SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Niners practice Saturday morning was fast-paced and competitive. It was pretty clear, from start to finish, just how talented this group is. Oh, and Trey Lance capped it off with a nice throw across where he popped up and broke the pocket to his left, then dove back to his left and found Ray-Ray McCloud at the goal line. Residue? Here you are …
1) You can’t walk an entire field at the Niners facility without hearing someone mention Brandon Aiyuk. He had a strong finish in 2021, of course, and has only built on that, becoming a more complete receiver at a very position-heavy spot. From a skill set perspective, his ability to beat man coverage should be huge for the 49ers to use against defenses that outperform their vaunted running game (which now includes Trey Lance).
Can former first-round pick Brandon Aiyuk secure his first 1,000-yard campaign in his third season?
2) The linebacker group might be the best in the NFL. Fred Warner needs no introduction. But the play of Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair turned heads early in camp. Coming up with roles for everyone should be fun/challenging for DeMeco Ryans.
3) The cornerback situation should be better than it may have been 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 free agent big man Charvarius Ward has adjusted nicely to having to play with 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 was evident on the practice field. Ty Davis-Price showed real physicality with the pads. And Trey Sermon, a third-round pick last year, looks ready to take another step. All of them could play a role in helping the Niners manage Deebo Samuel in a slightly different way than last year.
5) The interior of the offensive line is a big question. Young guards Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford have a lot of talent, but not a lot of experience – so that could be an issue early on, with the idea of the position becoming an asset over the course of the season. And the central competition takes place between Jake Brendel and Daniel Brunskill. Those three spots, plus the guy right behind them, will likely go a long way in determining how good the Niners are on offense.
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