SANTA CLARA – Moments before the 49ers’ first padded practice of training camp, Hall of Famer pass-rusher Charles Haley got the attention of Aaron Lynch.
“I’m going to be watching you,” Haley said Sunday morning, giving Lynch a not-so-subtle expectation for his day of work.
On Day 3 of training camp, the 49ers’ pass rush provided reason to expect the team’s defense should be dramatically improved from a year ago.
Although Lynch has slid down the depth chart under the new regime, there is no denying he remains a player with vast potential. Lynch gave Haley plenty to appreciate, as he broke through for a couple of sacks during 11-on-11 drills.
Arik Armstead, who is lining up with the first-team defense at the “Leo” position, was constantly in the quarterback’s face with three would-be sacks. Ahmad Brooks and Elvis Dumervil also picked up sacks. Right tackle Trent Brown struggled mightily to handle the 49ers’ pass-rushers.
“We’re so deep on the D-line and linebacker position with guys who can rush the passer,” Armstead said. “I feel like even our twos are ones. I don’t see even twos in my head. I feel like we’re all ones, and we’ll send them in waves.
“Getting sacks is more of a mentality. We have the right scheme to do it. We have the mentality to do it. And we have the players to do it.”
Armstead has lost approximately 15 pounds to better be able to handle the requirements of the 49ers’ rush-end position. He could also see action on nickel downs rushing the passer from defensive tackle.
Lynch is in a battle to retain his spot on the roster. Dumervil enters the season with 99 career sacks. DeForest Buckner has set a realistic goal of 10 sacks this season. And 49ers are expecting big contributions from rookie Solomon Thomas, too.
More depth and a Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme, which emphasizes a more aggressive approach, should add up to a significantly more dynamic pass rush this season.
--Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster was beaten badly in one-on-one pass coverage drills against Matt Breida, Carlos Hyde, Logan Paulsen and Tim Hightower.
But once 11-on-11 began, Foster had an interception returned for a TD on Nick Mullens' pass intended for Bruce Ellington. It was Foster’s second pick-six in three days of practices.
“I guess the ball’s got a thing for me,” he said. “I don’t have a thing for the ball.”
--Hyde had a good showing during one-on-one drills, beating Foster and NaVorro Bowman in single coverage.
--Quarterback Brian Hoyer had another strong day, including another deep completion – 45 yards in the air -- to speedster Marquise Goodwin for a touchdown – this one against the coverage of cornerback Dontae Johnson.
--Safety Eric Reid was hobbled with an apparent right ankle injury after he wrapped up running back Tim Hightower on the second play of practice. He returned to the field a few minutes later, but then was removed later in the practice. All indications after practice was the injury is not expected to be an ongoing concern. "I’m being optimistic that it’s not too bad," coach Kyle Shanahan said.
--The 49ers expect free safety Jimmie Ward (hamstring) to be ready toward the middle of August when practices will take place against Denver. The teams will hold joint practices Aug. 16 and 17 before their exhibition game Saturday, Aug. 19, at Levi’s Stadium.
--The 49ers’ first-team offensive line consisted of left tackle Joe Staley, left guard Joshua Garnett, center Daniel Kilgore, right guard Brandon Fusco and right tackle Trent Brown.
--Bruce Ellington made a one-handed grab on a C.J. Beathard pass and turned it into a long touchdown.
--Undrafted rookie safety Chanceller James had a pick-six on a Matt Barkley pass.