SANTA CLARA, CA — The Niners practice Saturday morning was fast and competitive. It was clear from start to finish how talented this team is. Oh, and Trey Lance capped it off with a beautiful lateral body, where he went up and broke the pocket to his left, then flew back to his left to find Ray-Ray McCloud at the goal line. The rest; Here you go …
1) You can’t walk the length of a field at the Niners facility without hearing someone bring up Brandon Aiyuk. He had a strong finish through 2021, of course, and has only built on that, becoming a more complete receiver at a place that is very demanding at the position. From a skill set standpoint, his ability to beat in man coverage should be huge for the 49ers to take advantage of defenses that overplay their run-loving game (which now involves Trey Lance).
2) The linebacker group might be the NFL’s best. Fred Warner needs no introduction. But the play of Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair has turned heads early in camp. Figuring out roles for everyone should be fun/challenging for DeMeco Ryans.
3) The cornerback situation should be better than it has been at perhaps any point in Kyle Shanahan’s six years in San Francisco. Emmanuel Moseley looks ready to take another step into his fifth season, and free agent Charvarius Ward has adjusted well to having to play off the ball more than he did in Kansas City.
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4) Depth at running back is suddenly very, very solid. Elijah Mitchell is finally healthy and his 4.3 speed showed on the field. Ty Davis-Price has shown real physicality with the pads going on. And Trey Sermon, a third-round pick last year, looks poised to take another step. All of them could play a role in helping the Niners manage Deebo Samuel a little differently than they did last year.
5) The interior of the offensive line is the big question. Junior guards Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford have plenty of talent, but not much experience—so that’s something that could be an issue early on, with the idea that the position becomes a strength over the course of the season. And there’s a center competition between Jake Brendel and Daniel Brunskill. Those three spots, plus the guy lined up right behind them, will likely go a long way in determining how good the Niners are on offense.
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