49ers training camp: Highlights from Tuesday’s practice

Ford shakes off knee issue, Garoppolo not on mark, secondary making noise

Kendall Fuller #23 of the Kansas City Chiefs tackles Trent Taylor #81 of the San Francisco 49ers after a reception during the second quarter of the game at Arrowhead Stadium on Sept. 23rd, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri.
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SANTA CLARA — Trent Taylor is the best success story emerging out of 49ers training camp.

What a difference a year makes, as well as a healthy back.

Aside from his sharp cuts, Taylor’s burst as the slot receiver simply looks faster, so much so that linebacker Fred Warner joked that he thinks Taylor hired an offseason speed coach.

Taylor spent his offseason in solitary conditioning mode in Santa Clara, rather than work with best buddy George Kittle in Nashville with quarterback C.J. Beathard.

“I had a lot of work to do. It’s a business. Friendship can wait until later,” Taylor said. “After the offseason is over with and we make a lot of money, then we can do whatever we want. But we had business to take care of first.”

Kittle’s playful response, via Twitter: “Friendship can wait till later?!? Wowwwwww @Trent5Taylor.”

There’ve been enough “Wow” moments from Taylor — a 2017 fifth-round pick, as was Kittle 31 spots ahead of him — that he is a lock to make the team, if he stays healthy.

Taylor required back surgery in the 2018 spring, and even though he said the pain subsided, he couldn’t move his legs the way he wanted in the ensuing 14 games. His production got cut in half, from his rookie year (43 catches, 430 yards, 2 touchdowns) to last season (26 receptions, 215 yards, 1 TD).

“I’m not Julio Jones who can just go out there and make stuff happen,” Taylor said. “The offseason is crucial for me.”

Also key is reconnecting with Garoppolo, a la their December to remember in 2017. Taylor stayed late after Tuesday’s practice to field Garoppolo’s sidewinders, after a 5-of-14 afternoon in team drills by the the still-rusty QB.

“We both know we have a long ways to go between us, and between him and the rest of the receivers, after his injury and my injury,” said Taylor, who also praised how much he’s learning from new receivers coach Wes Welker.

Taylor couched the flood of optimism by ending several answers with, “We’ll see what happens.”

Coach Kyle Shanahan raved about what he saw thanks to Taylor’s offseason commitment, stating: “It was really nice when he came back from his time away, his four months away that we saw it right away. … We’re excited about Trent.”

FORD’S INJURY SCARE

Defensive end Dee Ford shook off an issue with his lower left quadriceps/knee in warmups and continued to practice Tuesday.

He told me afterward he has tendinitis that comes and goes, but that all is good with him. Trainers examined his knee for several minutes during defensive line drills. He favored the leg once he got cleared to resume activity, including back-to-back reps at left end in full-team sessions. He eventually came out after he also hurt a finger, the team said.

SECONDARY SHINES

Defensive backs coach Joe Woods may have been the happiest guy on the field as his unit made play after play, even though not one interception was made in team drills.

Cornerback Richard Sherman was crowing for good reason after tight coverage on an incompletion to Marquise Goodwin.

“The feel I’m getting is that he’s getting back to that mental part of his game, where he is now so confident in his physical ability that he can just focus on the mental part in terms of being in the right spot, getting his footwork right and being the player that he’s been from a mental standpoint,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said.

Jason Verrett and D.J. Reed also made physical plays that had Woods’ hollering in appreciation. Ahkello Witherspoon, whose had a great start to camp, came out after banging his knee into the ground but it didn’t appear serious.

At free safety, Tarvarius Moore took his initial first-team snaps after rotating with Adrian Colbert, who took what Saleh called a “bad angle” on Monday’s long touchdown pass by Garoppolo.

The first player to line up there in walk-through action: Jimmie Ward, who was activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list clears the way for him. Ward wore a no-contact jersey and isn’t expected to participate in team drills until likely next week at the earliest as he returns from a broken collarbone.

QUARTERBACK REVIEW

Garoppolo had his least efficient day of camp, going 5 of 14 with incompletions sailing low, behind targets or the result of drops. His preceding day stats in the first 11-on-11 drills since last year’s knee injury: 6 of 8, 5 of 12 and 8 of 14.

Nick Mullens completed his final seven passes after his first three went incomplete, and the best throw was a 20-yard, back-shoulder bullet to Richie James against Malcolm Smith. C.J. Beathard fared fine (6 of 10) in the early battle for the QB2 role.

NO ROOM TO RUN

The 49ers haven’t had much success running the ball. Is it a reflection of their imposing defensive front, a concerning offensive line or a false alarm without Shanahan scripting things as he would in games? Perhaps all of the above.

Tuesday did produce the best two breakaway runs of camp. The first came from Matt Breida, who’s challenging Tevin Coleman and eventually Jerick McKinnon for snaps and a starting job. The second came from … Kittle, the Pro Bowl tight end whose big-play ability is needed until all others step up their game.

POWER HOUR

Defensive lineman Kentavius Street is the team’s weight-room king, and he’s showing that power on the field after missing his rookie season in ACL rehab. Street’s bull rush flattened right tackle Wilie Beavers.

“These past two days, he’s really come into his own in terms of trusting his leg,” Saleh said. “… That weight room strength is starting to transfer to the field.”

OTHER INJURY UPDATES 

Dre Greenlaw, bidding to start at strong-side linebacker, left with a lacerated left hand before the final team drills.

Guard Joshua Garnett did not practice for the second straight day because of a dislocated finger on his right hand.

Also out were fullback Kyle Juszczyk (foot) and running back Jeffrey Wilson (calf).

Wednesday marks the 49ers first day off from practice since camp opened. The exhibition opener is Aug. 10 at home against the Dallas Cowboys, followed by joint practices with the Denver Broncos prior to their Aug. 19 exhibition.

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