49ers rookie report: Eric Reid leads the way

One-quarter through the 2013 season, the San Francisco 49ers are 2-2 with a 1-1 record in the NFC West.

The defending NFC champions have 19 rookies in the organization with eight of them currently on the 53-man roster and the rest on the practice squad and/or injured lists.

Here’s how each is progressing:

First-round pick safety Eric Reid applies proper tackling techniques and shows keen awareness putting up Pro Bowl stats (16 tackles, three passes defensed, and two interceptions) and earning a nomination for Defensive Rookie of the Week for his seven-tackle, one-pick performance against the Packers in Week 1. He’s made everyone forget about Dashon Goldson.

Undrafted long snapper Kevin McDermott has been outstanding on 23 punts, 10 extra points and five field goal attempts looking very much like Brian Jennings who he beat out in camp. He’s established an excellent cadence with specialists Andy Lee and Phil Dawson and should be a 49er for a long time. Thumbs up.

Vance McDonald has four catches for 59 yards making one reception per game on limited targets. He’s made two starts at tight end, but his key downfield wham-blocks are the most promising aspect of his game thus far as the collegiate wide receiver is still adjusting to his new position.

Pass rusher Corey Lemonier has appeared in all four games on special teams, but with Aldon Smith in rehab he applied the pressure playing 43-of-67 defensive snaps in Thursday’s win at St. Louis as a rotational outside linebacker registering three tackles, a quarterback hit and pass defensed. This guy needs more action.

Seattle cut fourth-round wide receiver Chris Harper after catchable preseason drops, but the 49ers are now developing the one-time Oregon quarterback into an H-Back type role — think Delanie Walker. He’s also been inactive as he’s learning tight-end/fullback blocking techniques for the first time.

The 49ers still have high hopes for wide receiver Quinton Patton who suffered a broken foot against the Rams. After a flashy preseason he appeared every regular-season game and was destined for a larger role after receiving few targets that resulted in just one catch. Patton remains on the 53-man roster while he recovers.

With Nnamdi Asomugha out with a knee injury, undrafted corner Darryl Morris was promoted to the roster for the Rams game. The speedster did a nice job on special teams making a clutch tackle on a punt coverage, but will likely revert to the practice squad once Asomugha is healthy.

Versatile preseason star quarterback B.J. Daniels has been inactive as expected, but is being used to mimic opposing quarterbacks for the defense in practice. He’s likely to remain inactive and in this role.

On the practice squad wide receiver Chuck Jacobs and nose tackle Mike Purcell are filling similar prep roles like Daniels, while tackle Carter Bykowski and guard Patrick Omameh continue to work as the ninth and tenth offensive lineman.

Defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye (knee sprain) and fullback Alex Debniak (torn Achilles) are on injured reserve and unable to practice with the team, but are able to attend meetings and review film.

Meanwhile linebacker Nick Moody — who broke his hand in the Green Bay game — is on injured reserve with designation to return this season, but it’s not clear when that will be.

Over on the reserve/non-football injury list are running back Marcus Lattimore (knee), tackle Luke Marquardt (foot), and defensive lineman Tank Carradine (ACL) and Quinton Dial (toe). Of this group Dial is expected to be ready sometime after Week 6.

So what grades do the 49ers rookies get?

Reid and McDermott deserve A’s for their veteran-like play through four weeks while Lemonier gets a B+ for stepping up in Smith’s absence and McDonald receives a  B-/C+ for his blocking and trying to make the most out of his looks.

Patton and the rest of the rookies are ungradable because of limited action or inactivity.

Expect big stats from Lemonier over the next four weeks as he plays extensively in relief of Smith while McDonald needs a big receiving day during that period.

Thus for the time being, Reid, McDermott, Lemonier and McDonald are the rookies is best position to continue making an impact along with Morris while he’s active.

The next rookie report will be on Oct. 27 following the 49ers Week 8 meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars in London.


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