The first week of Organized Team Activities is in the books for the San Francisco 49ers. It feels right to look back and examine the top performers.
We could list a lot more players on the roster, but we felt it was best to highlight five players after we offered 18 key observations from the first open OTA session of 2015.
Here are five players that gave the media plenty to write about.
1. Colin Kaepernick
It's hard not to notice the team's starting quarterback. Kaepernick worked on his throwing motion this offseason and has used that dedication to mesh nicely with new quarterbacks coach Steve Logan. Kaepernick showed pin-point accuracy on Thursday. His passes still had his signature zip, and he was able to avoid turning the ball over. Kap's best throws were to the number two and three players on this list. We'll break down those throws in greater detail in future paragraphs. But for now, it's also worth noting that Kaepernick was able to scramble and complete passes when plays were broken down. He still completed his throws on those improvisational moments, including a red-zone touchdown pass to Davis, who seemed to be one of the most active targets on the day. Kaepernick completed more passes to his running backs than any other offseason practice in recent memory. Kendall Hunter, Reggie Bush, Mike Davis and Jarryd Hayne all caught several passes out of the backfield on swing routes and check-down passes. Another noticeable aspect of the practice was Kaepernick's vocal leadership. When Jim Tomsula wanted to see an up-tempo pace to the workout, Kaepernick echoed those sentiments along the sideline to his offensive teammates.
- Vernon Davis**
Davis' involvement in the team's offseason program has been a positive development. The star tight end saw his numbers drop last season, but he's since vowed to bounce back in 2015. Solid practice sessions like the one we observed from Davis will bode well for his production in his 10th season as a pro. Kaepernick's very first completion on the day was a 25-yard side-armed laser to Davis, who got open down the left sideline on a deep crossing route. Davis caught the accurate pass with out-stretched arms and was still able to get his feet down inbounds. Davis later caught a pair of red-zone touchdown passes from Kaepernick. The first was in a 7-on-7 period. Davis got open down the left seam for another high-point grab. His second touchdown reception came on an improv play during a red-zone team period. Kaepernick rolled to his right and saw Davis wide open in the end zone. Kaepernick quickly launched the ball across his body for a 20-yard rope towards the middle of the field. Davis has seven young tight ends on the roster behind him, and the veteran appeared to be embracing his leadership role in the competitive group. Derek Carrier (foot) and Xavier Grimble (undisclosed injury) were the only tight ends not practicing on Thursday. The entire group looked fluid catching red-zone touchdown passes from Dylan Thompson during the opening individual period. Davis, of course, was the first person in line, showing the routes he was instructed by tight ends coach Tony Sparano.
3. Torrey Smith
"Everybody goes on the field, and you see how fast he is," Tomsula said of the team's free-agent prize. "He's just a really, really good person. Obviously, extremely talented and works his tail off." The 49ers coach raved about Smith's communications skills, stressing how Smith has been approachable to the entire roster this offseason. On the field, Smith looked very much like a featured weapon in Geep Chryst's offensive system. Smith ran fast, as Tomsula pointed out. The fifth-year wideout's burst was very noticeable when he was getting off the line of scrimmage when running routes against air (no defense). Smith hooked up with Kaepernick on several passing plays during the team period. His best catch, however, came on a red-zone scoring play from the team's backup signal-caller. More on that in the fifth bullet of this post.
- Keith Reaser**
Somebody on defense deserves love in this post, right? Enter Reaser, the fifth-round draft pick, who has the speed and game tape to give the front office visions of Reaser being an impact player in 2015. Reaser suffered a late-season knee injury in 2014 which caused him to slip in the draft and miss his rookie campaign with the 49ers. The FAU product is healthy and competing for a significant role on San Francisco's defense. Reaser rotated with the first-team defense along with Shareece Wright, Marcus Cromartie, Chris Cook and Dontae Johnson. Reaser also took reps as a nickel cornerback. There didn't appear to be an exact pecking order for the team's cornerbacks, but the fact that Reaser was given prime reps is a good sign that he's been impressing in the media-closed OTA sessions. Reaser's development, along with 2014 draft picks Dontae Johnson and Kenneth Acker, remains one of the most fascinating offseason storylines in the defensive backfield.
5. Blaine Gabbert
OTAs are the place for offensive skill players to shine. Gabbert, too, enjoyed a solid practice in the contact-free session. The offseason program allows position players to work their crafts on a repeated basis. For Gabbert, this means being able to run an up-tempo offense and build chemistry with the team's double-digit list of wideouts. Gabbert, like Kaepernick, did not committ a turnover. He was also able to step out of the pocket and pick up chunks of rushing yards when the opportunities presented themselves. Gabbert's accurate day included a perfect touchdown pass to Smith on a post-corner route in the red zone. The pefectly-thrown ball landed low and to the outside of the left corner of the end zone, a place where only Smith could get to. Gabbert also launched the ball prior to Smith's out-breaking move. The timing was perfect. It showed Gabbert's confidence in his new teammate, as well as the fifth-year quarterback's growth in his second season with the 49ers. There's been a lot of talk about Kaepernick's development this offseason, and rightfully so, but Gabbert's progress shouldn't go unnoticed as well.