Brian Hoyer

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.

Practice report: 49ers' offense closes the gap against Broncos

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USATSI

Practice report: 49ers' offense closes the gap against Broncos

SANTA CLARA – It was clear during the past two summers that the Denver Broncos’ defense was far ahead of the 49ers’ offense. That should not come as a big surprise.

On Wednesday, it was a much closer match when the units practiced against each other on the 49ers' practice field.

The Broncos’ pass rush still gave some problems to the 49ers’ offensive line, but the 49ers connected on a lot more plays than it has in the past in their head-to-head meetings.

The biggest issue with the 49ers continues to be the play at the guard positions. The 49ers are set at offensive tackle with Joe Staley and Trent Brown. Daniel Kilgore appears settled in at center. But the 49ers might not be completely sold on Zane Beadles and Brandon Fusco at the guard positions.

However, starting quarterback Brian Hoyer said he believes the entire unit is doing a good job.

“I think those guys are doing a great job,” Hoyer said. “I think the scheme helps out those guys, too. For me, to evaluate the guard, you evaluate the whole offensive line because they work as a unit. It’s five guys working as one. Throughout this training camp, I think they’ve all done a great job.”

Still, it’s no coincidence that the best the 49ers’ offense looked on Wednesday was during a 7-on-7 passing drill that does not include offensive linemen.

Matt Barkley hit consecutive touchdown passes of 15, 10 and 5 yards with Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor and Bourne, again, on the receiving ends. Then, Hoyer hit Tim Hightower and Pierre Garçon on touchdowns, giving the 49ers five touchdowns during a six-play stretch.

QUICK SLANT

--Hoyer was especially sharp, completing better than 80 percent of his pass attempts during the 11-on-11 periods. Hoyer had five completions to Marquise Goodwin and four more to Garçon.

Goodwin, who has never caught more than 29 passes in a season, has put himself in position to have a breakout season as a starter.

“I really enjoy working with him,” Hoyer said. “You talk about a hard-worker. I was just out there with my family for 30 minutes and he’s still catching balls on the (machine), running up the hill. When you see guys who are really talented and willing to work that hard, they obviously have a chance to be something special.”

--Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard and receiver DeAndre Smelter teamed up for a picturesque 10-yard touchdown during a 7-on-7 drill with a well-thrown pass and leaping catch in the back left corner of the end zone.

Finding a way for 49ers' Brian Hoyer to show off his arm

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AP

Finding a way for 49ers' Brian Hoyer to show off his arm

SANTA CLARA – Through the first four days of practices, Brian Hoyer has left little doubt of his standing as the 49ers’ starter and, unquestionably best option, at quarterback.

Coach Kyle Shanahan targeted Hoyer on the first day of free agency. And after he signed a two-year contract, Hoyer has been unchallenged on top of the depth chart. Hoyer appears to give Shanahan exactly what he wants with his ability to use a play-action setup to get the ball deep down the field.

“Before I got here, I didn’t know he could throw the ball that far,” 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon said.

Hoyer let the ball fly again and again on Monday. After two run plays to open practice, Hoyer used his play-action fake and unleashed a perfect pass 50 yards down the field. Wide receiver Aldrick Robinson was wide open but dropped the easy touchdown.

Later, Hoyer sent a pass that traveled 55 yards past the line of scrimmage to speedster Marquise Goodwin, who beat the coverage of Rashard Robinson for one of their many hookups since the opening of camp.

Shanahan wants to build a dangerous running game, which is a major key for him to get what he wants from Hoyer and his sneaky-strong arm.

There is still a lot of tinkering going on with the offensive line, but that unit might have the most responsibility to provide Hoyer with the support to push the ball down the field.

The line has to provide holes in the run game for Carlos Hyde and whomever else might have a role in the ground attack. The line must also be able to sell the run on play fakes to put some hesitation into the pass rush.

Ultimately, the pass protection must hold up or the general public may never see the big-play offense that Shanahan envisioned when he brought Hoyer aboard.

QUICK SLANTS
--The 49ers practiced without their top three safeties. Starters Jimmie Ward (hamstring) and Eric Reid (ankle) were out with injuries. Early in practice, Jaquiski Tartt sustained an injury to his left ribs area and did not return. His status for the remainder of the week is unclear. Vinnie Sunseri and Lorenzo Jerome took over as the safeties with the first-team defense, while Don Jones and Chanceller James lined up with the second team.

--Outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert is out for the season after sustaining a torn ACL in practice Sunday, Shanahan said. Gilbert received a $12,000 signing bonus and $62,000 in guaranteed money as an undrafted rookie from Colorado.

--Rookie tight end George Kittle (hamstring), Reid (ankle) and cornerback Keith Reaser (knee) are listed as day-to-day with injuries sustained during Sunday’s practice. Offensive lineman JP Flynn is out indefinitely. The 49ers designated wide receiver B.J. Johnson as waived/injured and claimed receiver Tim Patrick from the Baltimore Ravens. If Johnson clears waivers he will revert back to the 49ers.

--Aldrick Robinson, who dropped a deep pass at the beginning of practice, concluded the day with a long touchdown pass from Matt Barkley against the coverage of veteran cornerback Will Davis.

--Cornerback Rashard Robinson got his hands on a Hoyer pass intended for Garçon. However, instead of batting the ball down, Robinson tipped it and Garçon made the catch 25 yards down the field along the left sideline.

--Receiver DeAndre Smelter made a nice catch to get both feet inbounds on a deep out on a pass from undrafted quarterback Nick Mullens.

--Aaron Lynch intercepted a Barkley pass that was tipped by Quinton Dial at the line of scrimmage. Lynch also had a would-be sack on a play in which C.J. Beathard went ahead and completed a deep pass down the field for Goodwin.

--Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster recorded his third interception in four days. Shanahan explained why it was his favorite of Foster’s picks.

--The 49ers have their first day off from training camp on Tuesday. The squad returns to practice on Wednesday at 10:15 a.m.