The marquee event of the 49ers training camp practices have been the series of head-to-head battles: receivers vs. cornerbacks, tight ends and running backs vs. linebackers and most notably, offensive line vs. defensive line.
Reporters crowd the sidelines to catch the O-line/D-line clashes – in particular, the battle between the 49ers Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams and the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year, Nick Bosa. Even head coach Kyle Shanahan, who spends his time all over the team's set of practice fields, is captivated by the showing.
"Watching those two go together is pretty cool," Shanahan said on Monday. "It's fun to watch them adjust to each other."
Bosa is coming off of a record-setting season where he registered 9.0 sacks, the fourth-most by a 49ers rookie since 1982, along with 47 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries in 16 games. For Williams, who returns to the field after missing the entire 2019 campaign, Bosa was to be the ideal litmus test for the offensive lineman's comeback.
Despite the appeal of the display in the trenches, Bosa believes it's not the best representation of what you might see on the field on Sundays.
"I think anybody would tell you, O-line or D-line, (1-on-1 drills are) not the most realistic thing compared to team reps, but it's definitely a good tool to work on something you may have wanted to work on," Bosa said. "For me, going against Trent, it's trying to win whatever way I can. I try to not get too caught up in the 1-on-1's because it can kind of throw you off for the rest of practice. If you lose a couple, then you might get angry and not focus as hard the rest of practice, or if you win a couple, you can get too confident going into the next period."
So far, the battles appear to be serving both parties well at practice. Heading into the season, Williams was eager to line up across from the now-second year edge rusher as a "pivotal tool" to help knock the rust off after not playing a snap since Dec. 30, 2018.
In return, one of the league's best defensive linemen has been able to sharpen his iron against an All-Pro, Pro Bowl talent. By the looks of it, there's no signs of rust as Williams has excelled in his return to football. His knowledge and experience as one of the league's more elite tackles in the NFL will only continue to benefit Bosa's development. And the ability to practice across from one of the best in the league could be a major asset for gamedays.
"You're not going to beat Trent clean very often. So getting a clean win on him is a good feeling," Bosa said. "It definitely seems like he's feeling great and playing really well. I'm definitely confident in Jimmy Garoppolo's left side. Not that the rest of the O-line isn't great, but having Trent is going to be a huge, huge help for him.
"From what I've seen, he's going to be very helpful this year for us."