Early on in training camp, 49ers' pass rush appears much-improved

Early on in training camp, 49ers' pass rush appears much-improved

SANTA CLARA – Moments before the 49ers’ first padded practice of training camp, Hall of Famer pass-rusher Charles Haley got the attention of Aaron Lynch.

“I’m going to be watching you,” Haley said Sunday morning, giving Lynch a not-so-subtle expectation for his day of work.

On Day 3 of training camp, the 49ers’ pass rush provided reason to expect the team’s defense should be dramatically improved from a year ago.

Although Lynch has slid down the depth chart under the new regime, there is no denying he remains a player with vast potential. Lynch gave Haley plenty to appreciate, as he broke through for a couple of sacks during 11-on-11 drills.

Arik Armstead, who is lining up with the first-team defense at the “Leo” position, was constantly in the quarterback’s face with three would-be sacks. Ahmad Brooks and Elvis Dumervil also picked up sacks. Right tackle Trent Brown struggled mightily to handle the 49ers’ pass-rushers.

“We’re so deep on the D-line and linebacker position with guys who can rush the passer,” Armstead said. “I feel like even our twos are ones. I don’t see even twos in my head. I feel like we’re all ones, and we’ll send them in waves.

“Getting sacks is more of a mentality. We have the right scheme to do it. We have the mentality to do it. And we have the players to do it.”

Armstead has lost approximately 15 pounds to better be able to handle the requirements of the 49ers’ rush-end position. He could also see action on nickel downs rushing the passer from defensive tackle.

Lynch is in a battle to retain his spot on the roster. Dumervil enters the season with 99 career sacks. DeForest Buckner has set a realistic goal of 10 sacks this season. And 49ers are expecting big contributions from rookie Solomon Thomas, too.

More depth and a Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme, which emphasizes a more aggressive approach, should add up to a significantly more dynamic pass rush this season.


--Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster was beaten badly in one-on-one pass coverage drills against Matt Breida, Carlos Hyde, Logan Paulsen and Tim Hightower.

But once 11-on-11 began, Foster had an interception returned for a TD on Nick Mullens' pass intended for Bruce Ellington. It was Foster’s second pick-six in three days of practices.

“I guess the ball’s got a thing for me,” he said. “I don’t have a thing for the ball.”

--Hyde had a good showing during one-on-one drills, beating Foster and NaVorro Bowman in single coverage.

--Quarterback Brian Hoyer had another strong day, including another deep completion – 45 yards in the air -- to speedster Marquise Goodwin for a touchdown – this one against the coverage of cornerback Dontae Johnson.

--Safety Eric Reid was hobbled with an apparent right ankle injury after he wrapped up running back Tim Hightower on the second play of practice. He returned to the field a few minutes later, but then was removed later in the practice. All indications after practice was the injury is not expected to be an ongoing concern. "I’m being optimistic that it’s not too bad," coach Kyle Shanahan said.

--The 49ers expect free safety Jimmie Ward (hamstring) to be ready toward the middle of August when practices will take place against Denver. The teams will hold joint practices Aug. 16 and 17 before their exhibition game Saturday, Aug. 19, at Levi’s Stadium.

--The 49ers’ first-team offensive line consisted of left tackle Joe Staley, left guard Joshua Garnett, center Daniel Kilgore, right guard Brandon Fusco and right tackle Trent Brown.

--Bruce Ellington made a one-handed grab on a C.J. Beathard pass and turned it into a long touchdown.

--Undrafted rookie safety Chanceller James had a pick-six on a Matt Barkley pass.

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

Shanahan expects 'everyone in our building to be pissed off' after loss to Denver

After a couple of practices and one exhibition game against the Denver Broncos, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan once again came to the realization things are often not as good or bad as they seem.

That was his takeaway a day after the 49ers provided the Broncos with five giveaways to go along with 11 penalties in a 33-14 loss at Levi’s Stadium.

“But when I get in and watch the tape, it wasn’t quite as bad as it felt,” Shanahan said Sunday on a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “When you look at each situation, especially when you talk about the ones on offense, it takes 11 guys to execute a play, and if you have one guy off a little bit, it breaks down.”

A couple of passes that could have been caught, a ball that slipped out of quarterback Brian Hoyer’s hand and some other correctable errors gives Shanahan reason to be optimistic.

When he spoke to the media on Saturday night after the game, Shanahan was clearly upset with how his 90-man team performed. He was asked a day later if it was a relief to watch the film and come to the conclusion that not everything was a total disaster.

