San Francisco 49ers: Winners and Losers from Week 2 of Training Camp
For the San Francisco 49ers, Week 2 of training camp resembled the entirety of their offseason program that came before it.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick, wide receiver Anquan Boldin and tight end Vernon Davis connected for multiple downfield pass plays in every practice between the team’s first and second preseason games. The top three weapons in the 49ers’ aerial assault have consistently shined over the summer.
But that’s the obvious—we expect those guys to stand out above the rest.
The same goes for defensive leaders Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman, Aldon Smith and Donte Whitner.
What’s more compelling—and more relevant to the winners and losers discussion—is the collective performance of the rookies, backups and players fighting for a roster spot.
How are these 2013 regular-season hopefuls fairing in camp? Have they made a name for themselves in a positive or negative sense? Do they appear to be legitimate NFL players?
With that in mind, let’s recap eight winners and losers from Week 2 of the 49ers’ 2013 training camp.
Winner: Michael Wilhoite, Inside Linebacker
When 49ers fans have been asked about their confidence in the team’s backup inside linebackers, a mouth-open, deafening silence has usually ensued.
The mere thought of losing either All-Pro backer Patrick Willis or NaVorro Bowman is total blasphemy among the Red and Gold faithful.
Thankfully, a capable backup has emerged in training camp.
Michael Wilhoite is a former collegiate safety that has blossomed as an inside linebacker for San Francisco. He has played tremendously in the absence of Willis, who is sitting out until the regular season due to a fracture in his hand.
Wilhoite led all players in the 49ers’ opening preseason matchup with the Denver Broncos. He registered 10 tackles (seven solo), one QB hit and shared a sack with defensive end Demarcus Dobbs.
He has operated effectively from sideline to sideline, tracking down ball carriers in the run game and holding his own in pass coverage. Totaling 14 tackles in two preseason games, not to mention exerting pressure on opposing QBs and breaking up passes (see: Preseason Week 2 at Kansas City), has proven Wilhoite’s No. 2 standing. Consistent leadership beyond his years hasn’t hurt either.
Wilhoite may not belong in the same echelon as Willis or Bowman. Where he does belong, however, is the area reserved for important backups on the depth chart.
"With Pat being hurt, I had to step up big and try to help the team as much as possible," Wilhoite said via Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
Fellow 49ers’ insider Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee echoed Maiocco’s Player of the Game sentiments by conferring MVP honors upon Wilhoite for stepping up in the way that he did.
It’s generally a good thing when outside experts confirm what fans witness on the TV screen.
Loser: A.J. Jenkins, Wide Receiver
The direct approach is often an effective alternative to playing the wait-and-see game when discussing high-round draft picks.
A.J. Jenkins has done little in Week 2 of training camp to quell the virulent criticism surrounding him. The 49ers' No. 30 overall selection in 2012 has been on the losing side of things in both preseason games and in all but one practice during this portion of the offseason.
Out of three targets against the Broncos, passes thrown in Jenkins’ direction resulted in an incompletion, an interception (overthrown pass notwithstanding) and a fumble following his only catch on the afternoon. His routes were sloppy, and he lacked the requisite attitude and toughness from the wide receiver position.
When reporters asked Jim Harbaugh about Jenkins’ on-field play, Eric Branch of SFGate.com relayed this frank response from the head coach: “Could have been better.”
That revealing four-word evaluation has accompanied Jenkins all week. Most notably, Jenkins was the only receiver held without a catch during an Aug. 12 practice. Even rookie Quinton Patton hauled in two passes without the aid of his left hand, according the CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco.
Add in his zero catches against the Chiefs in the second week of the preseason, and talk about a depressing week for the former first-round pick and supposed No. 2 wideout.
Don’t expect that lofty draft status guaranteeing him a spot on the 49ers if he keeps up this consistently awful play.
Winner: Nate Stupar, Inside Linebacker
Let us first acknowledge that Nick Moody leads the 49ers in tackles (through two preseason games) and deserves a spot on this list.
The sixth-round pick in this year’s draft is still very raw, but he does have great athleticism, determination and football smarts.
However, we opted for fellow inside linebacker Nate Stupar.
The 2012 graduate of Penn State’s “Linebacker U” has impressed in a backup role for the better part of this week.
After a quiet, two-tackle performance against the Broncos, Stupar roared back a few practices later by recording three pass breakups on Aug. 12, with one coming against all-world Vernon Davis, per Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
Stupar then exploded for nine tackles (one for loss), one QB hit and one sack against Kansas City on Friday. It was one of the most impressive stat lines for the 49ers.
The forgotten No. 230 overall pick from last year is making a legitimate case for No. 4 inside linebacker and key special teams asset.
Loser: Jewel Hampton, Running Back
Chalk this one up to both injury and ineffective play.
Jewel Hampton did not see gridiron action for most of the week due to a hamstring. He did not suit up in the 49ers' first preseason game and was out until Aug. 13.
Hampton’s second pivotal opportunity came against the Chiefs in Week 2 of the preseason. In his first game since Nov. 19, 2011 as a senior at Southern Illinois—per SFGate.com’s Eric Branch—Hampton compiled a measly average of 1.7 yards on the ground.
He continually lacked outside burst and effective inside running. Worse yet, he allowed a sack, showing a deficiency in pass protection during a live game.
The 49ers are stacked at running back with Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon and fullback Bruce Miller. A backup’s only shot is being a proficient blocker on third down and a reliable special teams contributor.
Hampton accomplished neither, as fellow roster hopeful D.J. Harper even recorded a special teams tackle.
