SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers’ first padded practice of training camp was a good one for a pair of under-the-microscope former first-round picks, Trey Lance and Javon Kinlaw.
Lance had by far his best outing of camp, finishing 9-of-11 in team situations with an array of short- and medium-depth throws. His best may have come in a tense move-the-ball period toward the end of the session when he fired a 17-yard pass to a well-covered Ray-Ray McCloud III. Lance put the throw where only McCloud could get it and the receiver made a sliding catch.
Lance, who was working with the second-team offense, later connected with Tay Martin on a deep comeback route. That set up a long, 55-yard field goal by Jake Moody, who early on has looked exactly like the hard-to-rattle kicker the team thought it was getting when it used a third-round pick on him in April.
Kinlaw, meanwhile, stood out in the marquee event of the day, the one-on-one blocking drills between the offensive and defensive linemen. It was the first time this offseason the big guys went against each other and general manager John Lynch was among those observing.
Lynch and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks have spent the offseason talking up Kinlaw, who’s been a mainstay at the team facility since the early offseason and who is noticeably lighter and quicker going into his fourth, and perhaps final, season with the team.
His power was on display Monday. He drove back center Jake Brendel on his first snap, then crushed rookie guard Joey Fisher on his second. He beat veteran guard Jon Feliciano, too, then even took a snap at right defensive end where he beat left tackle Leroy Watson. Kinlaw’s new slimmed-down physique has him looking more like long, leggy Arik Armstead than ever before, which might mean occasional snaps at defensive end a la Armstead.
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Kinlaw’s only loss came against guard Spencer Burford, who put Kinlaw on the ground with what perhaps could have drawn a holding call in a game situation. Burford, who seems entrenched as the starter at right guard, also had a win and a draw against Armstead and looked strong in the drill.
Other notes from the one-on-one drill:
• The 49ers think it’s possible Colton McKivitz will be an upgrade in pass protection over last year’s starter at right tackle, Mike McGlinchey. McKivitz got off to a nice start Monday with two wins against Kerry Hyder Jr. and one against Drake Jackson.
Of course, the team’s best edge rusher, Nick Bosa, isn’t in camp and McKivitz certainly would benefit from sharpening his skills against the NFL’s reigning defensive player of the year. Monday was the seventh day Bosa has been out of camp, although the 49ers don’t seem overly concerned and have indicated they will forgive any fines he accrues during his holdout.
“I don’t like this — I don’t like not having one of our best players here,” Lynch said before practice. “But I also understand it, and understand we’re going to have to exhibit some patience, and understand that ultimately this whole thing will work out. I’m confident in that.”
• Neither Jackson nor Clelin Ferrell distinguished himself in the drill. Jackson’s only clear win, in fact, came against undrafted rookie Ilm Manning, who is playing tackle but who seems more like a guard. Defensive end Austin Bryant and defensive tackle Kalia Davis did not practice.
• Free-agent acquisition Javon Hargrave took his first one-on-one snaps in a 49ers uniform. He did a nice job backing up Aaron Banks on the first, then quickly got around rookie Corey Luciano on the second. Guard Jason Poe, who’s the team’s shortest guard and who is built a lot like Hargrave, had more success in locking up the veteran defensive tackle.
• Watson, who is in his first camp with the 49ers since switching from tight end to tackle, didn’t win every matchup. But he didn’t seem out of place either in battling Ferrell and Darryl Johnson to draws. His mentor, veteran Trent Williams, did not take part in the drill.
Odds & ends from practice
• Perhaps predictably, the first fully padded practice resulted in the first fracas of the summer. It seemed to erupt after linebacker Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles put a big hit on running back Elijah Mitchell following a catch along the sideline. That prompted an exchange involving receiver Jauan Jennings and pretty soon half the team seemed to be in a scrum. Kyle Shanahan had to halt practice and bring everyone to the center of the field for a minute-long cool down before practice resumed.
