Summer is in the air and football season is right around the corner. In a lot of ways it’s here. The San Francisco 49ers kicked off OTAs this week, and while Day 2 was relatively uneventful, we did learn a few things.
What things, you ask? Read all about it.
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is clearly a big fan of his new running back, Jerick McKinnon. Jimmy G and Jet connected on quite a few passes and they seem to be in a rhythm early on.
“Guys have been working,” said Head Coach Kyle Shanahan. “They put in a lot of work and it’s been nice because this is the first two days that we’ve been able to do real football work with the guys, actually going against a defense, having a ball out there with rules. But, these guys have been working before we started with them. They’ve been working when we’ve been allowed to work with them. They’ve been throwing on their own, wherever it might be. I think these guys had been itching to get out there and it was a lot of fun to start.”
McKinnon’s versatility is one of the qualities that drew the 49ers’ to him, and the running back was easily Garoppolo’s favorite receiver of the day, though he did connect with Marquise Goodwin for a couple of big plays. Expect to see a much-improved 49ers’ passing game this fall.
Richard Sherman: Coach, Mentor, Cornerback
Cornerback Richard Sherman did not practice, as he’s still recovering from an achilles’ injury, but his presence was very known. The veteran Pro-Bowler has taken the 49ers’ young secondary under his wing both on and off-the-field, bringing the tradition of those close Seattle Seahawks’ defenses to Santa Clara.
Plus, according to Witherspoon, both he and Sherman are Aries which is one of the many reasons they get along.
“It was such a close group,” said Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon. “So he comes here and he understands that that kind of relationship between players is what builds champions. And that’s what we’re trying to obtain.”
“He’s very approachable and when he talks everybody listens,” said Defensive Lineman DeForest Buckner. “That’s the kind of respect everybody has for him in the locker room. His presence alone is real strong and everybody, we can’t wait for him to get back out there so we can, he’s definitely gonna run a feed off of his energy.”
From dinners to Go-Kart races, Sherman and company have been spending a lot of time together. Witherspoon was thisclose to beating his mentor, but it was not to be.
“Sherm comes up, bumps us, we spin out,” said Witherspoon. “I stayed in second because I bumped Trovon Reed again. But I was just mad he got the win.”
Shanahan definitely isn’t complaining that he seems to have another coach on the roster.
“It’s always nice when you have someone who has a lot of experience in a very similar system,” Shanahan said. “The foundation of it all came from the same spot, and when you’ve got a guy that has played in it that long and really started in that system and has kind of excelled in it as good as anyone, it’s nice to have.”
The Richard Sherman experiment is off to a good start.
The New and Improved Offensive Line
Rookie Mike McGlinchy started at right tackle. As the only rookie who played with the starters, it’s clear that’s where McGlinchy will stay.
Over at center, Weston Richburg is getting a chance to play with his new QB. It’s only day two, but things are off to a promising start.
“It’s been good,” said Richburg. “He’s very professional. Obviously, he had a good year last year when he came in and won all those games. You can definitely tell that the guy is very professional and wants to be great. It’s easy for us to kind of come along and follow his lead.”
Richburg said he has been to one of the infamous Garoppolo Saturday throwing sessions with the receivers but that it was somewhat “boring” for a lineman. Fair.
Richburg also credits the 49ers with creating a somewhat collegiate atmosphere that has helped make this team so close.
“Everything we do makes sense,” said Richburg. “And if it doesn’t make sense, our coaching staff is able to tell you the why behind it, which makes it easy for us as players to go in and really buy in to what we’re doing.”
Over at Linebacker
With the 49ers’ awaiting tomorrow’s decision as to whether or not Reuben Foster’s case will go to trial, Malcolm Smith played at middle inside linebacker (MIKE).
“If you’re going to play WILL, our MIKE communicates to everyone,” said Shanahan. “He sets the calls, he calls it in the huddle, he changes it at the line of scrimmage. When tight ends motion, he changes the strengths and everything. If you’re not used to speaking that stuff every day, it’s hard to just throw a guy into that situation. We’ve got a bunch of good players at inside linebacker. There’s only two spots. You guys understand the situation with [LB] Reuben [Foster] now. We’ve got a lot of depth, too, with what we’ve had and what we’ve drafted. So we’ve got to make sure all those guys are interchangeable, so we’ve got to give him reps at both and we’ll see how this pans out by Week 1.”
Eli Harold was at strong-side linebacker (SAM) and Korey Toomer played the weak-side (WILL). Rookie Fred Warner also saw time at MIKE with the second-stringers.
“He’s been very impressive out there,” said Shanahan. “…He’s very smart and he plays like it on the field. He doesn’t hesitate. He’s a rookie out there, but he’s calling the plays, maybe even too loud because I can hear him from the offensive side. But, he doesn’t mind speaking up. He’s confident in what he’s doing.”
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