The last day of practice between the Ravens and the 49ers was a lightly contested affair, as the teams worked out in shells and shorts. In the case of Steve Smith, he opted for sweatpants. Still, there was enough action to gauge the individual matchups between the two teams.
Here are some of the biggest impressions from the battles that took place between the Baltimore defense and the San Francisco offense:
• Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has a cannon for an arm and can fit throws into spots where the defense simply can’t make a play. A perfect example of this came when receiver Anquan Boldin snagged a deep crossing pass over the middle. Even though rookie Terrence Brooks had the angle to cut underneath the ball, the pass was thrown so hard it zipped right past his outstretched fingertips and into Boldin’s strong hands.
• Linebacker John Simon had the play of the day with a sideline INT downfield. The linebacker showed the presence of mind to watch the receiver react to the ball, and then deflected the ball to himself for catch. In most situations like that, a defender will struggle to turn around in time and get flagged for face-guarding. In fact, Chykie Brown could learn a thing or two from Simon on how to play the receiver and wait to react to the ball.
• Although Brown could stand to improve his ball skills, he did look good in one instance in which Boldin ran an out-and-up double move right at him. Boldin started breaking outside only to turn sharply upfield. Brown didn’t go for the fake and was able to stay stride-for-stride with the former Raven throughout the route.
• Linebacker Arthur Brown was used as a blitzer from different launch points. He rushed through the ‘A’ gap in two of the instances I noted, and also had a play in which he looped inside from outside of the tackle box. Brown also displayed his impressive downhill speed when he transitioned from deep coverage to chase a dump-off pass in the flat area. He covered about 20 yards of space in the blink of an eye.
• Veteran Dominique Franks flashed some nice timing and anticipation as be broke up a deep sideline route. Franks got more reps today and held up well in coverage.
• Overall, the defense did a nice job of mixing up their pressures, and the timing of the blitz was superb. They were able to get into the backfield a few times off of late blitz movement right before the snap.
• One of the best parts about practicing against the 49ers has to be getting reps against a balanced run game. The 49ers stretch the running lanes horizontally and use a steady diet of counters and off-tackle rushes. In addition, they shift and motion a lot before the snap, forcing the defense to consistently make adjustments.
PLAYERS WHO STOOD OUT ON DEFENSE
Timmy Jernigan: Even in a half-speed session in which the players weren’t moving at full tilt, Jernigan didn’t seem to get the memo. He only knows one speed. He has a live body and is constantly using his hands and different moves to defeat blocks. It was interesting to see Jernigan used all along the line. He played at the three-technique, five-technique, nose, and outside (wide) defensive end spots. For a rookie, he already has a nice swim move and also incorporates the dip to get underneath blocks.
DeAngelo Tyson: The third-year player was equally as versatile as Jernigan today. He lined up everywhere, but mostly occupied the left end position. Tyson showed his athleticism on a play in which he deflected a pass at the line of scrimmage. There were also instances in which Tyson shifted at the snap, showing the ability to slide left or right to anchor down against the run.
Terrence Brooks: The biggest takeaway from today’s practice was Brooks playing as a slot nickel cornerback. There were a couple of instances when he lined up over Boldin. He was consistently the underneath rover, working in the short zone. Brooks also handled coverage duties over the middle of the field. When Brooks wasn’t active in coverage, he was used as a blitzer. In light of Asa Jackson and Lardarius Webb’s injuries, it’ll be interesting to see if the former cornerback continues to get work in this role.