Jennings continued to jaw with defensive backs after practice resumed and safety Talanoa Hufanga twice had to play the role of peacemaker between teammates and a fired-up Jennings.
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• Brock Purdy was back at practice after two days of rest (including Saturday’s day off for all the players). He was 12-of-16 with an interception that occurred when Dre Greenlaw drifted backward and leaped to snag a pass to George Kittle that may have been underthrown.
A scary moment occurred at the end of practice when Ferrell crashed the pocket just as Purdy was winding up for a throw. The scenario was reminiscent of Haason Reddick’s hit on Purdy in Philadelphia that tore the quarterback’s elbow ligament. This time, Ferrell hit the ball, not the elbow, resulting in a fumble.
• Sam Darnold was 7-of-9 in team situations. He had a nice throw to Gray that set up a 57-yard field goal attempt by Zane Gonzalez. His attempt didn’t look quite as smooth as Moody’s and the ball struck the left upright. But it ricocheted inward and the attempt was good. Third-string quarterback Brandon Allen was 1-of-3.
• Lance had several nice throws Monday, beginning with a medium deep crossing-route connection to Gray in front of cornerback Samuel Womack III. He also hit Chris Conley on a perfectly placed timing-route throw on the right sideline.
Just as important, Lance hit all of his short attempts, which hadn’t been the case in the opening practices. The 49ers want to see him throw in rhythm and hit his receivers in stride, and he spent his offseason working with throwing guru Jeff Christensen on his head-to-foot mechanics. Lynch indicated it was time well spent.
“I was really proud Trey took the initiative,” he said. “I’ve talked with Trey. I won’t get into the details because I’m not exactly sure on how it all happened, but I was proud that it was something that he sought out. I think in the past maybe Trey was working with multiple people. That’s like trying to work with multiple golf coaches. Signals can get mixed and I think he decided, ‘all right, I’ve got to find one that I vibe with the best and roll with that.’”
“And I think they did some great work and I think he’s throwing the football a lot better, his base better, some of his mechanics are better. Those things are showing up on the field.”
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• Purdy’s strongest throw came when, while working out of a roomy pocket, he saw that Christian McCaffrey had a step on linebacker Fred Warner and hit McCaffrey, in stride, on a deep throw up the seam that resulted in a 70-yard touchdown.
McCaffrey is perhaps the best pass-catching running back in the NFL and throws to tailbacks and fullbacks have been a theme of this year’s camp. All of the tailbacks have done a good job, especially Mitchell, who is off to a strong camp. He and McCaffrey each had three catches in 11-on-11 situations.
• Asked if the 49ers could keep four quarterbacks on their active roster this season, Lynch said that scenario would be “very challenging.”
“Four in the building is certainly possible,” he said, a scenario that likely would involve getting Allen to the practice squad.
He said he hasn’t fielded any calls about a possible trade.
“Not to this point, but I think we’re at the point of camp where everyone’s kind of feeling out who they have and that hasn’t happened,” he said.
• Some of you have asked about the situation at nickel cornerback. Isaiah Oliver is the unquestioned starter at the position. This week, A.J. Parker has been working with the second stringers while Qwuantrezz Knight has been with the third group. All three were victimized in Sunday’s practice on crossing routes by Brandon Aiyuk (twice) and Deebo Samuel, which is one of the offense’s bread-and-butter plays. Knight, however, had a nice play on Monday in which he knocked away a deep ball from Allen to Samuel.
Womack and Deommodore Lenoir also have experience at the nickel spot if the team ever needed depth there on game days. Good-looking rookie D’Shawn Jamison also took snaps there in the spring and Lynch indicated he could get more nickel snaps in upcoming practices.
• Linebacker Oren Burks and cornerback Charvarius Ward were back in uniform Tuesday, although both were held out of team drills. Ambry Thomas continues to get the lion’s share of first-team repetitions when Ward isn’t on the field.
(Top photo of Trey Lance: Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)
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