The biggest news coming out of Santa Clara has been mostly about injuries for the San Francisco 49ers. A few veterans have suffered some nagging injuries while Chris Culliver was lost for the season due to an ACL tear in his left knee. The good news out of camp is that once the pads went on, Nnamdi Asomugha has shown glimpses of the good player that he was. Some other players have been pleasant surprises as well.
The amount of injuries that have hit the 49ers may cause some to think that Jim Harbaugh is running a physical camp. That is far from the truth. A few of the injuries, the most major ones (Culliver, Darius Flemming) happened in non contact drills. Patrick Willis did slightly fracture his right wrist in a collision with Bruce Miller during a blitz pickup drill in one on one session in practice.
The days of Mike Singletary and the nutcracker drills are a thing of the pass, but unfortunately, the injuries are amounting. Kyle Williams and A.J. Jenkins both are out with hamstring injuries. This is crucial to the wide receiver competition. NaVarro Bowman also went down with a slight groin injury. This is giving Michael Wilhoite and Nate Subpar some increased reps to show that they belong.
The wide receiver position is probably the one that everyone is watching closely. Jenkins and Ricardo Lockette were expected to step up but injuries have got in the way for both of them. In the meantime, Chad Hall has stepped up and even earned praise from Colin Kaepernick. Marlon Moore has also flashed some ability. Greg Roman pointed that out.
The team signed two wide receivers yesterday, Lavelle Hawkins and Austin Collie. One name that they should look at is Jesse Holley. Many remember him as the Dallas Cowboy who had a 77 yard reception in overtime back in 2011. It set up the winning field goal as the Cowboys beat the 49ers at Candlestick Parck.
Nnamdi Asomugha has shown that he still can play. Once the pads went on, a physical corner will come to life. He has done very well at the right corner position. The last three practices have included very good play by him.
Ian Williams was signed for depth and to compete at the nose tackle slot. He has made a mark right from the start of camp. Williams may even be able to earn a starting spot. I spoke to him before training camp and he said that he has worked a lot with Ray MacDonald and Justin Smith. Macdonald actually said that Williams is an upgrade from the departed Isaac Sopoaga and Rickey Jean Francios.
Eric Reid has been working mostly with the second team defense but has gotten some reps with the first team. He got his first interception this week. The ability and athleticism definitely shows on the field. Once he is able to put it all together, he will be a very good defender on the back end.
Kaepernick has continued to show that he is steadily improving. The most noticeable improvement is his touch on the ball. He has shown how he can throw a very catchable ball instead of breaking his receivers fingers on shorter throws.
He has also shown that he and Vernon Davis can be a potent combination. The two have connected numerous times on deep passes in training camp. Davis has worked out with the wide receivers but this doesn’t mean that he will play that position. He came back more lean and is ready to take on a larger role in the passing game.
Anquan Boldin has been a big help and worked with the younger wide receivers. I spoke with A.J. Jenkins earlier in the off season and he told me that he has learned from working with him. As Mindi Bach of Comcast Sportsnet said, Bolding and Kaepernick are working to develop their chemistry. They do a lot of talking off of the field in an effort to get a better feel for each other. Boldin has excelled in camp and will be a major part of the passing game.
So far the news from camp is good and bad. The injuries and the lack of someone stepping up at the receiver position does cause some concern. The good thing is that Kaepernick is developing a good connection with his main targets.