I don’t know how much we should expect to see from new acquisition Kentwan Balmer until he gets his feet on the ground here. I watched him quite a bit Wednesday and he looked liked just another guy. He missed some camp in San Francisco before coming this way in the trade, so it seems as if he should have fresh legs. Not to mention the optimism from a fresh start.
Balmer got a decent push on a few plays late in practice, but that was about it. He spent most of his time on “service” teams, playing on the defensive front against the first offense. In an early drill on techniques, coaches had him go through the line a couple extra times to get his mechanics the way they wanted them.
It is logical at this point to compare Balmer with defensive end Lawrence Jackson, who was just traded to Detroit. They were picked back-to-back in the first round in 2008, and both were traded away for low draft picks after only two seasons. Comparatively, Jackson was much more productive, starting 24 games with 61 tackles and 6.5 sacks. Balmer never started for the 49ers and came up with 19 tackles in two seasons.
Although Jackson didn’t seem a great physical fit with the scheme, the thing I wondered most about Jackson was his passion for it all. Not everybody on a defense has to be a fire-breather, but it looked to me as if Jackson played too passively. For a time early last season, though, it seemed to click in for Jackson, as he had three sacks in the first two games. But then he would disappear for long stretches.
By being taken in the first round, both Jackson and Balmer were considered big-time talents with the requisite physical tools. That both would be recycled on the cheap after just two seasons is a stunning devaluation. I wonder if either of them really enjoy playing football, or brought the level of motivation it takes to succeed.
--On the defensive line topic, though, it looks like Quinn Pitcock could be a good free-agent signing. He had some good plays in the first preseason game and has been noticeable at times in practices. He plays low and is very effective with his hands.
For the legion of Red Bryant fans – and even for those who are still dubious – here’s a small example of the guy’s strength. The defensive line has a drill where they go against a stand-up dummy that is mounted on a heavy base. The dummy has “arms” that defenders slap out of the way with one hand, before slamming it on its "shoulder" with the other hand. Most of the guys get that dummy to wobble pretty well. Bryant is the only one who knocks it entirely over.
--Seems like I did a blog item during a minicamp or OTA about how good rookie tight end Anthony McCoy looked. Big and agile, he looked comfortable with his routes and confident catching the ball. Now, it seems like he has at least a drop a day. Sometimes rookies get a little overwhelmed as camp wears on and their play suffers. Maybe that’s what’s going on with McCoy. He still obviously has the physical wherewithal but his concentration is lacking.
--Aaron Curry had a nice practice Wednesday, getting what would have been sacks during defensive team sessions. On one play in a nickel session, he caught tackle Jacob Phillips off balance and flipped him to the ground with one good right hand to the shoulder. Jacob Phillips is not a front-line NFL tackle at this point, of course, but it nonetheless showed that Curry was playing with a great deal of force and proper technique.