SANTA CLARA -- The fast pace of the 49ers’ practice was again on display Wednesday.
The 49ers ran 15 plays in a five-minute 7-on-7 session. Then, during an 11-on-11 period, the 49ers ran 24 plays in eight minutes -- or one play every 20 seconds. (And considering the 49ers did not run their first offensive play until 30 seconds had already ticked off the clock, the pace was even faster than that.)
The 49ers are doing a lot of running on both sides of the ball, as the offense gets lined up quickly and looks toward the sideline for the next play call. The 49ers' defense figures to ultimately reap the benefits from the tempo of facing Chip Kelly's offense.
"At the end of the day, I just think going against Chip Kelly's stellar offense, it's just going to help everybody else once the season comes," 49ers veteran safety Antoine Bethea said
"It's tough right now," safety Eric Reid said. "Name a team that's going to go that fast. So the game should be slow-motion for us when the season comes. So I like it. It's a challenge. I'm always up for a challenge, and I think it'll make us better in the long run."
Here are other notes and observations from the non-padded practice Wednesday that was open to the local media:
--It looks as if Kelly has been keeping equipment manager Steve Urbaniak busy, too.
Three members of the 49ers’ staff, including Urbaniak donned shoulder pads that had screens attached to them. The screens stretched out several feet above their heads.
The staff members took positions along the defensive line during 7-on-7 action. The idea is for the quarterbacks to find passing lanes during the drills that generally do not feature any pass rush.
Two of Blaine Gabbert’s passes slammed against the screens, including a ball that inside linebacker Gerald Hodges corralled for an interception. Thad Lewis had one of his passes deflected by one of the contraptions.
--Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has yet to be cleared for football activity, as he continues to rehab surgeries to his left shoulder, right thumb and left knee. Again, Kaepernick took a position about 10 yards behind the quarterback during drills and pantomimed the footwork and visually went through the reads. It is not known whether Kaepernick will be cleared for the team’s mandatory minicamp June 7-9 or if the 49ers will opt to wait until the beginning of training camp in late-July.
--Linebacker Ahmad Brooks continues to sit out with an unknown condition. “He’s just doing walk-throughs right now,” 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said. “We’re hoping that we can get something out of him by the end of the spring here.” O'Neil declined to identify the condition that has kept Brooks sidelined during full-speed practices.
--Hodges lined up with NaVorro Bowman at inside linebacker. Hodges, Ray-Ray Armstrong and Michael Wilhoite will see equal time with the first team during OTAs, O’Neil said, as the 49ers evaluate those three players in consideration for the starting job. Hodges also had a pass broken up while in coverage against Vance McDonald.
--Jimmie Ward is already being viewed as one of the 49ers’ best 11 defensive players, according to O’Neil. Lining up at right cornerback, Ward made the best defensive play of the day, as he stretched out to make a diving deflection of a Gabbert pass intended for Quinton Patton. Ward lined up exclusively at cornerback with Chris Davis handling duties at nickel back in the 49ers' sub package.
--Rookie cornerback Rashard Robinson made a nice play to dislodge a Jeff Driskel pass from fellow rookie Aaron Burbridge. Robinson, who admittedly likes to talk on the field, later got into a bit of a scuffle with veteran receiver Jerome Simpson.
--Davis intercepted a Gabbert pass intended for Bruce Ellington during a 7-on-7 drill. Lewis hooked up with Torrey Smith on a deep ball over cornerback Marcus Cromartie. Keith Reaser broke up a pass intended for Ellington.
--Former Oregon defensive lineman Alex Balducci lined up at center with the third-team offense. As he’s being asked to execute entirely new assignments, Balducci had one bad snap during his time on the field.
--Wide receiver DeAndrew White reacted angrily after dropping a Lewis pass as he crossed the middle. He later made grabs on two similar routes and throw from Lewis, including a one-handed catch.
--The 49ers ended practice with a situational drill. The offense had the ball at the 50-yard line with 1:01 remaining on the game, trailing 25-20. The defense went 3-for-3 in preventing touchdowns.
Torrey Smith had a 20-yard pass reception from Gabbert on a third-and-long. The two teamed up for another 20-yarder after Carlos Hyde’s false start and Eli Harold’s sack, but time expired before the offense could get off another snap.
With the second unit, Tank Carradine had a sack while working against left tackle Colin Kelly. Lewis hit Eric Rogers for a 12-yard gain on a second-and-11 situation. Lewis and Rogers hooked up against on a 21-yard pass from the 26-yard line, but time ran out.
The third-team offense experienced a four-and-out. Kelvin Taylor caught a short pass from Jeff Driskel; Burbridge dropped a pass; a pass to Mike Davis gained 6 yards; and Driskel threw low for Burbridge on fourth and 2.
--The 49ers’ new offense does not have the standard X (split end) and Z (flanker) positions. Instead, the positions are simply known as left wide receiver and right wide receiver. On Wednesday, Patton, Rogers, White and Dres Anderson lined up on the left side, while Smith, Jerome Simpson, Burbridge, DeAndre Smelter and DiAndre Campbell were on the right side. Ellington and Bryce Treggs were the slot receivers. Undrafted rookie Devon Cajuste sat out practice and he rehabbed a leg injury on a side field.
--Here’s how the 49ers lined up along the offensive line:
Left tackle: Joe Staley, Kelly, Norman Price
Left guard: Zane Beadles, Ian Silberman, Blake Muir
Center: Daniel Kilgore, Marcus Martin, Alex Balducci
Right guard: Brandon Thomas, Andrew Tiller, Fahn Cooper
Right tackle: Erik Pears, Trent Brown, John Theus
Rookie Joshua Garnett, a first-round draft pick, is not allowed to join the 49ers' offseason workouts until the mandatory minicamp due to Stanford's late graduation.
--Here’s how the 49ers lined up along the defensive line:
Left defensive end: Arik Armstead, Kaleb Ramsey, Ronald Blair
Nose tackle: Mike Purcell, Garrison Smith, Darren Lake
Right defensive end: Quinton Dial, Tony Jerod-Eddie, DeForest Buckner.
Glenn Dorsey continues to rehab from a torn ACL in his right knee that he sustained in a November game against the Seattle Seahawks. Ian Williams has yet to report to the 49ers, as he rehabs in Florida from offseason surgery on his left ankle.