Richard Sherman making himself heard at 49ers camp
Richard Sherman appears to be operating on a different level early in his second training camp with the 49ers. Last season, coming off the Achilles injury, he wasn’t quite the animated, boisterous presence on the practice field that many expected following his time in Seattle.
That version of Sherman appears to be back in 2019. He’s regularly encouraging his teammates with emotional screams from the sideline if they make a good play — and he wasn’t afraid to drop his shoulder and make a big hit Tuesday.
One of the biggest collisions in practice came early on, perhaps setting the tone for the rest of the session mostly controlled by the defense. Halfback Tevin Coleman took a run outside and Sherman collided with him, sending him right to the ground (tackling isn’t allowed, but collisions are commonplace, particularly with pads on). Sherman and his defensive teammates were pretty fired up afterward. The hit came moments after Sherman was draped over wideout Dante Pettis, forcing an incompletion.
As mentioned, the starting defense had the upper hand Tuesday. Ahkello Witherspoon was having a good practice before banging his knee during a pass break up (more on that later). Second-year pro Tarvarius Moore was given first-team reps at free safety, the position he played in college before switching to corner with San Francisco in 2018.
And unlike Monday, when Adrian Colbert was beaten deep by receiver Richie James for a 60-yard score on Jimmy Garoppolo’s first pass, the 49ers offense didn’t get to complete any explosive passes Tuesday with Moore playing over the top, which could be a good sign for the athletic third-round draft pick. Colbert worked back in with the starters during the second half of practice.
The closest thing to a long completion from Garoppolo was a deep incompletion on a wheel route to tight end George Kittle, who may have been interfered with by linebacker Malcolm Smith, though the referees on hand kept flags in their pockets.
First-round pick Nick Bosa had another strong practice while mostly getting second-string reps. He had two would-be sacks of San Francisco’s backups, with one coming on a play when he was unblocked.
Against the starters, he had a pressure of Garoppolo where he bent around the edge of Mike McGlinchey, but Garoppolo found his outlet in Coleman just before Bosa could get home.
The offense’s best play of the day was a long Matt Breida would-be touchdown sprint up the left sideline. Long runs have been rare so far during training camp. The defense’s new “Wide-9” alignments along the defensive line are designed to stop outside zone runs, which are a staple of coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense.
Additionally, the 49ers were without fullback Kyle Juszczyk Tuesday, which might have also played a role in the inconsistent ground game. The team’s linebackers have played well and benefited from the improved talent along the defensive line so far.
It was Garoppolo’s worst day of camp to date. He completed just 5 of 14 passes, with most of his completions coming on checkdowns or screens. He was inaccurate on a short post route to Kittle, throwing the ball slightly behind the Pro Bowler, though Kittle likely should have made the catch. The secondary, led by Sherman, appeared to be disrupting a lot of what the offense was trying to do.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh on the play of the secondary Tuesday: “They were working pretty good. But I just want to make sure they’re getting better every single day, competing their tails off. As long as they’re doing that, they’ll always have a chance.”
Saleh on the defensive line being strong defending the run so far in camp:
“The physicality, the get-off, all that stuff, what they’re doing, it’s like organized chaos. They’re getting off, it’s very violent, there’s bodies flying all over the place. It is hard, our (offense’s) zone scheme, for them. But we’re an eight-man (front), we’re always going to have one available, one un-blocked player, often the offense has to go find it. ... The chaos that we’re presenting with their get-off and that stuff is excellent.”
Defensive back Jimmie Ward was activated off the physically unable to perform list before Tuesday’s practice, though he didn’t participate. The staff wants Ward to participate in walk-throughs and other team activities on the field, which he couldn’t do while on PUP, though it could be some time before he returns to practice. Ward suffered a broken collar bone in late May.