It looked like the San Francisco 49ers tight ends were stuck in “The Matrix” at Wednesday’s Organized Team Activity.
Tight ends coach Reggie Davis implemented a pass-catching drill over the last three weeks that challenges his player’s focus and ability to track the football through a crowded area.
Considering the 49ers run numerous short and intermediate routes with tight ends, catching the football over-the-middle, remains an important aspect of the offensive attack. That’s where the drill comes into play.
Davis serves as the quarterback, Alex Smith, if you will.
In front of the 49ers tight ends coach are a pair of tight ends, lined up similarly to an “I-Formation” in the backfield. Behind the stacked players, you can find another tight end 10 yards away from Davis, awaiting a football to be thrown.
From afar, once Davis rifles the ball to the back of the line, the two other tight ends in front quickly move out of the way just like how Keanu Reeves famously ducked in the well-known movie trilogy.
“It’s a little rough,” admitted tight end Nate Byham. “You don’t get to see the ball until the last second, so you’re trying not to guess. If you guess, the drill is over; you’re going to mess up.”
The key to the competitive drill amongst the tight end group is to “stay patient and keep your hands up,” Byham said.
Calmness is a tough trait for tight ends to display in their line of work, but such portions of practice instill the much-needed characteristic for the position.
“Sometimes in the NFL, you’re not going to be able to see the ball coming at you, there’s going to be linebackers in the way, o-linemen and d-linemen with their hands up,” Byham said. “You’ve got to be able to react to the ball at the last second.”
For the past three weeks, the tight ends have utilized the drill every couple of days during the team’s individual period of OTA sessions.
Besides being difficult, the drill serves as a mini-competition for a position group that now includes defensive tackle Demarcus Dobbs working at a new position.
So far, Dobbs has impressed the 49ers tight ends with his natural athletic ability.
“I think he’s doing a great job,” Byham said. “He had a little bit of a learning curve the first few weeks, but he caught on really quickly and he’s really becoming a dual-threat: a legitimate tight end as well as an established d-lineman.
“I think it’s really good for him, it’s just a credit to him and his athleticism for him to be able to come over to offense and be able to put himself in a plausible role… It’s pretty cool to see.”
Tags: Demarcus Dobbs, Nate Byham, Reggie Davis
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