Competition battles highlight 49ers minicamp

Competition battles highlight 49ers minicamp
June 11, 2013, 9:15 am
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Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, and Chris Culliver were the 49ers' top three cornerbacks last season. Might Nnamdi Asomugha replace one of them? (AP)

SANTA CLARA -- Goodbye, organized team activities. Hello, minicamp.

The 49ers' offseason program reaches its crescendo with 7 1/2 hours of scheduled practices over three days at their mandatory full-squad minicamp.

[RELATED: 49ers minicamp to conclude official offseason program]

Pads and full contact are not allowed until training camp, so there will not be a lot of answers provided Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on the team's Santa Clara practice field.

These workouts should be considered a progress report on the skill positions -- especially quarterbacks, receivers and defensive backs. With no hitting allowed, it is difficult to get any kind of read on linemen and anyone whose job it is to initiate physical contact.

With that in mind, there should be plenty of things to keep tabs on over the next three days:

Wide receivers: Only one day of practice has been open to the local media in each of the past three weeks. The best wide receiver was, far and away, Anquan Boldin. That's no surprise. After all, he led the Super Bowl-champion Baltimore Ravens in receptions and receiving yards last season.

Thus far, nobody has distinguished himself as a starter to replace Michael Crabtree, who will miss most of the season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn Achilles on May 22.

A.J. Jenkins looks more comfortable than a year ago, and probably has a slight edge for that role. Quinton Patton is making progress every day, and he might have the temperament to be a factor as a rookie. Ricardo Lockette did not make many plays in the OTAs that were open to the media.

Marlon Moore and Chad Hall showed some flashes while lined up at the other position.

After these three days, the 49ers will have a decision to make. If they're completely happy with the group, they will not feel obligated to sign a veteran free agent.

Also, remember, at some point Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham will return from knee injuries to compete for playing time.

[REWIND: No reason to rush back injured players]

Safety: By all appearances, rookie Eric Reid is right on track to win the starting job to replace All-Pro Dashon Goldson, who signed a lucrative free agent deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March. Veteran Donte Whitner is set as the starter at strong safety.

Reid has the physical tools, no doubt. The issue for Reid is to learn both safety positions well enough that he can play fast and not get caught flat-footed as the last line of defense.

Veteran Craig Dahl, who started all 16 games for the St. Louis Rams last season, is ahead of him when it comes to knowing the NFL game. But, obviously, the 49ers did not trade up 13 spots to take the No. 1 safety on their draft board with the intention of keeping him on the sideline.

Cornerback: Tarell Brown, who enters his contract year, spent the offseason program working out on his own in Texas. This will be Brown's first appearance on the practice field since last season.

The top five 49ers cornerbacks from a year ago return: Brown, Carlos Rogers, Chris Culliver, Tramaine Brock and Perrish Cox.

In addition, the 49ers signed veteran Nnamdi Asomugha in the offseason to see if he can find a way to get on the field and contribute. Could he replace Rogers or Brown as a starter? Could he ace out Culliver as the No. 3 corner? Is he good enough at this stage of his career to make the team?

We might have a better idea after three days of practices.

Then, again, it's only a minicamp. It'll give us something to talk about for the next six weeks. It's easy to overreact -- good and bad. But it's important to keep in mind that what happens this week will become ancient history when the pads go on and the real competition begins in late-July.

* * *

Practices are scheduled from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The workouts are closed to the general public. Full camp reports will be posted at CSNBayArea.com shortly after practices conclude.

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