Camp has just officially turned it up to maximum heat, so let’s not waste any time with formalities. Let’s jump into it.
MAXX CROSBY vs. TRENT WILLIAMS
If there were such a thing as a fight promoter for joint practices, these football heavyweights would headline the card. Raiders Pro-Bowl defensive end and pass rushing extraordinaire Maxx Crosby has been the table setter all through training camp when it comes to building a hard-nosed reputation and attitude for this year’s defensive corps, and nothing sets the tone more than the possibility of calling out arguably the best offensive tackle in the business– 49ers All-Pro left tackle and future Hall of Famer Trent Williams.
Williams is coming off a stellar season, earning a 93.0 PFF overall grade, and giving up just one sack in 871 snaps played. He is entering the 2023 season looking to earn his 11th Pro-Bowl and 3rd All-Pro nod.
Putting Maxx Crosby across from Williams in individual drills is undoubtedly the best litmus test, as it will give us a preview of what to expect from Crosby this season. Additionally, possible wins vs. Williams in drills will likely set the tone for how the joint practice evolution will unfold.
RAIDERS 1ST TEAM DEFENSE vs. BROCK PURDY & CO.
If the Raiders Defensive corps wants to silence the naysayers, stifling a potent 49ers 1st-Team offense will be the cure. The Raiders defense, with 2nd-year Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham at the helm, are looking to rebound from a lackluster 2022 campaign, where they ranked dead last in turnovers and near the bottom in sacks. So far, it seems evident that turnovers have been the main topic of discussion in the offseason, as it has been reported that the defense has picked off the football numerous times during team activity in camp.
Second-year QB and 2022 Mr. Irrelevant Brock Purdy took the league by storm, starting the final seven games of the regular season and leading the 49ers to the NFC Championship Game.
Purdy, freshly recovered from the elbow injury that was sustained in the NFC title game, has since gained the confidence from 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, naming him the uncontested QB1. He enters this season with the advantage of having continuity and familiarity with the offense.
If the Raiders defense wants to make a statement, their mission should be to stifle a Purdy-led offense during joint practices, highlighted by the likes of running back Christian McCaffrey, versatile wide-outs Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk, and bruising tight end George Kittle. Keep a close eye and look to monitor how this defense comes out.
JAKORIAN BENNETT vs. DEEBO SAMUEL
It has been well documented on how good rookie 4th-round pick Jakorian Bennett has been throughout camp. Quite frankly, Bennett has taken Raiders Twitter (I’m refusing to call it X) by storm. As a result, there have been discussions of placing Bennett in the starting role across from Marcus Peters.
A great test for Bennett will be right across the way, in dynamic 49ers wide-out Deebo Samuel. Samuel finished an injury-riddled 2022 season with just over 600 yards receiving, but is looking to return to his 2021 form, where he had just over 1400 receiving yards and over 300 yards rushing. Samuel will undoubtedly be entering his first bit of competition with a chip on his shoulder with something to prove.
If Bennett is looking to take the league by storm and solidify a starting role in the defense, he must shadow Deebo Samuel in all one on one drills and during team activity. A successful outing against the prolific receiver will definitely turn heads.
WHO WILL LINE UP TO COVER GEORGE KITTLE?
49ers tight end George Kittle is considered one of the premier players at his position when healthy. Kittle, in 2022, finished the season with stellar numbers, 60 receptions on 80 targets for 765 yards, and 11 touchdowns. He also earned an astounding 133.6 QB-rating when targeted. Long story short, Kittle is virtually unstoppable.
The Raiders defense has a tall task ahead of them when it comes to covering Kittle during these joint practices– yet, a task they can not afford to ignore, considering the circumstances ahead. Keep a close watch on how the Raiders defense approaches handing Kittle, whether that is bracket coverage, or throwing multiple defenders at him by the likes of Marcus Epps, Divine Deablo, and even Tre’Von Moehrig. Either way, one thing is for sure, a proper strategy must be devised early in training camp, as it will set the tone in how Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce will be covered later in the season.
ADAM PLANT JR. vs. RT COLTON McKIVITZ
Rookie UDFA Adam Plant Jr. is currently immersed in the belly of the beast that is Raiders training camp, with a realistic chance to emerge as a member of the 53-man roster come Week 1.
A good way to earn that spot on the roster is to dominate a potential starter on the 49ers offensive line at the joint practices. Enter Right Tackle, 4th-year vet out of West Virginia, Colton McKivitz. McKivitz, a virtually unproven right tackle, was recently listed as #1 RT on the 49ers depth chart despite only playing 68 snaps, with only 23 of them being at right tackle. During those 68 snaps, McKivitz earned a 69.3 overall PFF grade, with an 85.9 pass blocking grade– not too shabby. McKivitz is replacing stellar right tackle Mike McGlinchey, who signed with the Denver Broncos this off-season.
If Plant Jr. wants to turn the heads of Raiders evaluators, putting a dominant performance to film versus an unproven right tackle would help his case to make this roster over guys like Malcolm Koonce and Jordan Willis.
JIMMY G vs. FORMER TEAM
It would be a surprise to hear that Raiders quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo is not looking forward to going against his former team during these joint practices. Moreover, look for Jimmy G to enter these next couple of days with a chip on his shoulder to prove that the 49ers prematurely moved on from him.
A stellar performance versus the 49ers stout defense, ranked tops in the league in 2022, would virtually silence the loud cries of naysayers throughout the league and Raider Nation. It is showtime for the 10-year veteran, looking to pick up where he left off with Head Coach Josh McDaniels during their New England Patriots days. Stay tuned!