Maiocco: Observations from Camp Alex

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Maiocco: Observations from Camp Alex

June 13, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com

Today marks the one-week anniversary of the opening of "Camp Alex," the first 49ers' players-organized practice sessions since the 1987 strike.Here are some quick thoughts after being around for the final three days of the work at San Jose State:
--There's not much more that could be expected from unsigned quarterback Alex Smith during this work stoppage. He is living up to expectations in March, April, May and June. And none of it will matter one bit unless he also plays well and leads the 49ers to some victories in September, October, November and December.--As much recognition as Alex Smith got for being the ringleader for the week of work, he was not alone. Offensive lineman Joe Staley got in touch with rookies Daniel Kilgore and Mike Person and invited them to bunk at his place. He has stepped up as the leader on the offensive line.WATCH: More video from Camp Alex
--Adam Snyder, who knows every position on the offensive line, also did his fair share when the linemen broke into a separate groups to go over their protection assignments. Snyder, by the way, looks to be in tremendous physical condition. He has dropped his weight to 300 pounds by declining super-sized eating portions. His weight is lower than it has been since he was a sophomore at Oregon, he said.
--Center David Baas said he wants to re-sign with the 49ers. And he proved it when he took a cross-country flight to participate in the final day. He came into the NFL at the same time as Alex Smith, so there's been no system continuity in his career, either. "Let's be honest," Baas said. "I've had six different playbooks. If I can't learn a playbook quickly, something's wrong. I think I messed up and said one old call out there (Thursday) versus a new call. I'm a smart guy. I'm going to pick it up."--Remember the talk a week after the draft that rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick was going to learn the 49ers' playbook from Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck? "Yeah, that was blown way out of proportion," Kaepernick said. The 49ers' playbook is different from the Stanford playbook. Kaepernick said there was never any talk of getting Luck to teach him the playbook. Luck doesn't even know the 49ers' playbook. If Kaepernick has any questions, he's asking Alex Smith.--And Alex Smith seems to know the playbook very well. His practices were very well organized. And, apparently, so were his hour-long classroom sessions. "Alex is pretty much up there and going through it like the offensive coordinator would," 49ers running back Anthony Dixon said. "It's amazing how much he knows. He know the ins and outs and all the crazy (details) we got. It's great to hear. I'm behind him 100 percent because when your quarterback is out there speaking the offense as fluent as he is, it makes you feel like it's going to be a good year."RELATED: Jim Harbaugh expects July lockout settlement; praises Smith
--Dixon is looking to put himself into position to be more of a contributor after an up-and-down rookie season. "The biggest thing is attitude," Dixon said. "You have to have the right attitude the whole year because it's so long. I feel off last year in that area. This year, I'm going to work on staying mentally focused and the right attitude and mindset."--Rookie running back Kendall Hunter looks quick and explosive. Dixon was happy that the 49ers drafted him because, he said, "They got us more help. Those reps get crazy in camp and in the preseason."
--There's no reason for the defensive players to get together in large groups because there's no teamwork aspects they can practice. Nobody has defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's playbook. That said, Justin Smith is clearly the leader on that side of the ball. He showed up Thursday with first-round pick Aldon Smith tagging along. Isaac Sopoaga, Parys Haralson, Curtis Taylor and Ray McDonald are the other defensive players showing up on a consistent basis.--McDonald, like Alex Smith and David Baas, is a scheduled free agent. I'd be very surprised if all three of those players are not re-signed shortly after the lockout concludes.RELATED: Baas shows commitment after cross country flight
--Yes, I believe Delanie Walker will see more passes come his way as the second tight end. The 49ers have used a lot of two-TE sets the past couple seasons, so Walker's role is not going to change that much. It's just that the 49ers should be better-prepared to exploit mismatches with a more sound offensive philosophy.--One of the goals of last week was to avoid injuries, Alex Smith said. Michael Crabtree took part in the classwork, but he sat out the final three days of practices with foot problems. Second-year receiver Kyle Williams pulled up with a left hamstring strain on the final day. The San Jose State athletic trainers took care of him. He was seen later walking around gingerly. He'll probably take some time off, but he should be OK.
--Speaking of San Jose State . . . The university did a phenomenal job of taking care of the 49ers and the assembled media. Alex Smith asked the director of strength and conditioning Chris Holder to get the players stretched out before practice. Holder gladly obliged. Sports information director Lawrence Fan was equally accommodating and gracious in working with the media members.

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

49ers begin final phase of offseason program

The 49ers have graduated back to the phase of the offseason when offense-vs.-defense drills are allowed.

Because of the hiring of Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers were allowed an additional “voluntary” minicamp before the NFL draft. That meant the 49ers were permitted to skip from the two-week conditioning phase of the offseason straight to what is allowed under Phase III.

But after the three-day minicamp in late-April, the 49ers were forced to retreat back to Phase II, when on-field drills but could not include offense vs. defense.