Winner: Perrish Cox, Cornerback
What’s listed on the depth chart doesn’t always tell the whole story.
Three-year pro Perrish Cox brings a lot of versatility to the 49ers’ secondary. He can back up both outside cornerback spots, as well as operate as a nickel defensive back and rover-like safety.
His strength, quickness and good size at 6’0’’, 195 pounds enables him to cover various receiver types, not to mention provide backup insurance in the return game. A 30-yarder on a kickoff against the Chiefs provided a glimpse into that ability.
Cox’s best production has also materialized in the biggest moments of the offseason.
Denver witnessed a five-tackle, one-tackle-for-loss and one-pass-breakup outing from No. 20 during its first preseason go around.
Kansas City then watched with even greater dismay as Cox shredded them with a defensive twosome: two tackles, two tackles for loss, two QB hits and two sacks (in addition to one pass breakup).
The versatile defender showed proficiency in covering receivers out wide and from the slot when rushing the passer.
The Sacramento Bee’s Matt Barrows said as much in his postgame film review.
Note: Undrafted free agent and fellow cornerback Darryl Morris has utilized his blazing 4.3 speed and underrated ball skills in coverage during recent practices. If the 49ers keep six corners on the 53-man roster, expect them to retain Morris and not seventh-round draftee Marcus Cooper.
Loser: Jonathan Goodwin, Center
To be perfectly fair, the 49ers were a veritable mess from top to bottom during Fan Fest 2013.
With 10,000 excited fans in attendance, San Francisco struggled mightily attempting to orchestrate basic offensive procedures.
And it all started with the center-to-quarterback exchange.
Jonathan Goodwin’s return to the first-team offense was not a pretty one. Participating fully in practice for the first time since training camp’s opening weekend, Goodwin botched numerous snaps. He was responsible for a whopping three miscues with Colin Kaepernick in front of a highly disappointed crowd, according to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area.
Even though backup Daniel Kilgore committed three of his own, Goodwin’s much younger counterpart has outplayed him overall. The 25-year-old can also play both center and guard.
Goodwin is in the last year of his current deal. He made himself all the more expendable with his recent performances.
Winner: Marlon Moore, Wide Receiver
A rather staggering amount of journalistic words have been devoted to covering the 49ers’ tenuous situation at wide receiver.
How will the 49ers replace Michael Crabtree? Who will serve as the No. 2 behind Anquan Boldin? Is there enough depth at the position? Will a relative no-name step up?
All of these questions are completely legitimate. But for our purposes, we’ll focus on answering the last one.
Marlon Moore earns the aforementioned moniker of “no-name.”
Moore signed a one-year contract with San Francisco in May, and he has impressed the coaching staff ever since.
The former Miami Dolphin started across Boldin in the 49ers’ first preseason game. While only recording one catch—it was a beautiful diving varietal to be sure—the fact that he started with the first team revealed his elevated standing.
The 49ers love his durability, toughness in catching passes over the middle and speed to take the top off defenses. Insider Matt Barrows reports that Moore, along with Chad Hall, has proven the most consistent wideout during the offseason.
Said rookie safety Eric Reid of Moore, per Barrows: "Speed guy. He is a deep threat for this team. Yesterday he caught a nice ball (45-yard catch) on the sideline. He’s reliable. We can send him down the field and throw him the ball."
Moore’s consistent production as a special teams gunner will likely solidify his roster spot in 2013. His gritty, no-nonsense attitude simply meshes with the Jim Harbaugh-led 49ers. Starting consecutive preseason games lends credence to that assertion.
But let’s end with a detailed account of Moore’s noteworthy 12-yard catch against the Broncos by Eric Branch of SFGate.com:
Facing press coverage from Champ Bailey, Moore had to adjust his route and settled into an opening in the secondary when Kaepernick was forced to flee the pocket. Moore shook free from Bailey and made the catch in front of safety Duke Ihenacho…[He] flash[ed] strong hands as he snagged the fastball when it was a few inches off the ground.
It was even more impressive when viewed live—especially considering his mere total of 12 career receptions.
Loser: Colt McCoy, Quarterback
For the sake of clarity, rookie B.J. Daniels is not involved in this discussion. The seventh-round draft pick—in addition to his game-winning touchdown drive against Kansas City—is simply too versatile for the 49ers not to retain him in 2013.
Colt McCoy brings experience to the table with a 6-15 mark in 21 career starts. He has 21 touchdown passes and three game-winning drives to his name.
Unfortunately, he has not showcased any such production during the past week of training camp. Interceptions and misfires have overshadowed any touchdown passes or accurate throws on a practice-by-practice basis.
McCoy’s performances during the preseason games have been even worse. He completely sailed a deep sideline pass over A.J. Jenkins into the hands of Denver’s Mike Adams. Suffering a stinger in his throwing shoulder was just insult to his 22.6 passer rating, as reported by SFGate.com’s Eric Branch.
If not for his underrated running abilities and 37 rushing yards against the Chiefs, McCoy’s two-game totals of 76 passing yards, two interceptions and a sub-30.0 efficiency rating would have the 49ers’ offseason acquisition on the roster bubble moving forward.
Scott Tolzien, McCoy’s primary competition for No. 2 quarterback, has not produced an offensive touchdown either. His 54.3 efficiency rating is far from a respectable mark as well.
With that said, Tolzien orchestrated multiple would-be scoring drives against the Broncos and has two years within the 49ers’ offensive system. He knows the playbook and can execute accordingly—even though he is far lacking in physical talent.
Ample opportunities exist ahead, but McCoy is currently relegated to the lowly No. 3 quarterback role for the 49ers.
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