SANTA CLARA –- Vance McDonald, who is in a fight for his spot as the 49ers’ No. 2 tight end, got off to a strong start during the 49ers’ non-padded practice on Thursday.
On a day in which quarterback Colin Kaepernick and backup Blaine Gabbert featured the tight ends prominently, McDonald caught a touchdown pass on the first 11-on-11 play in a red zone period. He had receptions on three of the first four pass attempts of the day.
The 49ers’ top two tight ends to open last season, Vernon Davis and McDonald, tied for day-high honors with four receptions apiece. Davis also teamed up with Kaepernick on the play of the day (see below).
The offense won the day, especially during a fourth-down period in which Kaepernick converted each of his four attempts with passes to Torrey Smith, Carlos Hyde, Anquan Boldin and Hyde, again.
Offensive play of the day: On a third-and-three play from the five-yard line, Kaepernick lofted a perfect fade to Vernon Davis in the corner of the end zone against the coverage of Craig Dahl and Shareece Wright for the touchdown.
Defensive play of the day: The 49ers’ defensive staff will love to see how quick inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman looked while running down Carlos Hyde on a run play from the six-yard line. Bowman, of course, was not able to make the hit in the non-padded session, but he tapped Hyde and he ran past to make him aware he would have made the stop well short of the goal line.
This ‘n’ that: Patrick Miller took over at left tackle with the first-team offense with Joe Staley receiving a veteran day off. . . Running back Jarryd Hayne made a leaping catch of a Dylan Thompson pass and landed at the feet of safety Jimmie Ward, who hopped over Hayne to avoid contact. . . Rookie receiver DeAndrew White nearly made an extraordinary leaping catch of a Kaepernick pass along the back line of the end zone. White had control for a while but could not maintain possession after hitting the ground. . . The 49ers’ top two draft picks, Arik Armstead and Jaquiski Tartt, got pressure on Kaepernick for a would-be sack during 11-on-11. . . Linebacker Shayne Skov had a nice pass breakup of a Kaepernick pass intended for Hyde during a 7-on-7 period. . . Outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who has been nursing a back condition, left the practice field about 30 minutes early to go into the weight room. . . Kendall Hunter caught a touchdown pass from Kaepernick during the 7-on-7 red zone drill. . . Cornerback Keith Reaser, who is seeing work with the first team, had what appeared to be pass interference on his coverage against Torrey Smith in the end zone. The next play, McDonald beat him for a reception. . . Kaepernick had a little too much mustard on his pass at the sideline for Reggie Bush, against whom Bowman had good coverage. The ball skipped through Bush’s hands, and Bush came up shaking his right thumb. He did not miss any practice time. . . Tight end Derek Carrier had consecutive passes broken up. Safety L.J. McCray batted away Kaepernick’s throw. Then, Nick Moody in coverage defended Blaine Gabbert’s attempt. . . Hyde had three receptions on the day, while DeAndrew White, Garrett Celek, Anquan Boldin, Mike Davis, Xavier Grimble and Blake Bell had two apiece during 11-on-11 drills.
Daily transactions: None.
Returned to practice: TE Derek Carrier (illness)
Did not practice: LB Eli Harold (muscle strain), WR Bruce Ellington (leg strain), LB Philip Wheeler (leg strain), DL Glenn Dorsey (leg strain), LT Joe Staley (veteran day off)
Physically unable to perform: C Daniel Kilgore (left leg)
Non-football injury/illness: LB Michael Wilhoite (leg), WR DeAndre Smelter (knee)
Next practice: The 49ers practice Friday at 12:15 p.m. The practice is closed to the general public.