Matt Maiocco

Practice report: 49ers passing game looks much improved

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AP

Practice report: 49ers passing game looks much improved

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ passing game has ranked 29th or lower in each of the past four seasons.

If two practices against last year’s No. 1-ranked pass defense are any indication, the 49ers could be vastly improved under coach Kyle Shanahan and quarterback Brian Hoyer.

“I think our guys were expecting to do good,” Shanahan said on Thursday after a second joint practice against the Denver Broncos in two days. “There’s a lot of stuff we can clean up. A lot of stuff we can do better. But I think our guys were happy with how they competed and, hopefully, that can continue to carry over.”

Hoyer hit more higher-percentage passes on Thursday. He teamed up with rookie Victor Bolden on his deepest completion -- down the left sideline against first-team All-Pro cornerback Chris Harris. After completing better than 80 percent of his passes against the Broncos a day earlier, Hoyer was 12 of 19 passing on Thursday.

Pierre Garçon, who figures to be Hoyer’s top target, was not as active during Thursday’s practice. But he did find himself in the middle of the action with a tussle against Harris.

Hoyer’s red-zone pass intended for slot receiver Jeremy Kerley was tipped and intercepted by safety Justin Simmons. Away from the action, Aqib Talib blocked Garçon, who retaliated by tossing him to the ground.

“That’s part of the game,” Garçon said. ‘You always expect one scuffle in joint practices. But it ended and you move on. It was nothing personal at all.”

Hoyer was especially sharp during the practices to strengthen his grasp on the team’s staring job. Meanwhile, rookie C.J. Beathard had a solid showing on Thursday. He will enter Saturday’s game after Hoyer and could play through the rest of the first half and open the third quarter.

The 49ers exited the field after their two most-significant practices feeling optimistic about where things stand.

“We did good the first day,” Garçon said. “We could’ve done better the second day. But we’re still learning each other and getting better. We still have a lot to do to get ready for the regular season, but we’re moving in the right direction.”

QUICK SLANTS
--Linebacker Reuben Foster wore shoulder pads and took part in all but the contact drills due to what the team described as a “mild AC joint sprain” of his right shoulder. That did not prevent Foster from getting into the middle of a skirmish that appeared to involve Broncos tackle Menelik Watson and 49ers linebacker Eli Harold.

The 49ers expect Foster to play Saturday night, Shanahan said.

--Linebacker NaVorro Bowman was pulled from practice on Thursday after experiencing soreness in his shoulder. Shanahan said Bowman's shoulder soreness is similar to what Foster experienced.

--The Broncos’ offense, which struggled to complete passes on Wednesday, made a lot more plays down the field on Thursday with Paxton Lynch at quarterback.

--Tight end Vance McDonald made an outstanding catch of a Hoyer pass at the sideline against tight coverage from safety Will Parks.

--The 49ers’ practice Thursday brought an official end to the team’s training camp. They will transition to a regular-season type of schedule next week leading up to the team’s third exhibition game, which is scheduled for Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings.

“Training camp is over, and what that means is we’re not all staying in dorms together and we’re not having night walk-throughs,” Shanahan said.

Shoulder injury will keep Foster out of contact drills vs Broncos

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AP

Shoulder injury will keep Foster out of contact drills vs Broncos

SANTA CLARA – Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster will be held out of contact drills on Thursday in a joint practice with the Denver Broncos due to a shoulder injury, the 49ers announced.

A team official described Foster’s injury as a “mild AC joint sprain” and unrelated to the surgery he underwent in February on his right shoulder. The 49ers medical staff was seen working on his right shoulder Wednesday, according to multiple reports.

Afterward, 49ers general manager John Lynch said he spoke to Foster and he did not believe there was any significant issue.

Said Lynch, “I talked to him and like Reuben, big smile, said, ‘I’m straight.’ And, so he’s good. He’s straight.”

Foster, who was medically cleared to take part in full contract drills on the eve of training camp, has not missed a practice this summer. He also played 27 snaps in the 49ers’ exhibition opener last week against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Foster’s right shoulder was reportedly a topic of concern among NFL teams. Foster said he sustained the tear of the labrum in his right shoulder during Alabama’s national semifinal game against Washington. He played in the championship game against Clemson with the injury.

Considered a Top 10 draft pick, Foster was not chosen until the 49ers traded up from the second round, in a deal with the Seattle Seahawks, to select him with the No. 31 overall pick. 

Can John Lynch, John Elway make a deal?

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AP

Can John Lynch, John Elway make a deal?

SANTA CLARA – The general managers are good friends. And, this week, they are getting a unique, unfiltered chance to evaluate players who might be available on each other’s team.

John Lynch, the 49ers’ first-year general manager, and Denver Broncos GM John Elway have spoken this week about needs and which players might be available on the trade market.

The 49ers have good depth on their defensive line, where a player such as Quinton Dial might have a difficult time making the 53-man roster due to the change to a 4-3 scheme. They could use some help at offensive guard.

“It’s kind of that time of year, where people are calling and saying, ‘Hey, you’re strong here, we’re strong here. Let’s just kind of keep these things in mind.’ And, this is a great opportunity to do that,” Lynch said.

The 49ers and Broncos went through a two-hour, fully padded joint practice behind Levi’s Stadium on Wednesday. The teams will go through another practice together Thursday with helmets and shells. It is an opportunity for both general managers to see which bubble players on the other team could make a difference with his own team.

“We did have some of those discussions,” Lynch said. “The greatest thing is lots of times you’re throwing on (film of) a preseason game. We get a chance for three days to look at some people we might be interested in. So you’re always doing that. I think they’re doing that as well and it’s another productive thing out of this week.”

The 49ers engaged in trade talks involving tight end Vance McDonald during the draft. Any team that trades for McDonald would owe him a guaranteed $2.1 million for the upcoming season. He is signed through 2021.

McDonald, however, has worked his way into strong consideration for a spot on the 53-man roster with an impressive training camp.

“I think what I’ve been thoroughly impressed, as has Kyle [Shanahan] and everybody around here, how Vance has responded to that,” Lynch said. “I thought last week against Kansas City was a great example. Even though it didn’t show up on the stat sheet, it’s as good as I’ve seen him block, and he did it consistently and he competed extremely hard.”

McDonald, Garrett Celek and Blake Bell face stiff challenges to hold onto their roster spots with the additions of newcomers Logan Paulsen and rookies George Kittle and Cole Hikutini.