SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A few thoughts after watching the San Francisco 49ers practice in pads for most of their three-hour afternoon session Monday:
This was the crispest, most efficient practice I've seen while visiting NFC West camps over the past week. Coach Jim Harbaugh was everywhere, including deep inside the offensive huddle. The 49ers practiced with purpose. Harbaugh called this the best 49ers practice since camp opened. There was frequent give-and-take between offense and defense. Newly signed receiver Braylon Edwards dominated at times in the red zone. Fans in attendance cheered his every move, no matter how ordinary. Edwards' overhead touchdown grab against cornerback Tramaine Brock was a highlight.
First-round pick Aldon Smith looks the part. Does anyone in the NFL have longer arms? He might be able to adjust his knee-high football socks without leaning over. Smith didn't do much in the limited one-on-one pass-rush drills I watched. He ran into double-team blocks during a team session. The sample size was small.
Fans groaned audibly whenever quarterback Alex Smith or receiver Ted Ginn Jr. messed up. Fans also cheered when Smith rolled right and threw a long touchdown pass for Ginn with Patrick Willis nearby in coverage. Also, Ginn caught the ball cleanly time after time while fielding tricky punts in windy conditions.
This wouldn't have been a 49ers practice without Smith finding tight end Vernon Davis for a long touchdown over the middle.
Linebacker Thaddeus Gibson repeatedly won battles during one-on-one pass-rush drills. He beat rookie Donovan Edwards twice in a row, then beat starting right tackle Anthony Davis to the inside. Davis won the rematch. Gibson later came up short in coverage against speedy tight end Delanie Walker. Ahmad Brooks beat Davis for a would-be sack in team drills.
Rookie cornerback Cory Nelms got his hands on the football in coverage, including when he jumped a pass from Jeremiah Masoli to receiver Kevin Jurovich, picking off the ball. Jurovich also dropped a deep ball, as did rookie receiver Ronald Johnson. Nelms nearly picked off rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick, but he couldn't hold onto the ball.
One of the biggest collisions involved Willis and running back Frank Gore meeting on a running play up the middle. This was a draw.
Receiver Kyle Williams, sidelined by a toe injury early last season, was limping at times during practice after appearing to take a wrong step while running a route. He was clearly frustrated but managed to fight through whatever was bothering him. He finished practice.
Kaepernick showed off his speed on a bootleg that fooled the backup defense for a touchdown. More thoughts to come on Kaepernick after watching him over the next couple days.
One more note: Harbaugh plans for his starters to play 20-plus snaps against New Orleans in the exhibition opener Friday. The 49ers are back on the practice field Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. PT.