Austin Bryant

Maiocco's 49ers camp observations: Bryant shines in Bosa's absence

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SANTA CLARA — Quarterback Sam Darnold had not thrown an interception and rookie safety Ji’Ayir Brown had not been around the ball much through 10 practices at 49ers training camp.

All that changed on Tuesday with one play.

Brown, whom the 49ers selected in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft with the No. 87 overall pick, ranged from the middle of the field to the deep left sideline to make a leaping interception.

Darnold saw his streak of 82 pass attempts during camp without an interception come to an end on his deep pass intended for Ray-Ray McCloud.

Darnold is competing with Trey Lance for the No. 2 job behind starter Brock Purdy in training camp.

Interceptions plagued Darnold in his first five NFL seasons. He threw 55 picks in 56 games (55 starts) with the New York Jets and Carolina Panthers.

Ward battles top WRs

The best one-on-one matchup throughout camp has featured the 49ers’ top cornerback, Charvarius Ward, against either Brandon Aiyuk or Deebo Samuel.

The matchup started during one-on-one drills when Aiyuk gained no separation from Ward on a deep route down the left sideline but still managed to haul in the contested catch.

The competition carried over into team drills, where Ward and Samuel squared off. Samuel made a tough catch of a Purdy throw against Ward’s tight coverage. Later, Ward broke up Purdy’s pass for Samuel on a deep crossing route.

Quarterback update

Purdy took 23 snaps during 11-on-11 drills and completed nine of his 16 pass attempts on the day.

He is the undisputed starter, and he showed why coach Kyle Shanahan has such faith in him with one play in particular. Purdy created a window for Aiyuk at the left sideline with a split-second to look to the flat. The subtle movement drew the linebacker on that side to take a couple of steps away from Aiyuk. Purdy took advantage of the opening to hit Aiyuk for a 15-yard gain.

Darnold had 14 practice snaps. He completed five of his nine attempts with an interception.

Lance was on the field for 11 plays and completed four of eight passes. Brandon Allen had five snaps and was 1-for-2.

Bryant steps up

Nick Bosa’s contract holdout now has entered its third week, but the 49ers got a boost to their pass rush this week when defensive end Austin Bryant returned to action.

Bryant was out for a week with a minor hamstring issue, he said. He was cleared to get back on the practice field Monday, and he practically lived in the offensive backfield.

Bryant said he is putting in the hard work in order to thrive under the tutelage of 49ers defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. The lineman sees the 49ers as being a good fit for his skill set.

“He allows you to use your talent, and just go,” Bryant said.

Bryant appeared in 33 games (six starts) over four seasons with the Detroit Lions. He registered 4.5 sacks in 2021 for the only sacks of his NFL career.

Quick slants

— Rookie kicker Jake Moody had two 60-yard field-goal attempts and was successful on both of them. Veteran kicker Zane Gonzalez did not try a field goal.

— Rookie tight end Cameron Latu caught a pass during practice. He said he is not playing as fast as he’d like as he is still thinking his way through all of his assignments.

“The drops are on me, and they’re unacceptable,” Latu said. “Obviously, my mind is spinning, but it’s still unacceptable.”

— Running back Ty Davis-Price has put together a strong camp. On Tuesday, he absorbed the two biggest hits of the day. Linebacker Marcelino McCrary-Ball met Davis-Price in the hole and flattened him with a helmet-to-helmet hit. (Both players were wearing protective Guardian Caps.)

— The 49ers travel to Southern Nevada, where they will have a day off on Wednesday before going against the Las Vegas Raiders in joint practices on Thursday and Friday. Because of the extended work of first-teamers vs. first-teamers, few (if any) of the 49ers’ top players are expected to play in the exhibition game between the teams on Sunday.

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