Defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil shared his vision for the San Francisco 49ers defense on Wednesday.
Shortly after the DC commented on his players and their respective roles, the defense enjoyed a strong showing in the fifth of nine practices during Organized Team Activities.
Take a look at our 15 observations from the day.
- Jimmie Ward continued his role as the right cornerback for the first-team defense. The only difference from last week was that the defensive back stayed on the right side of the field and did not cover the slot in San Francisco's nickel pass defense. The first-team slot coverage duties went to cornerback Chris Davis, who recorded an interception in a 2-on-3 route-running drill. Keith Reaser was the second-team slot cornerback, with Dontae Johnson and rookie Rashard Robinson manning the perimeter spots with the second unit..
- Ward's best play of the day was a diving pass breakup on a Blaine Gabbert pass intended for Quinton Patton. Ward did an excellent job to sprawl back to his left to tip enough of the pass to make it uncatchable for Patton.
- Undrafted wide receiver Devon Cajuste, who appeared to be shaken up at last week's open OTA session, rehabbed on an adjacent field on Wednesday. Veteran defenders Ahmad Brooks and Glenn Dorsey also rehabbed their respective injuries. For the second week in a row, third-round draft pick Will Redmond did not join in on group and team periods.
- Former 49ers defensive end Andre Carter has joined the team as a coaching intern. Carter worked with the defensive line group throughout the day. He also kept a close eye on a defensive rotation period that saw all position groups rotate through various fundamental-specific drills. It was quite the sight to see defensive backs work on blitzing, pass-rushing moves and defensive linemen practice tipping and catching passes as if they were breaking up passes at the line of scrimmage.
- Veteran wideout Torrey Smith turned in the catch of the day by cradling a one-handed catch down the right sideline on a throw from Thad Lewis. Shortly after, Tramaine Brock recorded an interception on a Lewis pass intended for rookie receiver Aaron Burbridge.
- Former defensive tackle Garrett Celek continued to impress in his transition to outside linebacker and pass-rusher in defensive sub packages. Carradine, who weighs 270 pounds, was able to run stride for stride with tight end Busta Anderson.
- In addition to Ward with the first-team defense at right corner, weak side inside linebacker duties went again to Gerald Hodges. O'Neil stated that Hodges would split first-team reps with Michael Wilhoite and Ray-Ray Armstrong over the course of OTAs.
- Another eye-catching moment of practice was seeing three members of the equipment staff wear shoulder pads with five-foot-tall nets attached to their back. The nets, worn during 7-on-7 periods, were used to simulate defensive linemen reaching up to block passes. The nets were able to record a couple of pass breakups on the day, proving to be a valuable learning tool for the 49ers quarterbacks.
- Team periods saw the same first-team offensive line combination as Week 1 of OTAs. From right to left, the line featured Erik Pears, Brandon Thomas, Daniel Kilgore, Zane Beadles and Joe Staley.
- Some of the top defensive plays of the day inlcuded a pass breakup from Robinson on a comeback pass intended for Burbridge. Hodges later recorded a pass breakup on a Gabbert pass intended for tight end Garrett Celek. Hodges later tallied an interception on a pass that was tipped by one of those pesky shoulder-pad-nets during a later 7-on-7 period.
- Special teams periods saw Bruce Ellington, undrafted rookie receiver Bryce Treggs and second-year wideout DeAndrew White handle the punt-return duties. Rookie quarterback Jeff Driskel, who ran a 4.56-second, 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, also got some reps in punt coverage.
- Cornerback Marcus Cromartie joined Jaquiski Tartt as the second-team safeties for a second consecutive week.
- Burbridge, CFL import Eric Rogers and White, hauled in several intermediate passes during the final 11-on-11 period of the day.
- White, who starred on the 49ers practice field last offseason, recorded a one-handed grab on a crossing route thrown by Lewis.
- The 49ers finished the session with a two-minute drill period. The first-team offense converted a 3rd-and-19 with a 20-yard Gabbert-to-Smith connection, but the offense ran out of time and was unable to spike the ball to run one last play.