SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Trey Lance was an efficient 5-of-7 passing in team situations, Deebo Samuel sprinted on a side field and the 49ers continued to experiment with their starting offensive line.
Those were the headlines of Day 1 of training camp Wednesday, which had the feel of a spring practice. The session was a little shy of 90 minutes and didn’t feature any hitting or tackling. The team won’t have its first fully padded practice until Monday.
As was the case through most of the spring, Lance looked like he was in control during his 11-on-11 repetitions but mostly stuck to short passes, especially to tight ends. Early on, he faked a handoff to running back Jeff Wilson Jr., rolled to his right and picked up a nice gain with his legs.
His only incompletions came when starting cornerback Emmanuel Moseley aggressively knocked a sideline throw from receiver Jauan Jennings — Moseley later chided himself for not going for the interception — and when receiver Austin Mack slipped while making a cut. Moseley also was the cornerback on that play.
Your first 2022 training camp look at Trey Lance pic.twitter.com/2BWdl87gIW
— David Lombardi (@LombardiHimself) July 27, 2022
Why no highlight-reel deep balls? It may have been related to the types of plays the 49ers were rehearsing. Nate Sudfeld, for instance, was even sharper than Lance in going 7-for-7, but his passes also were mostly safe, short ones. The exception came in seven-on-seven drills when Sudfeld lofted a deep pass down the left sideline to receiver Malik Turner, who kept his feet after tangling with Ambry Thomas, who fell to the ground.
The longest gain in team drills was turned in by seventh-round pick Brock Purdy, who hit tight end Jordan Matthews in stride over the middle. Matthews, a former wide receiver, took that momentum and outran the third-string secondary for a massive gain. Purdy was 2-of-3 in team situations and also had a nice on-the-move completion to KeeSean Johnson in front of cornerback Ka’dar Hollman.
The fourth quarterback? Earlier in the day, Kyle Shanahan said Jimmy Garoppolo would go through a throwing routine — he’s ramping up after March shoulder surgery — in the morning but would be free to leave for the day after that. Shanahan said the quarterback did exactly that Wednesday. But he was later spotted in the weight room as practice began. Garoppolo passed his physical Tuesday, which means the 49ers no longer are on the hook for $7.5 million if they cut him.
In previous years the 49ers have kept four healthy quarterbacks on the roster. Shanahan, however, said there’s no plan to add a No. 4 even if the team parted ways with Garoppolo during training camp. Summer practices, after all, aren’t nearly as grueling as they used to be and Lance, Sudfeld and Purdy are all relative neophytes who need plenty of repetitions in practice and the preseason.
Other observations from Day 1:
• Shanahan on Tuesday said the team might play “musical chairs” with the interior offensive line spots, and it seems the music already has begun. During spring practices, second-year player Jaylon Moore took the lion’s share of first-team snaps at right guard. On Wednesday, fourth-round pick Spencer Burford was in that spot. Readers might remember that former general manager Scot McCloughan was impressed by Burford’s college film and rated him as a second-rounder.
It’s important to keep in mind the incumbent right guard, Daniel Brunskill, didn’t practice in the spring and the 49ers may be easing him back into action. Brunskill played center with the second-team unit Wednesday. In addition, Trent Williams was absent due to a family matter while Mike McGlinchey is not yet practicing in full. So the 49ers may have decided that Moore was needed at tackle, not guard, Wednesday.
Overall, the first-team offensive line looked good against the extremely well-stocked defensive line, although the real test will come next week when practices have a more physical element. There was plenty of substituting, of course, but here’s how the offensive lines mainly were composed:
First team: LT Colton McKivitz, LG Aaron Banks, C Jake Brendel, RG Burford, RT Moore
Second team: LT Moore, LG Nick Zakelj, C Brunskill, RG Jason Poe, RT Justin Skule
Third team: LT Sam Schlueter, LG Keaton Sutherland, C Dohnovan West, RG Poe, RT Alfredo Gutierrez
• An under-the-radar rookie to keep an eye on this summer: Poe. The 49ers were impressed with the progress he made in the spring and, as illustrated above, he was pulling double duty Wednesday. He worked exclusively with the third-team offense in the spring.
