49ers rookie Nick Bosa impressing so far in camp
Defensive end Nick Bosa continues to impress at 49ers training camp as he strings together quality practices in his first extended action since being drafted No. 2 overall in April. With Dee Ford sidelined with knee tendinitis, the defensive lineman spent more time Saturday with the starters than he had previously.
Bosa’s first play of team drills was impressive. He wasn’t going against veteran Joe Staley, who was given the day off, but he made quick work of backup tackle Shon Coleman, winning with an inside move and getting to Jimmy Garoppolo for a would-be sack (Garoppolo extended the play and found backup tight end Ross Dwelley for a big gain up the right sideline).
Bosa’s teammates have taken notice. His hamstring injury in May caused him to miss the bulk of the offseason program, but he’s been getting healthy and playing well to the point where defensive coordinator Robert Saleh admitted that he doesn’t want to heap too much praise, given Bosa’s rookie status.
“So far he’s been doing a very good job getting better every day,” Saleh said. “He is winning some one-on-ones, he’s not winning all of them, which you don’t expect. He is getting better. His whole deal is to continue to get better, stay healthy, improve on his game, and add a second repertoire to keep adding to his skill set with regard to pass rush. He’s really good in the run game, could get better, but he’s progressing the right way.”
The 49ers are working Bosa in slowly after his core muscle injury caused him to miss most of his final season at Ohio State. The goal is to make sure he’s healthy and ready for a significant number of snaps Sept. 8 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So far, the returns are promising.
The 49ers worked extensively in the red zone for the second practice in a row and had better results from the first-string offense. The day’s highlight was a 15-yard touchdown from Garoppolo to tight end George Kittle, who leaped over tight coverage from linebacker Malcolm Smith to haul in the well-placed throw. Smith’s arm was tangled with Kittle’s, but Kittle used his strength to make the catch anyway.
If there’s one area of Kittle’s game that could improve, it’s making catches when the field is condensed in the red zone. Much of his success during his record-breaking 2018 came in the open field. The next step in his evolution will be to make more touchdown catches when he’s bracketed by defenders — and Saturday’s play was a good example after Garoppolo missed him on an open slant route during Friday’s practice. Just two of Kittle’s five touchdowns last year came in the red zone.
Speaking of the red zone, receiver Kendrick Bourne made another highlight play during a one-on-one period, making a tricky diving touchdown grab on a throw from Nick Mullens. Additionally, rookie Jalen Hurd made some nice grabs during the same drill.
Rookie second-round pick Deebo Samuel caught touchdown pass from C.J. Beathard on a fade route. Samuel has gotten off to a slow start in camp, which isn’t entirely shocking given the complexities of coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. But his slow integration after missing OTAs with a minor hip injury could lead to Bourne opening the season as the top “Z” receiver in place of Pierre Garçon.
Garoppolo put together a third consecutive strong showing as the 49ers are nearing the end of their installation period of training camp. Unofficially, he completed 7 of 12 during full-team drills which were highlighted by the touchdown throw to Kittle.
His throw to Dwelley on his first attempt, following the would-be Bosa sack, came after he rolled to his right and hit his target on the run. Garoppolo’s mobility has been ramped up in recent sessions as he continues to gain confidence in his surgically repaired left knee.