49ers offense sluggish on 2nd day of training camp
SANTA CLARA - Kyle Shanahan expected his offense would play better the first two days of training camp.
The 49ers head coach was so concerned Friday after practice, he forgot he was the 49ers’ head coach. For a minute, he thought he was their offensive coordinator.
Technically, he is their offensive coordinator and their head coach. But on Friday, he went full coordinator. Reverted to his old job and way of thinking.
“I thought we were better yesterday than today,” Shanahan said, referring to the offense as “we.”
“I thought the defense had two real good days,” he continued, “did a little better than the offense yesterday. I thought today was a big difference. I was a little more disappointed today. I don’t think the offense had a very good rhythm. We got out to a slow start. We had a couple missed assignments early.”
Here’s what generally happened. Shanahan would call a play, and two receivers would run to the same spot, like actors in a madcap comedy. One was confused. The quarterback would yell and point and try to help the confused receiver move to the correct place in the formation. Shanahan would let the players bumble around for a few seconds, then make them huddle up again and start the play over.
“It gets sloppy and it kind of takes out the flow of practice,” Shanahan said. “Everything is scripted, so you should know what’s expected.”
Now, Shanahan The Coordinator was referring to his offense as “you.” He was speaking directly to his offensive players, except none of them were in the room.
THE OTHER GUY
Meet the 49ers’ best cornerback from Friday’s practice.
Not Richard Sherman. The other guy. Sherman gave up a catch. The other guy didn’t.
After practice, the other guy walked to the podium in the 49ers auditorium and said, “This is my first time being up here. Work with me.”
“You look ready for it,” a reporter reassured him.
“Appreciate you,” the other guy said, then he leaned forward into the microphone and introduced himself: “Ahkello Witherspoon, cornerback, No. 23.”
A year ago, Witherspoon was the rookie victim Carlos Hyde ran over during practice. Witherspoon was standing at the goal line and didn’t expect Hyde to hit him. Players aren’t supposed to hit each other during practice. Hyde made an exception for Witherspoon.
“I never let that get to me,” Witherspoon said. “Not one time.”
This year, things are different. Hyde is gone - he signed with the Cleveland Browns. And Witherspoon is the guy hitting teammates in practice.
On Friday, he broke up a pass intended for wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, then ran through Goodwin and knocked him on his back.
“I think he grew an inch,” Goodwin said. “He has definitely grown as a player since last year. He’s more aggressive and patient in his play. I’m excited to see what he will do against other teams.”
Other teams will test Witherspoon big time this season. To them, he’s still the other guy.
THE TOUGHEST ?RECEIVER TO COVER
Before Witherspoon left the auditorium, a reporter asked him which 49ers receiver is the toughest to cover.
“Marquise Goodwin,” Witherspoon said right away. He didn’t have to think.
Last year, the answer probably would have been Pierre Garcon. He was the only receiver on the team who had been a full-time starter in the NFL. But he broke his neck last season and missed eight games. And he’ll be 32 on Aug. 8.
During Garcon’s absence last season, Goodwin became the 49ers’ go-to receiver. And he still is their go-to receiver. Jimmy Garoppolo throws to him more than anyone else during practice, because he trusts Goodwin. They played together last season. Garoppolo and Garcon did not play together. So far, Garcon hasn’t caught a pass during training camp. Goodwin caught two on Friday.
“He is underestimated as a route runner,” Witherspoon said. “He runs very intricate routes, detailed routes. Combine that with speed that threatens you - you have to respect it.”
Sometimes, it seems the only person who stops Goodwin is Goodwin. He gets open, but can’t always hold onto the ball. Either he drops it or fumbles.
On Friday, he fumbled. He ran a shallow cross, caught the ball, took two steps and got stripped by Brock Coyle. The ball rolled to Jaquiski Tartt and the defense recovered it.
Goodwin laid on the grass and pounded it with his fist. Then, he got up and walked off the field. Three plays later, he still was kicking up grass on the sideline.
“When I have a drop or a missed assignment, which very rarely happens, but when it does, of course I’m frustrated,” Goodwin said after practice.
“I not only wanted to make the play, but I wanted to do it for the team. So, a little frustration settles in, but you’ve got to get over it and move on to the next play.”
“You seemed quite upset a few plays later,” a reporter said.
“Did I?” Goodwin asked, frowning. “There was actually a really big bug on the ground. I had to stomp it. I wasn’t mad at all.”