SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Niners’ practice on Saturday morning was fast and competitive. It was pretty clear, from start to finish, how talented this group is. Oh, and Trey Lance capped it with a pretty cross-body throw where he stepped up and broke the pocket to his left, then threw back to his left to find Ray-Ray McCloud at the goal line. The rest of it? Here you go …
1) You can’t walk the length of a field in the Niners facility without hearing someone bring up Brandon Aiyuk. He had a strong finish to 2021, of course, and he’s only built on that, becoming a more complete receiver in a place that’s very demanding on the position. From a skill set perspective, his ability to win in man coverage should be huge for the 49ers to take advantage of defenses overplaying their vaunted run game (that now has Trey Lance involved).
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 corner situation should be better than it has been maybe at any point in Kyle Shanahan’s six years in San Francisco. Emmanuel Moseley looks ready to take another step in his fifth season, and big-ticket free agent Charvarius Ward has adapted nicely in having to play off the ball more than he did in Kansas City.
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4) The depth at running back is suddenly very, very solid. Elijah Mitchell is finally healthy and his 4.3 speed has been apparent out on the practice field. Ty Davis-Price has flashed real physicality with the pads going on. And Trey Sermon, a third-round pick last year, looks ready to take another step. All of them could play a part 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. Young guards Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford have plenty of talent, but not much experience—so that’s something that could be an issue early, with the idea the position becomes a strength over the course of the season. And a center competition is taking place between Jake Brendel and Daniel Brunskill. Those three spots, plus the guy who lines up right behind them, will probably go a long way in determining how good the Niners are on offense.
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