Poe fell out of the draft both because of his size — at 6-foot-1, the contrast between him and 6-8 McGlinchey is stark — and because of his level of competition at Mercer University. But his athleticism is unique and he also has a magnetic personality that’s made him immediately popular in the 49ers locker room. For example, he trained with the esteemed veteran of the group, Williams, during the summer break, with Williams giving the rookie a ride on a private jet when they returned to Santa Clara earlier this week. Poe and Banks were seen getting some extra snaps together after practice ended Wednesday.
• Another difference from the spring: There were a lot more players participating. McGlinchey (quad) and Javon Kinlaw (ACL) were in uniform, although neither went through a full practice. Linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair, meanwhile, had offseason surgery on his left elbow (serious) and left knee (not as serious).
There was a scare Wednesday when Al-Shaair collided with fullback Kyle Juszczyk, leaving the linebacker struggling to get to his feet. He later explained that the impact drove his arm brace into his midsection, knocking the wind out of him. Al-Shaair said all he could hear in his helmet receiver was defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans barking: “Get up! You’re all right!” He was. Al-Shaair later returned to practice.
Al-Shaair played strongside linebacker. Fred Warner, who also did not practice in the spring, and Dre Greenlaw were the every-down linebackers. Others who were back after missing all or most of the spring sessions: George Kittle, Nick Bosa, Elijah Mitchell, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and rookies Tyrion Davis-Price, Danny Gray and Jeremiah Gemmel.
• The 49ers have been saying it would happen for more than four months, and Wednesday it finally did: They released oft-injured Dee Ford. During the 2019 offseason they traded a second-round pick to the Chiefs for Ford and gave him a five-year, $87.5 million contract because they wanted an edge rusher who was lightning quick off the snap.
Ford showed that, but only early on that season. He dealt with knee injuries in the second half of 2019, then experienced a recurrence of a back issue that limited him to seven games over the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The move saves them $1.12 million in salary-cap space.
• The pecking order at running back: Mitchell, Wilson, JaMycal Hasty, Trey Sermon, Davis-Price and Jordan Mason. Davis-Price, the third-rounder from LSU, had the best run of the day, one in which he burst through the left side of the defense and stiff-armed two third-string defenders on his way to a big gain.
• With Charlie Woerner (core muscle surgery) unlikely to rejoin practice for a couple of weeks at least, there’s room for a tight end to make a mark. Kittle and Ross Dwelley were in the top two spots Wednesday. The next guy up? It seemed to be veteran Tyler Kroft, who may have a leg up on fellow newcomer Troy Fumagalli because he played in the same offense last season with the Jets. Matthews and Tanner Hudson round out the group.
• The 49ers used all sorts of combinations along the defensive line. One of the more intriguing ones uses edge rushers Bosa and Samson Ebukam in combination with interior rushers Arik Armstead and Charles Omenihu. Omenihu might end up in the role Arden Key had last season — as an interior rusher who enters the game in obvious passing situations.
• We’ll have to follow up with him on this, but McGlinchey doesn’t look nearly as heavy as he did at this point last year. Weight has been a big topic with the right tackle. He dropped to 290 pounds in 2020, then gained 25 pounds before last season in an effort to bolster his pass protection. He appears to be somewhere in the middle of those marks now.
• Brandon Aiyuk, who spent big chunks of the offseason with Lance and Sudfeld, was the most prolific receiver Wednesday. He caught one pass from Lance and three from Sudfeld. Samuel, meanwhile, is conducting a “hold in.” He’s on-site for training camp but not practicing while a long-term deal is hammered out.
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) July 27, 2022
(Photo of Trey Lance: Stan Szeto / USA Today)