ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Ahmad Brooks brought the "juice" to Thursday's joint practice between the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos.
The 11-year veteran linebacker was a standout for the 49ers defense in the final tuneup before Saturday's preseason game.
For more on Brooks' performance and the other top plays of the day, let's take a look at some key observations.1. Denver head coach Gary Kubiak announced after the 90-minute practice in shells that Trevor Siemian would start at quarterback for the Broncos on Saturday. Siemian also took the majority of first-team reps in practice against San Francisco's defense.
Brooks nearly intercepted a Siemian pass in a red-zone team period. However, the aggressive linebacker made up for it in the next team drill. Brooks sacked Mark Sanchez with a speed rush around the left edge. On the next play, Brooks clobbered Broncos running back C.J. Anderson.
It was a tone-setting play for the 49ers defense.2. San Francisco's starting defense was without Aaron Lynch and Arik Armstead. Lynch worked with the team's training staff throughout the day. Armstead, on the other hand, was out at practice but did not participate in group periods. Armstead continues to be working through an upper-body issue.
Eli Harold and Garrett Celek rotated with the first-team defense in place of Lynch. First-round draft pick DeForest Buckner continued to work with the starting defensive line in Armstead's spot.3. The opening team period saw an impressive downfield pass breakup by defensive back Jimmie Ward on a 40-yard deep ball from Siemian intended for wide receiver Cody Latimer.4. Nose tackle Mike Purcell scooped up a fumbled snap shortly after Ward's deep PBU.5. Carradine showed excellent burst around the left edge on a red-zone sack of Sanchez.6. In other depth-chart news, Michael Wilhoite and Ray-Ray Armstrong appeared to take turns playing next to NaVorro Bowman with the starters on defense. Wilhoite' thumped Anderson in the hole at one point of practice, stopping the veteran back for no gain on an interior run. Armstrong later broke up a Siemian pass and intercepted the Broncos quarterback's Hail Mary pass to close out practice.7. Keith Reaser and rookie Rashard Robinson worked with the second-team defense at cornerback.8. The defensive play of the day was an interception from cornerback Kenneth Acker on a 50-yard deep ball. Acker laid out to make the diving takeaway on a pass thrown by rookie Paxton Lynch intended for rookie receiver Bralon Addison.9. Buckner, Armstead and Brooks all worked with Hall of Fame defensive end Charles Haley at various points of practice. Coach Chip Kelly told reporters that Haley is helping with the team's player engagement department.
10. Chris Davis continues to impress as the first-team nickel cornerback. After recording three, third-down stops in Week 1 of the preseason, Davis was able to thwart a third-down crossing route by knocking away Sanchez' pass in an 11-on-11 period.11. In a move-the-ball period to close the practice session, the first-team defense kept the Broncos out of the end zone. The situation called for Denver needing a touchdown, trailing 26-21, with one minute on the clock and 60 yards away from the end zone.
Eric Reid broke up Siemian's first Hail Mary throw. The 49ers coaching staff made sure their players were smart about leaping in the air and risking injury on the second throw. Sure enough, Denver launched a deep ball, which Armstrong carefully caught for San Francisco's second interception of the day.
The second-team defense also kept the Broncos out of the end zone. Corey Lemonier's first-down sack put the home team in a long down and distance. Sanchez' fourth-down pass went incomplete, giving the 49ers two key stops to finish the day.