The San Francisco 49ers have several heated training camp battles that will be on display to the 49er faithful this summer in Santa Clara, California. Here are a few battles to pay close attention to.
QB: Alex Smith vs. Shaun Hill
The most visible battle this summer will be Smith vs. Hill. This is the second consecutive year that these two best friends will be out to compete for the starting quarterback job for the 49ers (minus J.T. O'Sullivan, of course). The two-way race, which actually started in the team’s first mini-camp over the weekend, will continue towards the beginning of training camp.
Head coach Mike Singletary was on the NFL Network recently, and he spoke about having the decision made sooner than later. All signs point to Shaun Hill being given the nod if he continues to practice more consistently and picks up the offense quickly.
Alex Smith, however, will not go down without a fight. GM Scot McCloughan drafted Smith, and the team has already paid Smith $35 million in guaranteed money, so there's a vested interest for Smith to get back on the field and win games.
Hill over Smith, but the backup will get a chance sometime during the season.
WR: Michael Crabtree vs. Josh Morgan
These two wide receivers could be the best tandem of young talented wide receivers in the league this year. Only one problem: They both play the X or flanker spot (the WR on the line of scrimmage). Most experts think Crabtree is a lock to start at the X spot, but Morgan is too much of an impressive talent to designate as a No. 3 WR, and Isaac Bruce will need some ball this season too.
The team will move Morgan to the Z spot (off the line of scrimmage) where he will rotate with Bruce in different packages, with Crabtree being on the field for the entire game. Most of the balls will be going to Crabtree and Vernon Davis this year, so opponents will need to decide who needs double coverage most, leaving other playmakers on the team with one-on-one coverage during the games.
DE: Demetric Evans vs. 2008 First Round Pick Kentwan Balmer
This battle is important mainly due to the lack of playing time for last year's first round pick Kentwan Balmer in 2008. Balmer played in only six regular season games and never started. This offseason Balmer has been at the team facility working hard and spending a lot of time with linemate Justin Smith learning what it takes to be a good player in this league.
Evans, however, played well in a part-time role for the Redskins last season, starting in 11 games with 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Evans is a hard worker and a consistent player, which would make the decision a little more difficult for Singletary to make.
Evans will get the start, and Balmer will rotate in during games and in goal line situations. Balmer will also be present on special teams this season. He stood out last year by returning a few kicks and making some key tackles.
49ers training camp is located at the team’s headquarters in Santa Clara, California and is open to the public on designated days. (The dates and the times will be announced in July.)
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