The 3 Biggest Standouts From 49ers Camp Thus Far
We’re officially more than a week into 49ers training camp and while all the focus has been on Trey Lance and Deebo Samuel’s contract extension, there are players on both sides of the ball, that have stood out moreso during the first week of practice.
Here are three players that have stood out in Santa Clara, and could be on the shortlist for a breakout 2022 season.
Probably the biggest standout of camp, Aiyuk has been a man on a mission over the past week, catching everything and anything in his vicinity.
Wednesday’s practice was the biggest display of his versatility, able to beat his cornerbacks from any position on the field. He regularly beat his defender during the 1-on-1 drills yesterday, on one occasion even wobbling the CB with a stutter step in-out move on a quick slant route.
The practice then progressed to 11-on-11s, where BA again showed his development as an all-around receiver. High pointing the ball continuously, Aiyuk made contested catches with the defense draped all over him. He also scored two touchdowns on the day, one on a sideline toe-tap from Lance with Charvarius Ward in coverage, the other over the middle on a laser beam from Nate Sufeld that he had to snag out of the air over Jimmie Ward.
Brandon Aiyuk just dominated every rep of 1-on-1s. Charvarius Ward, Jimmie Ward, didn’t matter. On one rep, he had a chasing Jimmie Ward laughing out loud at how bad Aiyuk had beaten him off the line. It’s a drill that inherently favors the receivers, but that was dirty. #49ers
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) August 3, 2022
Two plays, two amazing catches as the defense is starting to notice his development as well.
“He’s having the best camp out of everybody on the team,” Jimmie Ward said Wednesday post-practice. “BA taking his game to another level. I haven’t won a one-on-one route against him yet.”
But it’s not just Jimmie, Aiyuk has had his way with the entire 49ers secondary, showing the elite playmaking potential first seen at Arizona State.
Additionally, Aiyuk and Lance have developed a rapport over the offseason that has translated to on the field production, using the third-year wideout as a safety value for the budding QB.
Point being: Expect the player once in Kyle Shanahan’s “doghouse” to be a vital part of their success this season. A Robin to Deebo Samuel’s Batman.
One of my biggest concerns coming into camp for the Red & Gold was the depth in the secondary and if the backline could support the front seven on passing plays. The early takeaways have been extremely encouraging, to say the least.
For a unit ranked 26th in interceptions last year, the 2022 49ers have been a different story, picking off the QBs 12 times in seven days worth of practice. Yesterday’s pick by Deommodore Lenoir surpassed the team’s INTs from last season’s entire training camp, according to The Athletic’s David Lombardi.
The secondary as a whole has stepped up but not without the newest corner in the room, Charvarius Ward.
Ward came over from the Kansas City Chiefs during free agency, inking a three-year deal to serve as the lockdown player in the Bay. he’s been that guy to start camp.
His coverage has been so good that Lance and the backups weren’t even throwing the ball his way to open camp. Since then, Ward has been targeted and even let up a few catches(to Brandon Aiyuk mainly) but the early signs have been there that this guy may be the safety net for Bay Area franchise this season.
Charvarius Ward has been easily one of the biggest standouts of #49ers training camp 📈
— 𝙏𝙝𝙚𝙎𝙁𝙉𝙞𝙣𝙚𝙧𝙨 (@TheSFNiners) July 31, 2022
“A pure lockdown corner,” linebacker Fred Warner said last week. “What’s great about him is I’ll go through an entire practice and I won’t hear anything about him. Which is great because that means he’s locking his side down, like you don’t really notice him because they don’t want to throw to his side, he’s trapping it up every single play.”
And thanks to Ward island, the team’s other starting corner, Emmanuel Moseley, has had an easier time out there against the elite pass-catchers on offense.
It’ll be interesting to see the secondary at full strength once Jason Verrett comes back from injury(ACL), and how dominate the defense can be with playmakers at all three levels.
This wouldn’t be a standouts article without sprinkling in one rookie and so far the rookie that’s impressed me the most has been DE Drake Jackson out of USC.
Jackson, 21, primarily played linebacker for the Trojans in college, but with his size and explosive abilities, the 49ers returned him to his natural position on the edge.
Described as “raw” by defensive line coach Kris Kocurek, Jackson has vowed to be a sponge during this rookie season, absorbing as much information as he can to be a step ahead of the competition.
His study habits have paid off during camp, putting his knowledge of the game to his performance on the field. Running with the second and third team mainly, Jackson has made quick work of the backup O-lineman, getting after the quarterback throughout camp.
Drake Jackson just whoops Alfredo Gutierrez for a sack, then another pressure/sack on play after.#49wz
— Rohan Chakravarthi (@RohanChakrav) August 2, 2022
His impressive play has lead him to go up against the starters, specifically All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams, on a few occasions during camp, explaining the learning curve that comes with the territory.
“I went against him one drive,” Jackson said Tuesday. “I definitely made sure I was on my 100 percent key because if you don’t know where you’re supposed to be on him, he will flatten you. It’s only going to make me better because I’m going against the best tackle in the league. I don’t think there’s anyone like him.”
His attitude towards the game has rubbed off on Williams and the offensive line, constantly seeking them out for advice that the veterans are happy to oblige with. Those traits, and his production, have resonated with the All-Pro tackle, giving rave reviews after practice Monday.
“I’ve seen his tape coming from USC and he’s talented,” Williams said. “I think he’s a guy with a bright, bright future, super athletic, really strong guy and really good hips, can bend around the corner. And he’s seen and not heard. He goes around and handles his business the right way.”
“He’s got a lot of ability man,” Mike McGlinchey said regarding the USC product Wednesday. “Sky’s the limit.”
He’ll have to earn his place amongst the starters, but expect the 21-year-old prospect to be out on the gridiron more than not in 2022, getting better with each snap of the ball.
For all things 49ers and NFL, stay locked in here on Sactown Sports.