SANTA CLARA, Calif. — After Friday’s struggles against the New Orleans Saints’ blitz packages, the San Francisco 49ers went to the field on Monday to improve on that aspect of the game.
The 49ers defense challenged the offense with numerous blitz packages throughout practice. It was something that offensive coordinator Greg Roman said was always in the team’s plans.
“I wouldn’t say we’re doing more (blitz pickups), we’re doing them all the time,” Roman said after practice. “Blitz pickups are a part of what we do. Our protection the other night was below where we needed.”
Roman stated that due to the blitzes the team faced on Friday, it helped them understand what needed to be fixed in order to improve on it. He said that the team wasn’t fully prepared to handle the blitzes, but will be able to find the “little things” to fix.
“I think in the NFL, you’re either prepared or you’re not,” Roman explained. “We didn’t get it done on the field, therefore we weren’t prepared.”
The defense during the day looked to get the best of the offensive line. There was a heavy amount of blitzes from the inside linebackers and both Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman looked particulary strong in getting to the quarterback. And in coverage, Willis also had a tremendous leaping interception over the middle on Colin Kaepernick’s pass attempt to tight end Nate Lawrie.
Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks also looked strong in his play. He has played well enough where he could end up being the starter in Week 1. Parys Haralson, the other outside linebacker, has been getting the first team reps as well but rookie Aldon Smith is starting to chomp into some of that playing time.
The offensive line went through some changes. Roman had suggested that the best five offensive linemen would start, but today’s practice saw Alex Boone play some right tackle, Adam Snyder play both center and right guard with Jonathan Goodwin at center.
“I don’t think we’ve build the combinations to give us a true picture (of the best five),” said Roman. “I don’t think everybody’s gotten a fair opportunity to play together. That’ll be ongoing through the preseason.”
The battle for the starting center position is still up in the air, but so far, it looks like Snyder isn’t doing too well in that department. He had a bad shotgun snap to quarterback Alex Smith, which forced Smith to throw a pass late that ended up in the arms of rookie cornerback Chris Culliver.
Roman expressed the importance of snap exchanges and that head coach Jim Harbaugh has been very involved in trying to evaluate and teach the proper aspects of it.
Smith got most of the reps with the first team on Monday and had some impressive deep throws to wide open receivers Joshua Morgan and Ted Ginn. Both got open on seam routes up the middle.
“I think the reps are even throughout practice,” Roman said of the playing time for both Smith and Kaepernick. “And both are doing a very good job.”
- CB Shawntae Spencer and CB Carlos Rogers did not practice today. Tramaine Brock and Tarell Brown took over at starting cornerback. RB Anthony Dixon also did not practice.
- WR Michael Crabtree was seen on an exercise bike during camp, pedaling hard without a boot. Roman was asked about Crabtree’s progress and said that the wide recevier has been very attentive and interactive during meetings. He did not, however, give any indication on his timetable for return.
- Roman didn’t have much to add about veteran quarterback Daunte Culpepper, whom the team worked out earlier in the day. In fact, it seemed that Roman wasn’t exactly sold on the idea that the team would sign Culpepper.
“He’s got a lot of skins on his belt,” said Roman. “He’s been a very successful quarterback, and I’ve seen it with my own eyes. To get to meet with him, I very much enjoyed it.”
Culpepper was not at the afternoon practice.
- LT Joe Staley appeared to have tweaked his left ankle toward the end of practice and was replaced by Alex Boone.
- LB Thaddeus Gibson was waived by the team.