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49ers Training Camp Day 7 Breakdown: Defense

Rohan Chakravarthi
Aug 3, 2023 at 7:11 PM


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Day 7 of the San Francisco 49ers training camp is officially over, as it was a lighter practice following an off day Wednesday, as the team implemented a ton of play-action work, while several key players on either side of the ball rested.

The offense had a good day, as each of the quarterbacks played solid collectively, despite the absence of left tackle Trent Williams, left guard Aaron Banks, and running back Christian McCaffrey, amongst others.



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Defensive Line


After a strong week for the defensive line, where the 49ers' defense accumulated six and eight sacks over the last two practices, respectively, the unit was unable to wreak havoc on Thursday, which was surprising, given the 49ers did not have Trent Williams or Aaron Banks in action on the day.

Instead, the 49ers started Leroy Watson and a combination of Nick Zakelj and Jason Poe at left tackle and left guard, respectively, but the defensive line couldn't record a sack against the 49ers' offense on a day where each quarterback had a solid performance.

Arik Armstead and Javon Hargrave both suited up, although there were extensive rotations on the day, with several players sitting out of practice.

Nonetheless, it was a disappointing day for the defensive line, who fielded no standouts after consistently placing at least one player on my list of top performances in each of the last few practices.

In formation news, the 49ers debuted an intriguing defensive look: a 5-2 front with three defensive tackles that they sprinkled in at times last season, with Javon Kinlaw joining the starting unit for that package.

Linebackers


While the defensive line unit disappointed, the competition at linebacker continued to brew, as linebacker Dee Winters was the standout of the day, intercepting an intermediate pass from quarterback Trey Lance, getting deep enough in the zone, and making the nice catch for the takeaway.

Additionally, Winters, alongside Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, covered Brayden Willis on a shot play in the redzone during the move-the-ball period well, forcing an overthrow from Sam Darnold in the back of the endzone.

Winters stacked consecutive days of flash plays, pushing his way forward in a competitive room, as he looks to fight for a 53-man roster spot alongside fellow rookie Jalen Graham, Marcelino McCrary-Ball, Curtis Robinson, and Flannigan-Fowles.

McCrary-Ball continues to look the part, working with the first-team defense in sub packages alongside Fred Warner and Oren Burks, as Dre Greenlaw did not suit up Thursday following the off-day Wednesday.

The former undrafted free agent's closing speed is clear, as the safety-converted-linebacker possesses the quickness that the 49ers value, as well as the instincts and physicality to round out his game.

Defensive backs


The 49ers continue to stagger their top cornerbacks, with Charvarius Ward working alongside Samuel Womack and Deommodore Lenoir working alongside Ambry Thomas, which has tested the respective backup when they've hit the field.

Womack has responded well, breaking up an underthrown deep ball from Brock Purdy intended for Deebo Samuel, while not allowing a single catch on the day. Thomas, on the other hand, continues to struggle in coverage, especially when working against the top wideouts on the team.

Ji'Ayir Brown has been a quiet name, primarily being relegated to the second-team defense, while fellow backup George Odum has seen most of the work in three-safety sets and when rotating with veteran Tashaun Gipson. However, Brown did have a solid day, it appeared, on Thursday, with his instincts kicking in on a few occasions in the run game.

He hasn't really been tested much in the air, leading to a lack of splash plays, and will likely continue to benefit from added reps, which should come in joint practices against the Las Vegas Raiders next week, but especially during the preseason.

Gipson was off on a scheduled veteran rest day, leaving Talanoa Hufanga as the top safety, while Myles Hartsfield and Tayler Hawkins continue to specifically work on the third-team defense.
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