49ers Eager to Practice Against Defending Super Bowl Champs

Ronald Blair III's eyes lit up when the Denver Broncos were mentioned to him on Sunday night.

Keep in mind, this was shortly after the San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman saw the field for 30 snaps in his preseason debut against the Houston Texans.

Blair and his teammates will hit the road this week for two joint practices against the Denver Broncos. The sessions will be followed by a preseason road game on Saturday against the defending Super Bowl champions.

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to keep on getting better," said Blair, who recorded a quarterback hit in San Francisco's 24-13 loss to Houston.

Week 2 of the preseason offers an opportunity for many of the 49ers to test themselves against a perennial Super Bowl contender.

Blair's defensive coordinator described the importance of the situation as only a tenured football coach could do.

"We're going against the defending Super Bowl champs," Jim O'Neil said on Tuesday prior to the team's departure to Denver. "if you can't get excited for that, something's wrong with you."

Count Blair as one of the most eager to face Denver's veteran-laden offensive line.

"It's just a tremendous honor to practice against the Super Bowl champs and then play a game right after that," Blair said. "Hopefully I'll get to gain a lot from the experience. For a d-lineman, that's huge."

In particular, the opportunity to practice fundamentals against a different opponent offers new ways for first-year players to improve.

"It's fun because you can really work your stuff against a new team," Blair said. "Guys here know what your lead move is and what your counter move is, so they kind of know what's coming when you come out of your stance."

The 49ers faced the Broncos for a pair of joint practices in 2015. One of the biggest takeaways for Bruce Miller was the elevation change.

"It might slow us down a little," Miller said. "We have been up there before, and feel like we do a good job with it."

Joint practices also offer fascinating 1-on-1 practice matchups.

"They have great receivers, so it's a great challenge," Reaser said. "I'm looking forward to it, big time. That's going to help us get better."

Reaser recorded a pass breakup in the preseason opener against Houston. The young defensive back liked how the joint practice with the Texans allowed him to learn strengths and weaknesses of the receivers he faced on gameday. Reaser also raved about how O'Neil's press-man scheme has fueled his growth.

"My confidence level is up there," Reaser said. "I think I've always had confidence, but I really like this team and what we're doing. I think this scheme fits with what I'm good at – man-to-man coverage."

Reaser's 4.33, 40-yard dash speed has been noticeable in camp. He explained why the press-man scheme will allow the 49ers to compete against talented Broncos receivers Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Cody Latimer.

"We get to really challenge a receiver instead of letting them run freely," Reaser said. "We get to challenge (the opponent) to make good throws and make good catches."

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