SANTA CLARA – The 49ers' competition at free safety took a turn Tuesday.
Jimmie Ward, the favorite to open the season as the starter, was activated from the physically-unable-to-perform list after fracturing his collarbone during the offseason program. However, he did not practice Tuesday. The 49ers' plan is to work him into the mix the week after the first preseason game.
Adrian Colbert, who ran with the starters for the first three practices, shared first-team snaps at free safety with second-year player Tarvarius Moore, who played cornerback as a rookie.
“T-Moore has been doing well since spring, since he made the change,” said Jaquiski Tartt, the starter at strong safety. “He’s been taking in the coaching and doing his job.”
But defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Moore is a long way away from competing for a starting job.
"He’s by no means even close to being an NFL-ready safety by Week 1, but he is getting progressively better," Saleh said. "He’s got a lot of things to clean up with regards to, he’s hesitating, which is expected. He’s still new at the position, but he’s got to get to the point where he’s not really thinking about his job anymore where he can react and trigger, which is so important for our safety to be able to do.”
Ward took part in the team’s walk-through before practice, which was not allowed as long as he remained on the PUP list.
The secondary appears to be playing with more confidence -- perhaps in large part due to the improved pass rush.
“On the back end, that helps a lot, knowing they’re getting to the quarterback, so we can all be ready to break for the ball,” Tartt said.
Rough day for offense
The 49ers’ defense was clearly ahead of the offense through the first four practice, which is typical this time of year. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed six of 13 pass attempts, including one well-thrown pass down the field that tight end George Kittle dropped.
The reserves have been running more smoothly with Nick Mullens. On Tuesday, he completed seven of 10 pass attempts, while C.J. Beathard completed five of 10 throws. Mullens and Beathard remain in a too-close-to-call competition for the backup job.
Offensive Play of the Day
There was not much from which to choose in the passing game, so we look to the run game. Running back Matt Breida found an opening on the left side of the line and blasted through into the secondary. Cornerback Richard Sherman, who had the angle on Breida, ran him out of bounds 40 yards down the field.
Defensive Plays of the Day
The 49ers are expecting big things from defensive end Nick Bosa, and he has given the club no reason to be concerned through four practices. On Bosa’s very first snap of the 11-on-11 period, he broke through for his first of three quarterback sacks or pressures.
Rookie linebacker Dre Greenlaw had a hand laceration, while edge rusher Dee Ford had quadriceps and finger (right hand) issues. Both were pulled from practice, the team reported.
Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon sustained a minor knee issue early in the 11-on-11 period and was held out of practice the rest of the way. Greg Mabin took his place with the first team.
Guard Joshua Garnett did not practice for the third consecutive day after sustaining a dislocated ring finger on his right hand in practices Saturday and Sunday.
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who had his foot stepped on during practice Monday, and running back Jeffrey Wilson (finger) were held out.
This ‘n’ That
- Cornerback Richard Sherman had a strong session during one-on-one drills, and also mixed it up a hit in run support.
“I didn’t see it because I was taking on a block, but I heard it," Tartt said. "And he was (like), ‘I’m a grown man.’ That was good to hear from him. He’s been doing well, too. He’s looking like Sherman.”
- Linebackers Malcolm Smith and LaRoy Reynolds and Elijah Lee, as well as edge rusher Ronald Blair made plays on incomplete passes while dropping into coverage. ... Defensive end Jamell Garcia-Williams used every bit of his 6-foot-8 frame to bat down a Beathard pass directed to the right side of the field.
- Kittle had a team-high three receptions, while Trent Taylor, Richie James, Tevin Coleman and Jalen Hurd had two catches apiece.
- In addition to Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Sheldon Day provided pressure or would-be sacks during practice.
After a practice in which they racked up 62 snaps of 11-on-11, the 49ers have their first day off Wednesday. Clubs are not allowed to have more than four consecutive days of practices. The 49ers return to practice on Thursday at 10 a.m.