The San Francisco 49ers hit the practice field for day three of 2018 training camp. Let's break down some key storylines and tidbits to watch for Saturday's action.


The San Francisco 49ers have put two days of on-field training camp practices in the books. On day one, the Niners defense seemed to have the edge, which is to be expected. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's Cover 3 system is far less complex than head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense.

But the offense bounced back on day two, including quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo looking quite sharp.

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Heading into day three of practices, what should fans pay attention to and which players might command the storylines? Let's take a look.

Can Rookie Wideout Richie James Stay Hot?


Seventh-round rookie wide receiver Richie James had himself a nice debut on day one of practices, including a 30-yard catch from quarterback C.J. Beathard, per 49ers.com's Joe Fann:


James backed this up on day two. Niner Noise's Aaron Tan broke down what he saw on Friday:

Observing this practice told me that James would not only have a 100 percent chance of making the roster, but should also have a big role on the offense in the 2018 season.

James caught everything headed his way, even when coverage was very tight. He was getting a lot of reps and it is very clear that the coaching staff loves him.

At 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, James is competing for one of only a handful of depth spots at wide receiver. Yet he appears to be benefiting from the absence of second-year wideout Trent Taylor, who is on the PUP list with a back injury. And by all accounts, it appears as if James is taking full advantage of the extra looks.

The former Middle Tennessee State receiver still has a ways to go to ensure a roster spot. But it's going to be hard to ignore him if he keeps displaying efforts like the ones seen the first two days.

Running Back Jerick McKinnon Starting to Command the Offense


According to Niners Wire's Chris Biderman, veteran running back Jerick McKinnon felt "really lost" upon arriving in San Francisco and trying to command Shanahan's system.

Yet McKinnon flashed a number of splash plays already, including a long run to the left that went for a big gain.

McKinnon has never posted more than 570 rush yards in a single season. Buried on the Minnesota Vikings depth chart, though, he hasn't exactly had a chance to be featured. That changes with San Francisco now. Better yet, his unique skill set -- an elusive runner as well as a pass-catching back -- is tailor made for Shanahan's system.

The explosive potential is going to be something to continue monitoring throughout camp, and it's possible that shows up on day three.

How Will the Defensive Line Look?


As Tan noted, edge rushers Cassius Marsh and Jeremiah Attaochu were both regularly putting pressure on quarterbacks in their own pass-rushing efforts. The pads haven't come on yet -- that happens today -- so one has to look at the "simulated" pressures and would-be sacks with a grain of salt.

But with all the questions San Francisco has surrounding its pass rush this season, it's at least a bit good to see both Marsh and Attaochu making an early impact. If that stays the case throughout most of camp, this apparent weakness might not be as critical as initially thought.

One area in which there's little concern is defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who was dominant in practices, according to Fann:


Pro Football Focus ranked Buckner the No. 6 overall interior defender last season, and it appears as if he is picking up right where he left off last season.

The 49ers have three first-round investments on the defensive line -- Buckner, Arik Armstead and, most recently, Solomon Thomas. If this unit finally starts to jell, it's likely the tandem of Marsh and Attaochu will benefit to a hefty extent. Thomas, especially, is looking to bounce back from an otherwise sub-par rookie campaign a year ago. Yet if his maturation increases on a solid trajectory, the Niners will essentially have a potent one-two punch up front.

Keep an eye on how that develops during practice.

San Francisco kicks off padded practice today at 1:15 p.m. ET from its practice facility in Santa Clara. Be sure to stay tuned for further developments and news as the day moves along.

Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to @PeterPanacy on Twitter.