“It’s not really relief,” Shanahan quipped. “It’s kind of my life story.

“We put a lot into it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a scrimmage, practice or preseason. I try to compose myself by the time I talk to you guys (the media) after practice. But I’m pretty pissed after practice when it doesn’t go well. We’re competitive guys and we want everything to be perfect. That’s why most of the time I’m not that happy.”

Shanahan said he expects everyone in the organization to hold themselves to the same high standard.

“Whenever you go out to a game like that, you want to win, you want to play well,” he said. “And you turn the ball over like that and you have the penalties that we did, I’m definitely going to be pissed off and I expect everyone in our building to be pissed off. If they’re not, that’s when I would be worried.”

Shanahan said he had the opposite feeling after the practice Wednesday against the Broncos that looked like a decisive win for the 49ers. Upon review, Shanahan said he felt there was still a lot of room for improvement.

“I thought things seemed real good at practice our first day versus them,” he said. “Then, I go in and watch the film and it was good but not quite as good as I felt when I was out there.”

49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon


49ers could get presumptive starting free safety back soon

The 49ers could get their presumptive starting free safety back on the field this week.

Jimmie Ward, who has been on the physically-unable-to-perform list since sustaining a hamstring injury during a conditioning test on the eve of training camp, will go through strenuous workouts Monday and Tuesday.

Ward could be cleared to return to practice as early as Wednesday, when the club is scheduled to hold its next practice.

Coach Kyle Shanahan said Sunday in a conference call with reporters that defensive backs coach Jeff Hafley will will pace him through a football-related workout on Monday and Tuesday.

"Hopefully, we'll get him ready to go by Wednesday," Shanahan said.

The 49ers envision Ward, a first-round draft pick in 2014, as a major contributor in the team’s new 4-3 scheme, which is based on Seattle’s defense. With strong safety Eric Reid playing close to the line of scrimmage, Ward will play the deep safety – a role that Earl Thomas has played for the Seahawks.

In Ward’s absence, undrafted rookie safety Lorenzo Jerome started the 49ers’ first two exhibition games and appears to have played his way into solid position for a spot on the 53-man roster.

"Lorenzo has done a good job," Shanahan said. "I think a couple of times he's ran around and been a ballhawk for us and made some tackles. I thought they caught him a few times out of position last night on a few play-action looks because he's been so aggressive. He's going to have to learn from those, but they never made him pay for those by going outside."

--The 49ers will have days off on Monday and Tuesday as they settle into their regular-season routine.

--Shanahan said he has been formulating ideas for the game plan against Carolina in Week 1 of the regular season. So as the 49ers play the exhibition games, they are mindful of not showing too much.

"I never get too far away from that," Shanahan said. "Everything we put into a preseason game, you always try to take into account what you’re going to be doing in the regular season."

--Shanahan said he thought No. 1 quarterback Brian Hoyer "did a good job." He said the first throw intended for Vance McDonald over the middle was thrown a little late.

"Besides that, I thought he did a good job with his reads and went to the right spots," Shanahan said.

Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard also was on-point with his reads, Shanahan said.

--Eli Harold got the start Saturday night at outside linebacker position, as he competes with Ahmad Brooks for a job.

"I try to go off what I see in practice," Shanahan said. "You want to know who has more upside, things like that. Who's going to get better throughout the year if given the opportunity? But you also want to know, when it's all said and done, who is going to affect your win-loss record the most. Those are the things I look at personally."

--Former 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin announced his retirement on Sunday. Shanahan never coached him, but he was obviously a big fan.

"I've personally met Anquan or talked to him before, but he has been one of my favorites of all time," Shanahan said. "I love Anquan. I don't know him at all, but I feel like I do because I've always studied how he plays. I remember watching him in college when he came into Florida State as a quarterback and moved quickly to receiver his freshman year.

"And I remember him coming into the league and people thinking he wouldn't be as great because he didn't have a fast 40 time. And watching him play over the years. That's my definition of a football player. He's as violent of a receiver as there is, and I've always truly believed that receivers can really set the mentality of an offense. I feel lineman have no choice, they have to be tough. Running backs, if you're not tough, you're not going to make it in this league because you get hit every play. Quarterbacks got to hang in there. Receivers are the guys who can pick and choose a little bit. And when you have guys who play like Anquan, that just brings a whole different mentality to your offense that I think usually leads to teams that have chances to win Super Bowls."