Chip Kelly's first Training Camp as 49ers head coach has started, with Day 1 in the books and Day 2 in progress. While it's widely known that the 49ers roster is lacking talent, storylines are still abundant.
There are questions on whether Kelly has changed his attitude towards his players and ownership. There are questions about his play calling abilities. There are most definitely questions about which quarterback he will choose to start Week 1.
Although Kelly's offense will feature a wide receiver group that was rated worst in the league by Pro Football Focus, it should be noted that in his offense in Philadelphia, receivers Riley Cooper, Jordan Matthews and Jeremy Maclin all had career years. It looks like Kelly can get the most out of his receivers regardless of their perceived talent level.
Kelly seems to be big on preparation and tempo. The 49ers are practicing at 10:00 AM during training camp to emulate start times they'll face in 5 of their games this year on the East Coast. As expected, his practices will be up-tempo to mimic how he will want the offense run. Looking back at his time in Philadelphia, he actually has 3 speeds he runs the offense at: no-huddle, "muddle huddle" (where the offense has a semi-huddle near the line of scrimmage), and the full huddle. It's not as if it's 100 miles per hour all the time. There will be situations that call for each type of tempo, the hope is that Kelly's learned from his past mistakes regarding this.
The coaching change has kind of been lost in the other storylines of the offseason that the Niners have been a part of. Be it the draft, the quarterback competition, free agency, the status of GM Trent Baalke, and so on. However, the intrigue of Kelly and what he brings is undeniable. He absolutely has faults that need to be addressed, as does any coach who is trying to improve, but he's an innovator and the 49ers offense will undoubtedly be more productive (and entertaining) than we've seen in the last couple of years.
What's left to be seen is the affect on the defense, where the 49ers' depth reflects the notion that they'll be on the field quite a bit this year. Regardless of what we hear about the team's talent level and the predictions of 6-10 or 5-11 seasons, at least we know that this will be a more entertaining season than last year.
-Word has come out of 49ers training camp that quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert are first team reps. This can either be a good thing for Kaepernick, given he hasn't fully participated in the offseason program , or a good thing for Gabbert because it shows that he has a legitimate shot at winning the top spot.
-Even though it's only been one day, Gabbert looks to be slightly ahead in the competition, with Kaepernick throwing the only interception of the day. One could argue that this is misleading because: 1.) it's only training camp and the first practice of training camp, 2.) Gabbert is known to be more accurate, especially underneath, 3.) Gabbert hesitates to risk pushing the ball downfield while Kaepernick hesitates to take the easier check down throws.
-Ian Williams signed a 5-year $27 million dollar deal while he was injured. The 49ers redid this contract in March to make it a 1-year, $6 million deal. Williams is now out for the season with an injury to his ankle.
-Taking Williams' spot on the roster will be now un-retired offensive tackle Anthony Davis. Davis looked good in his first practice after he slimmed down about 30 pounds in the offseason. He easily beat DE Tank Carradine in 1-on-1 drills.
Tom Jackson leaving ESPN
-On Webzone, we like to focus primarily on 49ers-related content. However, for today, we'll take a slight detour. Many of us can say that NFL Primetime has become just as much a part of football as anything. Original hosts Chris Berman and Tom Jackson weren't everyone's cup of tea, but they brought quality analysis/entertainment to our televisions and were the pioneers for the pre and post game show formats that we see today.
Tom Jackson is stepping aside after 28 years on the job. Even though he was an All-Pro linebacker with the Denver Broncos in the 70's and late 80's, he's become a household name for what he's done in the television studio.
Some of my fondest memories growing up were on Sunday and the routine of that day: Wake up and watch Chris Berman and Tom Jackson on NFL Gameday, then watching the games themselves and finally wrapping up the day with NFL Primetime.
At the outset, it sounded like a boring concept; narrating what happens in key plays with some music in the background. Yet Boomer and TJ, as they're affectionately known, broke down the x's and o's of games and were able to make it entertaining. I can even remember waiting for highlights to see what game was paired with what music.
They worked in perfect harmony, which is something that you don't always see today with the typical roster of 5 to 7 analysts that each show has. It feels as if now, we the viewers, don't get the full benefit out of a specific point of view because each guy on these shows is only speaking for 5 to 8 seconds at a time before the next guy gives his take.
Some readers may disagree, and that's understandable, but the vast majority of people seem to have enjoyed Berman and Jackson's run together. Lorenzo Neal (a former Pro Bowl fullback who played 16 years in the NFL) mentioned on 95.7 The Game last week that players would routinely tune into NFL Gameday before games to see what was going on with the league. The fact that the show had a big enough appeal to have players tune in is very telling.
It's truly the end of an era that changed the way that we watch the NFL and was the first of its kind. So thank you, TJ, for sharing your analysis and insight with viewers for the past 28 years.