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49ers Training Camp Day 1 Breakdown: Defense

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jul 26, 2023 at 6:30 PM--


Day 1 of the San Francisco 49ers training camp is officially over, as head coach Kyle Shanahan conducted a light, padless practice where the team installed primary shorter-area concepts, as well as various facets of the run game.

Both the offense and the defense had their moments on Day 1, with a ton of spotlight being shined on the quarterbacks, although I'd give the edge to the defense for the day.

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Defense


Defensive Line

Wednesday marked the first practice where 49ers fans saw defensive tackle Javon Hargrave live in a San Francisco uniform, as the free agent signing was front and center with the first-team defensive line alongside Arik Armstead.

With Nick Bosa not reporting to training camp as he awaits a new contract extension, Clelin Ferrell joined Drake Jackson as the starting edge rushers for the 49ers on Wednesday, taking Charles Omenihu's old number of No. 94.

Javon Kinlaw and Kevin Givens manned the interior for the second-team defense, while Austin Bryant and Kerry Hyder served as the backup edge rushers.

However, as Armstead and Hargrave didn't practice during team drills, Kinlaw and Givens were thrust into the first-team defense, where the 49ers' defensive line seemed to have the upper edge against the offensive line.

Kinlaw looked as good as he's been since with the 49ers, moving well and showcasing his explosiveness in the first offseason where he's truly been healthy without having to worry about fixing any issue.

Austin Bryant recorded the lone sack of the day, although the defense got pressure on the quarterback on a couple of occasions, including some blitzes from Steve Wilks.

The 49ers have over ten defensive linemen that could compete for a roster spot this season. The biggest question after Day 1: how many edge rushers and how many defensive tackles will they take?

Linebackers

Fred Warner's heroics earned him a spot on my "standouts" list today, as he recorded an impressive pass break-up while running stride-for-stride with Deebo Samuel on a crossing route.

Warner was joined by Dre Greenlaw and Oren Burks, who took over Azeez Al-Shaair's spot, in the base package, while Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Curtis Robinson, and Marcelino McCrary-Ball were the second-team linebackers, just like last offseason.

Flannigan-Fowles had an underrated day, as he seemed to force the fumble from running back Jordan Mason, looking to make plays and compete for one of the final roster spots at the position.

It'll be interesting whether either rookie Dee Winters or Jalen Graham can unseat one of the three second-team linebackers during training camp with a standout performance, forcing the 49ers' hand to keep them on the 53-man roster.

Cornerbacks

Charvarius Ward and Deommodore Lenoir, now wearing the No. 2, were the starting outside cornerbacks, with Isaiah Oliver, wearing No. 26, filling in as the top nickel in dime packages.

Ward had a pass breakup on the day on a play intended for Deebo Samuel, while Lenoir was on the other end of the stick when trying Brandon Aiyuk on a 50-50 ball, as the former fifth-rounder was mossed during an incredible play by the receiver.

With Darrell Luter on the Physically Unable to Perform(PUP) list, backup Samuel Womack, now wearing No. 0, was joined by a mixture of Ambry Thomas and D'Shawn Jamison as the outside cornerbacks with the second team today, while Qwuantrezz Knight filled in as the backup slot cornerback.

It's interesting to see the 49ers primarily play Womack on the outside, and I wonder if that changes when Luter returns from injury. The 49ers do need outside and inside depth, and Womack's skillset can provide them with that as the next man up this season.

Safeties

Talanoa Hufanga and Tashaun Gipson were seen as the top safeties in individual drills, although George Odum earned approximately 50% of the first-team reps in team drills, as Gipson was limited, likely due to rest.

As a result, Odum played with both the first and second-team defenses, working with Ji'Ayir Brown in the latter group.

Hufanga made one of the plays of the day, displaying his instincts and quick burst, as he wasn't fooled by Sam Darnold's attempt to look him off a deep throw, running cross-field to break up a potential touchdown to Danny Gray, who had beaten Ambry Thomas, while recording a near interception on the play.

Brown, a supposed standout during OTAs and minicamp, is having to work for his first-team reps in training camp, but has already displayed a strong work ethic, becoming the first 49ers' player out on the field for practice Wednesday, a feat usually held by Hufanga.

Tayler Hawkins was seen with the third unit, and made a nice play, sticking with Cam Latu and forcing a drop on a quick out-route from Trey Lance.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.



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