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Rookie Hufanga impresses in 49ers' strong safety competition

NBC Sports
Talanoa Hufanga

SANTA CLARA -- The back-and-forth nature of the 49ers’ practices during training camp continued  Wednesday with both sides of the ball making its share of plays.

The 49ers' offense came up with some big plays down the field, but the defense also responded with three interceptions.

Rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga, a fifth-round pick from USC, made a leaping interception of a Josh Rosen pass 35 yards down the field.

Hufanga said his goal was to make the Pro Bowl on special teams as a rookie. But, now, the door is open for him to make his contribution on defense, too.

“I was really excited to see the play Huff made,” 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans said. “It was an awesome play. I was excited for him to make that play and continue to build confidence. He’s getting better and better each day.”

The biggest question mark as the 49ers enter their first preseason game is the starting job opposite of Jimmie Ward.

Jaquiski Tartt is not expected back any time soon due to a lingering toe injury. Tarvarius Moore is out until at least the middle of the season after undergoing offseason surgery on a torn Achilles.

Veteran Tony Jefferson is out for a while with hamstring and groin injuries.

The 49ers’ top remaining players who are competing for the other safety spot are veteran Tavon Wilson, who has been running with the first-team defense, Jared Mayden, Kai Nacua and Hufanga.


On Wednesday, the 49ers signed veteran Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, a six-year veteran who did not play last season after the Dallas Cowboys released him at the end of camp.

“Adding Ha Ha, we needed more depth, more bodies,” Ryans said. “Ha Ha is a guy who’s competed in this league, started in this league and played good ball in this league, so looking to add some depth at that position.”

RELATED: 49ers' first-time DC Ryans adjusting well to new role

Here are other notes and observations from the 49ers’ longest practice of the summer:

— Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed 13 of 24 pass attempts with two interceptions. Cornerback Jason Verrett and linebacker Dre Greenlaw came up with interceptions.

— Rookie quarterback Trey Lance completed 16 of 20 attempts.

— Lance hooked up with Deebo Samuel on a 30-yard pass down the left sideline against rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas.

— Lance made another nice throw when he was rolling right and hit Trent Sherfield for a 20-yard gain.

— The 49ers have a rule against tackling to the ground in practice, but there has been some hitting. Tight end George Kittle took a hit a day earlier from linebacker Fred Warner. On Wednesday, Greenlaw initiated a big collision in which one of the players ended up on the ground.

“Pretty sure whoever hit me ended up on the ground and I was still standing, so it is what it is,” Kittle said.

— Wide receiver Jalen Hurd returned to practice and participated in eight plays in 11-on-11 drills. He did not see a pass thrown his way. Hurd, who has just one reception during camp, has struggled to get on the field and remain on the field.

During one-on-one drills, Hurd beat rookie cornerback Ambry Thomas on a deep route, but the ball was overthrown. On Tuesday, coach Kyle Shanahan said of Hurd, “Hopefully he can get in a groove, where he has a chance to go out there and play some football and give himself a chance to make this team.”

— Sudfeld hit Cracraft on a pass 35 yards down the field. Cracraft went down, got up and finished the play. Thomas, who was in coverage, did not touch Cracraft when he was down. Thomas received an earful from Wilson on the sideline.

— Sudfeld completed five of six pass attempts, while Rosen completed three of five.

— Tight end Jordan Matthews had a bad drop on a well-thrown pass from Rosen.

— Starting cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley continued their strong camps, as both again looked good in coverage. Verrett had an interception of a Garoppolo pass intended for Deebo Samuel.

— Nickel back K’Waun Williams likely would have had an interception of a Garoppolo pass but he collided with Greenlaw and the ball was knocked out for an incompletion.

— Rookie cornerback Deommodore Lenoir stripped the ball from Brandon Aiyuk for an incomplete pass on a Nate Sudfeld pass attempt.

— Rosen hooked up with receiver River Cracraft, who made a nice diving catch, for a 7-yard touchdown.

— The 49ers' defensive line got good pressure on Lance and the second-team offensive line, in particular. Defensive linemen Jordan Willis, Arik Armstead, D.J. Jones and Eddie Yarbrough supplied good pressure, and Mayden and linebacker James Burgess Jr. would have picked up sacks on blitzes.


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