obviously one Lance worked on in the offseason.
Allen, working with the third-string offense, finished 6-of-8. He underthrew a go-route ball for Danny Gray but made up for it with the perfectly placed long ball to Snead on his next series.
The players have a day off Sunday and will practice again Monday and Tuesday before flying to Las Vegas Tuesday afternoon. Purdy is expected to be back for the Monday and Tuesday sessions, then take part in the Thursday and Friday practices against the Raiders.
• Undrafted rookie cornerback D’Shawn Jamison seems to have one big play per practice. He nearly grabbed a pick six on a short sideline throw from Allen to Bell, the second straight day he’s gotten his hands on a pass with a chance to score. Jamison has been playing left cornerback with the third-string defense.
“This guy, at the top of the route, is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen,” fellow rookie Ji’Ayir Brown said. “You know, how quickly he gets out of his breaks and attacks the ball. Most guys take three or four steps. This guy (takes) one step, and he’s gone.”
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• Standouts in the one-on-one pass-rush portion of practice included Burford, who knocked Javon Kinlaw to the ground after Kinlaw tried to use a spin move against the guard. Burford has been consistently strong in the drill since pads went on on Monday.
Here’s how Foerster described Burford: “There’s a step when a kid’s growing up, right? You were the pudgy kid in eighth grade, and you come back after summer vacation and now, ‘Oh my gosh! You grew up over the summer!’ That’s kind of what Spence did. He kind of worked his butt off this offseason, came back after the season and lost the weight and kind of just redefined where his body is and put it together better. His stamina, everything about him, has grown up.”
Meanwhile, defensive end Drake Jackson had a nice inside move during one-on-ones that beat right tackle Colton McKivitz. And newcomer Taco Charlton continues to look impressive. The veteran defensive end notched two wins against backup left tackle Leroy Watson IV.
For the second straight year, the 49ers coaches are very pleased with the team’s final pick of the draft. On why LB Jalen Graham has stood out so far …https://t.co/b64KfmGtlb
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) August 5, 2023
• Kicker Jake Moody was 3-of-3 on field goals, booting in attempts from 43, 48 and 58 yards.
• The 49ers were back in pads one day after a grueling Friday session, easily their longest of the year.
“It’s like playing a game and then having another padded practice the next day,” center Jake Brendel said. “But that’s football.”
Those who didn’t take part included Nick Bosa (holdout), Elijah Mitchell (adductor), Banks (concussion), Jaylon Moore (knee), Kalia Davis (hamstring), Robert Beal Jr. and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles. Defensive starters Arik Armstead and Talanoa Hufanga appeared to be getting so-called “rest” days. Kinlaw and George Odum filled in at defensive tackle and safety with the first-string defense.
Defensive end Austin Bryant, who has missed most of camp so far, has been back in uniform the last two days and seems like he’s slowly being worked back into the practice flow.
(Top photo of Jason Poe: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)
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