Nick Mullens started the entire first half of the game, cementing his place as the second-string quarterback over C.J. Beathard, which is only reasonable after the impressive season that Mullens put together last year.
Mullens was solid tonight, completing 11 of 17 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown while also tossing a very odd interception in the mix. Beathard had a better statline (13 for 17, 141 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), but still looked like the same old C.J. Beathard that he’s been for the past couple of years — slow, sluggish and not very accurate. I believe that we have already seen Beathard’s ceiling, which just simply isn’t good enough to be a starting NFL quarterback.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nate Sudfeld suffered a broken left wrist in a preseason game a couple of days ago, so if I am Kyle Shanahan or John Lynch, I am going to try to trade Beathard for whatever I can to the Eagles.
The 49ers currently have two very capable quarterbacks on their roster, and Beathard is not one of them.
Running Back: B
Raheem Mostert started the game at running back, but was quickly removed from the game for a potential concussion, which left Austin Walter and Brandon Wilds as the only other healthy active running backs on the team.
Ever since the 49ers signed Walter, I have been a fan. He’s incredibly quick, shifty and nimble, which he showed in college, in training camp, and now, in his first preseason game. He was not the most efficient running the ball tonight, with just 38 yards on 13 carries, but was a reliable receiver out of the backfield, catching five out of six targets for 32 yards. Walter’s statline was mediocre but the rookie flashed the quickness that he was known for in college.
Meanwhile, Brandon Wilds was running wild tonight against the Cowboys’ backups, trucking his way along to a 29-yard rushing night with his limited snaps, as he was just signed by the team today. He offered something that the 49ers’ running backs haven’t really had in recent years — bruising power.
Walter and Wilds probably won’t make the 53-man roster come September, but they were solid enough tonight to help the 49ers get the preseason win.
Tight End: B-
There isn’t much to say about the tight ends here with George Kittle sitting this game out, but Ross Dwelley and Kaden Smith were solid in this one.
There has been a lot of talk about Dwelley being the No. 2 tight end on the team, as he has been impressing in training camp. He showed great hands tonight as he caught a ball from Nick Mullens up the seam for 21 yards.
Smith also had a nice catch tonight, snagging a low throw from Beathard to get the first down.
None of them particularly stood out, but they didn’t have a lot to do to begin with.
Wide Receiver: A-
First of all, the news of Trent Taylor’s broken foot that general manager John Lynch dropped in the middle of the broadcast was incredibly disappointing to hear. Taylor was having an excellent training camp and was poised to have a great bounce-back year. Unfortunately, now he will have to miss the start of the season and play through another surgical-related injury.
However, rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd have swooped in and saved the wide receiver unit on this team. Both looked incredibly impressive — Samuel with his lightning-quick speed and physicality, and Hurd with his jumpball abilities.
My following two tweets pretty much sum up what you’ll be getting from these two rookies:
It is important to note that Dante Pettis played the entirety of the first half of the game, which clear-cut starters do not do in Week 1 preseason games. Based on reports, his performance in training camp this year has been actually pretty negative, with Kendrick Bourne even replacing him in the starting lineup in one practice.
Kyle Shanahan has already voiced his displeasure with the wide receiver group this month, and with Samuel and Hurd seemingly the only ones really showing up, they have a real shot at starting this year, especially with Trent Taylor being set back with the broken foot.
Rookie receivers in this league do not usually make big impacts, but Samuel and Hurd could very well become big benefactors in this offense this upcoming season. Yes, Pettis will probably still end up starting at receiver, but if the improbable happens and the second-year receiver slips down to being the team’s third receiver, that actually wouldn’t be the worst-case scenario.
Pettis set records at the University of Washington for punt return touchdowns. If he is not going to be a starting receiver, the team can afford to put him in a position where he plays the best.
Offensive Line: D+
None of the offensive line starters played a single snap today, but the backups were not playing well and committing holding penalties all night long.
Swing tackle Shon Coleman suffered what is most likely a season-ending leg injury early in the first quarter, and Willie Beavers did not impress at all as his replacement. The team will have to find an offensive tackle before the season starts to strengthen the depth of the position.
At least rookie tackle Justin Skule looked good.