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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.
--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.
SANTA CLARA – If the play had occurred three days later, 49ers rookie safety Adrian Colbert would have been fined $24,309 for an illegal hit.
The 49ers and Denver Broncos held a joint practice Wednesday on the 49ers’ practice fields behind Levi’s Stadium. Both teams were wearing pads, but live tackling was not allowed.
Colbert, a seventh-round draft pick from Miami, temporarily forgot the ground rules established by coaches Kyle Shanahan and Vance Joseph.
During a 7-on-7 period early in practice, Colbert launched himself at defenseless receiver Steven Scheu, a first-year tight end, and leveled him on an incomplete pass. Both players were OK. Players on both teams started pushing and shoving, but it did not turn into a melee.
“I thought our coaches handled it really well,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. “First of all, I want to say, Adrian is a tremendous kid. I went over there and said, ‘Adrian, that’s not how we practice.’
“We talked about how we were going to conduct ourselves and he said, ‘Hey, I just lost my head. I was just tracking the ball.’ Next thing you know, he was there. I can’t tell you I haven’t been there myself.”
The 49ers held out Colbert out of some drills to “let things cool down” before he re-entered practice.
The 49ers and Broncos held the first of two days of practices. The teams meet Saturday night at Levi's Stadium in the second exhibition game for both teams.
--The 49ers’ defense had a very good day against the Broncos, who are trying to figure out whether Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch is their top quarterback. Neither player got much going against the 49ers’ defense on Wednesday.
--The 49ers’ secondary, including cornerbacks Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson and K’Waun Williams, held up well in coverage against Broncos wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders. The Broncos did not shake free for a deep pass completion at any point during the two-hour practice.
--Jaquiski Tartt was back with the first–team defense at free safety. He recorded an interception of Siemian on a pass intended for receiver Kalif Raymond that Robinson tipped into the air.
--Robinson was in coverage during a 7-on-7 drill in which Thomas caught a short touchdown. But Robinson came back on the next play to break up a pass.
--Solomon Thomas and Dekoda Watson got consistent pressure on the quarterback. Pita Taumoepenu routinely got past Broncos offensive linemen during one-on-one pass-rush drills.
--Cornerback Will Davis intercepted a pass from No. 3 quarterback Kyle Sloter during a 7-on-7 drill intended for rookie receiver Isaiah McKenzie.
--Linebacker Reuben Foster broke up a Siemian pass for tight end Virgil Green over the middle.
--Rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon broke up two passes, including one on which he went high to get his hands on a Siemian pass for Jordan Taylor at the sideline.
--Newly signed cornerback Asa Jackson held up well in one-on-one coverage drills on multiple deep passes.
--Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, a friend of John Lynch, worked with 49ers defensive linemen.