And some insight on the rest of the offense
The first week of training camp is in the books for the 49ers. After a couple of scuffles during Tuesday’s practice, the players didn’t wear pads Wednesday. Defensive end Nick Bosa, tight end George Kittle, linebacker Dre Greenlaw, and offensive tackle Jaylon Moore were all in street clothes.
Tight end Jordan Matthews has torn his ACL and is out for the season. He was seen leaving on crutches after Tuesday’s practice.
Aiyuk ascends again
Jimmie Ward said Brandon Ayiuk is having the best camp out of everybody on the team after practice: “BA has taken his game to another level. It’s crazy honestly.”
You’re going to hear all about Aiyuk’s day, and for a good reason. Aiyuk put on a show during 1-on-1s as he beat whoever the defense threw in front of him.
There’s no denying that the offensive player has the advantage during 1-on-1s, but Aiyuk’s weren’t competitive. His releases were sharp, often leaving the defender leaning in the opposite direction.
Aiyuk has always thrived off the line of scrimmage. Where his game has ascended to the next level is hanging on through contact. Aiyuk has a ‘wow’ catch daily. The majority of those come with a defensive back draped all over him. Yet, time and time again, Aiyuk shields the cornerback while hanging onto the ball with full extension.
The most promising part is these are all on different routes. Two of today’s were along the sideline on an out route and a double move. It’d be a shock if the latter’s video doesn’t make the rounds on social media.
Trey Lance scrambled to his right on a play-action pass. Aiyuk acted as if he was going to run across the field, only to pivot back to the right. Charvarius Ward wasn’t fooled. Ward was in an ideal position to make a play, but Lance, from closer to a submarine arm angle than a sidearm release, perfectly placed the ball over the outstretched arms of Ward for a touchdown.
The play was a gem and a taste of the peak traits of Lance, Aiyuk, and Ward.
Lance lets it loose
You have to put into perspective that Lance has three new blockers in front of him going against the 49ers defensive line which Mike McGlinchey called the most complete defenisve line in the game.
Right guard Spencer Burford flashed on a running play. He was asked to pull and kick out the defensive lineman on a trap play. Not only did Burford execute his block, he ran down the field with one fist in the air celebrating as the running back broke for a significant gain.
Burford has taken the reps with the starters since the start of camp. Trent Williams raved about his confidence last week as a reason he works with the first-team, and the play above is an example why.
And to the credit of Jake Brendel, who primarily was the first-team center as well as Aaron Banks, Lance had more time in the pocket than usual Wednesday. We act like the defensive line wins nonstop, and that’s not the case. Lance had a clean pocket to throw from on most of his dropbacks.
So when I tell you Lance went 3-for-8, a 37% completion percentage is bound to raise questions.
The majority of these throws were over 25 yards. On one, Aiyuk had a step on Charvarius, and Lance overshot him by a step. It’s a throw you hope Lance consistently completes come November. The ball had to be placed perfectly between the cornerback and the safety, and Lance overshot it.
On another throw, Deebo Samuel got behind Emmanuel Moseley by a half-step. Lance puts the ball on the money. It’s in stride and away from the defender about 45 yards down the field. The pass hits Samuel in the hands, but Deebo drops it. That’s a completion nine out of ten times.
The final example is on a play-action pass where Samuel is running an option route. If the secondary does one thing, Deebo runs a deep out route. If they do another, he’ll break to the pylon in the end zone. Lance threw the deep corner route while Samuel ran an out route.
So we have incompletions due to accuracy, a drop, and not being on the same page as the receiver who missed the first four days of training camp as well as all of OTAs and minicamp.
Lance threw two touchdowns in the red zone and went another day without an interception. Early on in camp, the defense got their hands on everything. That’s not happening nearly as much this week, which is a sign of Lance’s progress.