The San Francisco 49ers fell to the Denver Broncos last night 10-6 in a yawner in the first preseason game of the year. There was a lot to take out of the game, despite the starters barely playing. Most people believe in the good, the bad and the ugly – but, I’m an optimist and so here is the good, the bad and the beautiful.
LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon – the two 49ers running backs who saw the most time had some very nice plays. James started at running back and is threatening to become the backup running back behind Frank Gore, replacing injured Kendall Hunter (Achilles). Dixon is the 49ers workhorse in preseason, but he showed good vision and quick and decisive cuts while also playing well on special teams. The competition to make the team at running back is pretty interesting between Dixon, Jewel Hampton and rookie D.J. Harper.
- 49ers receivers (minus A.J. Jenkins) – Anquan Boldin made two very nice catches, Austin Collie looked good in just his seventh day with the Niners and Chad Hall made two nice catches. The Niners have a lot of receivers on the roster, but will only carry six or seven and with Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams returns looming, who will the 49ers keep?
- Eric Reid – Reid didn’t start at free safety, but he played a lot in the second and third quarters and made six tackles and a couple big hits that made me believe that Dashon Goldson was still in the defensive backfield. He also didn’t give up any big plays, a very good debut for the rookie first rounder.
- Rookies – Two rookies (other then Reid) stood out. Second-round pick Vance McDonald had a lot of nice catches and definitely looks the part and third-rounder Cory Lemonier got a lot of pressure and has some pretty good speed rushing ability.
- Colt McCoy – McCoy suffered an injured shoulder, which he said is just a stinger and not as serious then his injury in the BCS Championship game he received at the University of Texas. His injury led to Scott Tolzien playing the rest of the game and while he wasn’t spectacular, he made good decisions and may have taken a slight lead to be the backup quarterback.
- A.J. Jenkins – Just bad.
- The 49ers backup offensive line – The Niners may have the best offensive line in the NFL, but if someone gets hurt the backups are nothing to write home about. Tolzien and McCoy were being pressured on every dropback.
- The Starters – The Niners opened the game with a long, methodical 13-play drive that lead to points to open the game. Colin Kaepernick looked very good completing all four of his passes and running for a first down, where 49er fans held their collective breathes. Kaepernick hit Boldin and Vernon Davis on the drive, which was also encouraging.
The defense also looked very good. Going against Peyton Manning is never the easiest thing, but they forced a punt after Aldon Smith (who looks healthy after a torn labrum in his shoulder) got a good pressure and forced an incompletion on third down.
- Marlon Moore‘s catch – Moore has surprised everyone in Training Camp so far and he was announced as the starting receiver opposite of Boldin last night. Moore made a spectacular catch on third-down to get the 49ers in better field goal range. Moore may be an early leader for the #2 receiver spot until the Niners get some players back from injury.
- Ricardo Lockette‘s special teams play – Lockette may not be realizing his full potential at receiver yet, but as a gunner on special teams he made a phenomenal play, hitting the Broncos punt returner Trinton Holliday so hard he knocked him into the endzone. Lockette as a gunner and a special teams ace, that could come in to run deep routes for the Niners offense may save him a spot on the 53-man roster.
Okay, my optimism only lasted so long…The Ugly:
- A.J. Jenkins – Jenkins played 59% of the snaps and caught one pass. Oh yeah, that one pass he fumbled for one of the Niners four turnovers. He was also involved in a play where Tolzien overthrew him and the pass was intercepted. Jenkins is getting a lot of opportunities, but the players and coaching staff may be having a change of heart on the former first rounder. Jim Harbaugh about Jenkins play in game one, “could have been better”.