Beginning Monday – and over the next three weeks -- the 49ers can get back to conducting the standard one-on-one, 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 "non-contact" drills. The 49ers have the maximum number of 10 organized team activities scheduled. The official offseason program concludes with a mandatory minicamp scheduled for June 13-15.

The real competition does not begin until the pads go on during training camp. but here’s a look at the team’s most notable offseason competitions (one position you will not find is quarterback, where the depth chart of Brian Hoyer, Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard appears clearly set):

Running back: Carlos Hyde, entering the final year of his original four-year contract, has a lot of competition to hold onto his role as the featured back. He is coming off his most-productive season, finishing just 12 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark when he sustained a knee injury with one game remaining. Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner lobbied for Utah running back Joe Williams in the draft. They clearly see a fit for him within the system.

Pass-rush end: The 49ers’ pass rush was among the worst in the NFL the past two seasons. Arik Armstead will be given an opportunity to see if he can adapt to the “Leo” position. Aaron Lynch must earn the confidence of the coaching staff and front office. The 49ers added explosive, 243-pound pass Pita Taumoepenu in the sixth round.

Tight end: The 49ers confirmed Vance McDonald was available for a trade during the draft. After finding no takers, the 49ers brought back McDonald and he rejoins the competition among rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini, and veterans Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell.

Cornerback: Rashard Robinson is the obvious choice to start on one side. And assuming Jimmie Ward remains at free safety, the 49ers have no other player on the roster who has started a significant number of games at cornerback. Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, will have a legitimate opportunity to win a starting job, as long as he displays a willingness to stick his nose into the action and play with the requisite level of physicality. Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser and Will Redmond should also be in the mix to replace Tramaine Brock, who was released shortly after his arrest after an alleged domestic incident last month.

Center: Jeremy Zuttah, a Pro Bowl performer, was added in the offseason via a trade with the Baltimore Ravens. Daniel Kilgore has been the 49ers’ center the past three seasons but injuries have limited him to just 23 starts over that period of time. Zuttah has position flexibility. The 49ers could determine the best thing for the offensive line is to move Zuttah to one of the guard positions – to challenge Zane Beadles or Joshua Garnett -- if he is not clearly better than Kilgore.

Weakside linebacker: The 49ers signed veteran Malcolm Smith on the first day of free agency, providing him with $11.5 million of fully guaranteed money. The 49ers ranked Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster as the No. 3 overall prospect in the draft. They traded up to select him at No. 31 overall. Assuming Foster is ready to compete at the beginning of training camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery, it appears likely he would line up in that position and compete with Smith. The 49ers’ medical staff does not believe Foster will require any additional surgery, and Foster said he expects to be cleared for the opening of camp.

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Barkley continues work with personal coach of Brady, Ryan

Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan spent last offseason working with Tom House and Adam Dedeaux on his throwing mechanics.

Ryan went on to set career-bests in completion percentage (69.9), yards passing (4,944), touchdowns (38), interceptions (7) and passer rating (117.1).

New 49ers quarterback Matt Barkley worked with House and Dedeaux for the fourth offseason in Southern California before reporting to Santa Clara for the team’s offseason program.

“Kyle (Shanhan) is on board with what House and those guys are doing – I think, really, because of the year Matt Ryan had,” Barkley said on “The 49ers Insider Podcast” on NBC Sports Bay Area.

“He’s a believer in that. He saw the benefits of what Matt did with some of his drops and the timing on routes, how he changed his feet on some things. So we’re kind of sticking with that plan. Everyone is a little different, but for the most part we’re all on the same page when it comes to what our drops are looking like, our footwork and how the ball is coming out.”

House is a former major league pitcher and pitching coach who founded the 3DQB training facility in Los Angeles. Dedeaux pitched at USC and is the grandson of USC baseball coaching legend Rod Dedeaux. Former NFL quarterback John Beck is a motion mechanics instructor.

Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Alex Smith and Carson Palmer are among the NFL quarterbacks who have worked with 3DQB.

“I believe in those guys and what they’re doing,” Barkley said. “They’re at the top of their game, working with Brady and a bunch of other guys. They’ve helped me.

“He won’t change your throwing motion or really tweak how the ball comes out, but he’s going to try to maximize velocity and ground force production and torque -- a lot of sports science terms. But, really, just maximizing efficiency with your motion and making sure you’re sequencing is right.”

Barkley had never played for Shanahan before signing a two-year contract with the 49ers on the first day of free agency. But there are two obvious connections. Barkley’s offensive coordinator last season with the Chicago Bears was Dowell Loggains, Shanahan’s quarterbacks coach in 2014 when Shanahan was the Cleveland Browns’ offensive coordinator. The other connection is House.

"It’s kind of funny, he worked with Atlanta’s staff all of last year, helped Matt Ryan, kind of build his base from the ground up and helped him a lot and he had an MVP year," Barkley said of House.

"There may have been talks down the pipeline, who knows. I don’t think that was the deciding factor by any means, but it never hurts.”