SANTA CLARA – The 49ers’ top picks of the 2014 and ’15 drafts began practice with eye-catching plays on Monday.
Defensive end Arik Armstead, who mostly lined up at right defensive end in the 49ers’ 3-4 defense, crashed through the left side of the defensive line and inadvertently upended running back Carlos Hyde to force a fumble.
The 49ers do not tackle during practices, but Armstead had such momentum built up he could not avoid hitting Hyde. Several plays later, Armstead again got into the backfield to stop a run play during a session designed for run and play-action passes.
Just minutes later during a 7-on-7 period, cornerback Jimmie Ward jumped a route in the slot to intercept a Blaine Gabbert pass intended for Bruce Ellington.
“That’s a correction that was made,” Ward said. “They beat me on that route yesterday.
“Basically, I just disguised my coverage. We were in man coverage, man free, I just disguised and kind of confused the quarterback. Then, I jumped outside to the leverage I was supposed to have. I knew where my help was, and he ended up throwing me the ball.”
Offensive play of the day: During the play-action period, Gabbert faked a handoff and delivered a deep pass down the left sideline for Jerome Simpson, who made the catch against the coverage of Dontae Johnson for what would’ve been a 40-yard touchdown strike.
Depth chart: The 49ers unveiled a large, young and talented defensive line that consisted of nose tackle Quinton Dial with defensive ends Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner.
“The way we teach our three guys inside is they learn all three positions,” 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said. “So when we ramp up and we’re ready for the season that will give us the ability to play our three best. We don’t have to say, ‘This guy is our best nose.’ No, if we have three really good ends, we’re going to play those three ends.”
Fast-paced action: The 49ers concluded practice with separate team sessions in which the team ran 18 plays in each session. It took the 49ers just seven minutes to run those plays – or approximately 2 ½ snaps every minute. Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick both appear to have a good grasp of the offense, as both were seen directing players to different sides of the field when they lined up incorrectly. Kaepernick completed 8 of 10 during team drills, while Gabbert connected on 6 of 9 in the 11-on-11 work.
This ‘n’ that: Agent Drew Rosenhaus attended Monday’s practice and was seen speaking with 49ers CEO Jed York. After NaVorro Bowman concluded his workout in the 49ers’ weight room, Rosenhaus accompanied his client upstairs at the 49ers’ main team offices that overlook the practice field. . .
Veteran Thad Lewis, who served as Kelly’s No. 3 quarterback most of last season with the Eagles, got off to a rough start with four consecutive incomplete passes on four apparent miscommunications with his intended targets to open the first 7-on-7 session of practice. . .
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke on the practice field with Kelly before practice. She watched the entire 1 hour, 42-minute practice from the sideline. After the workout, she went onto the practice field to address the team. Her message was on the importance of team-building during this time of the year to get fully prepared for the regular season, when it’s more difficult to come together as a team due to the hectic nature of the week-to-week planning to face opponents. . .
The first minor skirmish of training camp involved linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong and tight end Busta Anderson. . .
During team drills, nickel back Chris Davis broke up a pass intended for Ellington. During 7-on-7s, cornerback Keith Reaser and linebacker Nick Bellore defended passes.
Daily transactions: None.
Injury report: Nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (knee), who passed his physical upon reporting to camp, was held out of team drills. He worked with the strength and conditioning staff on a side field.
Next practice: The 49ers will conduct their first padded practice of training camp, beginning Tuesday at 10:25 a.m.