For the first time since 2004, the 49ers held a training camp practice at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco. For those who don't know, Kezar was the 49ers' first home and the team played there until 1970, after which they moved to Candlestick Park. It is a place with the type of character and quirkiness that one would expect out of a structure that resides in San Francisco. The unique setting provided an opportunity for fans to attend the only open practice of 2016. I too had a chance to attend this practice alongside my colleague, Aaron Erickson.
While the setting was memorable, there were few plays to remember, as 49ers beat writer Matt Maiocco noted. It was mostly a vanilla practice where there was no hitting and no tackling. It also shouldn't be expected that the team reveal their gameplan and most crucial plays in front of a public audience before the regular season has even started (you know, when things really matter).
That being said, it was a rough day for the quarterbacks. Thad Lewis was the best quarterback in this practice - that should tell you all that you need to know about how Colin Kaepernick and Blaine Gabbert performed at Kezar. During individual drills, they were both mostly alright. Kaepernick was struggling with 10-yard out routes, but nothing that wasn't correctable. Gabbert was consistently late on almost all of his throws on the day, throwing many passes behind receivers, also nothing that wasn't correctable.
When it came time for 7 on 7's and 11 on 11's, it got even worse. Kaepernick was, by far, the more aggressive quarterback and threw the ball downfield more, even though he completed very few of those throws. Gabbert focused mostly on shorter passes and tucked the ball and ran several times (those are thought of as sacks in practice). One of the few passes downfield resulted in a tipped ball (that should have been intercepted by corner Rashard Robinson) that ended up in wide receiver Jerome Simpson's hands for a touchdown.
Gabbert also struggled to make the proper read during the zone-read portion of practice, handing the ball off instead of hanging onto it when he saw the defensive end crashing down. Kaepernick, for all of his issues throwing the ball during practice, was able to complete those drills successfully. Kaepernick's footwork is still slower than Gabbert's as is his release, but they both seem improved over last year in their mechanics.
Head coach Chip Kelly would not commit to a starter for the first preseason game, saying that they would get "equal playing time, and equal snaps."
-Kaepernick and Gabbert equally split snaps with the starters in 7 on 7's, 11 on 11's and red zone drills.
-Cornerback Will Redmond (who was practicing with a brace on his surgically repaired right knee) seemed to come up limping a bit after receiver Bryce Treggs beat him twice to the corner of the end zone in the red zone portion of practice. Both passes fell incomplete.
-Receiver DeAndre Smelter had back-to-back drops of easy passes during individual drills. He did have a nice catch in traffic over the middle later during 7 on 7's.
-Linebacker NaVorro Bowman commented on the quarterback competition: "For the guy that ends up with the twos, it might be a little harder to execute (due to the drop off in talent), so he's going to have to make sure he works hard to make plays."
-Jaquiski Tartt continued to remain on the field in a 3 safety package with Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid. Tartt was playing in the box with the other two back at their normal deep safety positions
-Guard Zane Beadles on practicing at Kezar: "To come up here and come to Kezar, walking through that tunnel just to think of the people that have walked through there before and how long it's been here and the history of the team and the city, it's definitely a cool thing."
-Torrey Smith seemed to show no ill effects of the injured knee that caused him to miss practice last week.