3 Young San Francisco 49ers Struggling Through Training Camp

Brandon Burnett@B_Burnett49Contributor IIIAugust 17, 2012

Ed Szczepanski/US Presswire
Ed Szczepanski/US Presswire

As practice came to a close in Santa Clara on Thursday, Jim Harbaugh continued to gush over quarterback Alex Smith's progress this offseason (via Taylor Price, from the 49ers official website). 

Smith hasn't been the only 49er to draw a significant amount of praise this summer, though, as many members of the Red and Gold have thrived throughout Harbaugh's first full offseason with the team.

That said, in a pool of 90 players, not everyone is going to stand out. 

Everyone improves in training camp—that's the point. But some—for one reason or another—progress at a slower level than their teammates. 

We often see the youngsters struggling early, as they acclimate themselves to the speed of the NFL while attempting to absorb the biggest playbook they've ever seen.

There hasn't been much noise made about players struggling throughout camp this year, but I've managed to dig up a couple of qualifiers.

Let us take a look at those three players, including two others who've experienced a noteworthy issue or two.

Deante’ Purvis, CB

A local guy from the Bay Area, Purvis joined the 90-man roster as an undrafted free agent with hopes of making a positive impact in training camp.

Thus far, the only thing the speedy cornerback has been able to do is make opposing receivers look good.

49ers beat writers have been periodically noting Purvis’ inability to defend receivers in camp, particularly while in man coverage.

This from Kyle Bonagura of CBS Sports:

Bay Area product CB Deante' Purvis has struggled with man coverage throughout training camp and that continued Wednesday. Purvis is frequently picked on in 11-on-11 drills and was called for pass interference while trying to cover Ted Ginn Jr.

It would've been difficult to envision the youngster occupying a spot on the practice squad this season, even if he'd been one of camp's bright spots. 

After gauging his efforts to this point, Purvis' name is likely one of the first to be called when Harbaugh and the front office begin to trim the roster.

Josh Johnson, QB

At age 26, Johnson may not exactly qualify as one of the younger 49ers, and he hasn't exactly been terrible,either.

However, a solid case could be made that he’s the fourth-best quarterback on the 49ers roster right now, a substantial drop from the outlook when he joined the team.

When the former University of San Diego QB was signed this summer, there was talk that his former relationship with Harbaugh and knowledge of the offense could help thrust him into a backup role for 2012, possibly even helping him unseat Alex Smith as the starter.

My, how quickly things change.

He's had positive plays too, but the bad ones have stood out. Particularly last Friday.

His first pass of the night was an errant throw on basic slant route to WR Ben Hannula in which Johnson fired the ball extremely low and out of reach. Later, he threw behind RB Anthony Dixon on a short five-yard pass attempt as the QB rolled to his right.

Scott Tolzien has quickly become a favorite among the 49er faithful, and projected No. 2 QB Colin Kaepernick has outperformed Johnson as well, despite flashing some concerns of his own.

CSN Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco highlighted Johnson’s struggles in his recap of Wednesday’s practice. The QB was responsible for both interceptions on the day and overthrew Brian Tyms on a would-be interception that was dropped by safety Colin Jones.

Maiocco noted that Johnson made some impressive throws as well, but consistency is clearly the strongest concern at this point in time.

All in all, it’s been a less than desirable beginning for Johnson in 2012. 

Joe Looney, OG

Due to a Lisfranc injury sustained at the Senior Bowl, Looney wasn't able to become a full practice participant until the week before the preseason opener. So, it probably shouldn’t come as a shock that he makes this short list.

Little has been said about Looney’s camp struggles, but the injury alone has set him back in search of a roster spot, and there was some rust on display in his first taste of live NFL action.

Despite showing bright spots in the run game, Looney looked lost at times in passing situations, seemingly unsure of his assignments and even allowing a swarm of Minnesota defenders to slide through the line and swallow up Tolzien on one play.

The very next snap, he was called for a blatant false start penalty.

These mistakes only seem to validate the concern that the injury has caused a significant setback.

As previously stated, however, that is somewhat to be expected, given the amount of offseason reps he has missed.

There are still three games left in the preseason and I'm confident Looney will survive the roster cuts that await. But the addition of veteran guard Leonard Davis does serve as a potential threat in addition to the slow start.

Not-So-Honorable Mentions:

A.J. Jenkins

No, I'm not jumping on the bandwagon filled with Jenkins' critics. Sorry, Harbaugh, you won't be sending an 'I told you so' my way. 

Much of the rookie receiver's camp performance was outstanding, so anyone labeling the first-round pick a bust would have some serious explaining to do.

That said, viewers of last Friday's preseason game witnessed the youngster whiff on a couple of easily catchable balls, typically an issue that is cause for concern. 

But, as Roman highlighted (per Alex Espinoza of 49ers.com), it isn't out of the ordinary for a rookie WR trying to absorb a complex playbook while adjusting to the speed of the NFL to struggle with focus early on.

After all, focus is what wrapping your hands around a whizzing pigskin really comes down to.

As everything around him begins to slow down, the amount of drops will likely follow suit.

For now, it is something to monitor. But I certainly don't expect Jenkins' career to be hindered by a permanent case of the butterfingers. 

Michael Crabtree

Another offseason, another injury. 

If Crabtree hadn't missed extensive practice time, I wouldn't have bothered including him. His media reaction to the missed time, as fellow B/R writer Joe Levitt recently pointed out, didn't make him look good, either.

You never want to rush a player back from injury, but the continued absences from training camp (this time for a strained calf muscle) have remained a frustrating sight (or lack thereof) for 49er fans. 

Otherwise, we've been hearing great things about Crabtree and his developments this offseason.

Here's to keeping it that way.

Add Brandon on Twitter.


    The Great Tanking Debate: Sashi Brown or Sam Hinkie?

    NFL logo

    The Great Tanking Debate: Sashi Brown or Sam Hinkie?

    The Ringer
    via The Ringer

    What All Six Rookies HCs Have to Prove

    NFL logo

    What All Six Rookies HCs Have to Prove

    Dan Graziano
    via ESPN.com

    Jerry Says He's 'Earned the Right to Joke About Zeke—Period'

    NFL logo

    Jerry Says He's 'Earned the Right to Joke About Zeke—Period'

    Scott Polacek
    via Bleacher Report

    Best Storylines and Moments for Episode 3 of Hard Knocks

    NFL logo

    Best Storylines and Moments for Episode 3 of Hard Knocks

    Paul Kasabian
    via Bleacher Report