San Francisco 49ers: Observations from Preseason Game vs. Minnesota Vikings
San Francisco 49ers football is back, ladies and gentlemen, and I couldn't be more thrilled.
There was a lot to be excited about in the team's first exhibition game against the Minnesota Vikings, but there were a few noteworthy stinkers, too.
With that in mind, let's get right down to business. Here are my thoughts about what we saw on Friday night, along with a couple of questions that still need to be answered.
Alex Smith Looked As Cool as a Cucumber
If you're just looking at the stat sheet, Smith's numbers don't look that impressive. He only threw the ball three times, so it's impossible to go into too much detail about his performance.
How many touchdowns do you expect from Smith in 2012?
That said, he hit on all three of his passes, including a gorgeous back-shoulder pass to Brett Swain near the goal line that couldn't have been thrown any better.
More importantly, Smith looked really comfortable out there in the huddle and as a leader for this 49ers offense. His body language couldn't be better, and you can tell that he has the respect of everyone on the 49ers sideline.
His quick-release pass to Kendall Hunter in the first quarter on a screen that beat a heavy blitz on the right side was thing of beauty. He barely had time to think, let alone pass the ball, yet he got the ball where it needed to be under duress.
I can't wait to see how much better he's going to be this year than he was last year, given an entire offseason to digest and further integrate the playbook. Remember, this will be Smith's second year in Greg Roman's system—the first time that's ever happened to him since joining the team back in 2005.
Aldon Smith Looked Good, and He Is Going to Be Fine
First thing's first. Smith went down with an injury in the first quarter when he awkwardly landed on his hip. He had to be assisted into the locker room, but all signs point to him being just fine going forward.
CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco reports:
Jim Harbaugh on Aldon Smith's hip bruise: "It looks like he'll be all right. We dodged a bullet there."— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) August 11, 2012
As for Smith's play, I was amused while watching him on running plays. He looks like a young colt out there on the field, learning how to run.
Don't get me wrong, Smith is going to be a dominant force on the outside, as an outside linebacker. He just has some learning to do. He is so eager to make plays that he sometimes doesn't play as disciplined as we've seen in years past with Parys Haralson.
He'll learn on the fly, and the 49ers will be better for it. He looked really good rushing the passer, and I predict his numbers will go up from last year's impressive 14-sack debut.
Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke Have Some Tough Decisions Ahead of Them
Last year, the 49ers couldn't even field a full complement of wide receivers at the end of the season. They certainly won't have the same problem in 2012. Instead, they have the desirable problem of being in a position where they'll be forced to cut some talented players.
This problem isn't just relegated to the wide receiver position, either. They have the same problem at the running back position, and I guarantee you there are a few teams around the league that will be watching 49ers tape diligently in the hopes of landing one of the team's castoffs.
At the wide receiver position, Mario Manningham, Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, A.J. Jenkings, Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams are all going to make it on the 53-man roster. Chris Owusu showed some special things tonight, and I highly doubt that he's going to make it through waivers and end up on the team's practice squad.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
One can dream.
One note regarding the play of Jenkins: He is talented, but as long as he keeps dropping easy passes, he's going to spend a lot of time on the pine in 2012.
Brandon Jacobs looked really good on Friday night. He looks leaner and quicker than I've seen in a few years, and he's going to be a nice addition this season, especially around the goal line.
Obviously, Frank Gore is the main man. He's not going anywhere any time soon. Kendall Hunter is going to make the team, so is Bruce Miller and LaMichael James. Does that leave enough room for Rock Cartwright and Anthony Dixon?
As one of my Twitter followers pointed out, the solution to the numbers crunch may be a bit unorthodox.
From Kevin Molina:
@jessereed78: Might have to carry one less on the OL & TE to accommodate the abundance of RBs/WRs— Kevin Molina (@lok2685) August 11, 2012
Tre Faaborg chimed in, too.
Interesting idea, and one that could be the answer.
Speaking of LaMichael James...
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
There's no doubt that James has amazing abilities on the football field. Used correctly, he's going to be a dangerous weapon for the 49ers going forward.
James needs to spend some time watching tape of Frank Gore. So far, from what I've seen of James, he doesn't have any patience to wait for holes to develop. He's used to the college game, where holes open up like the Red Sea on a regular basis.
Gore is one of the most patient runners in the league, and James would do well to learn how to emulate him on the field.
He's playing with the big boys now, though, and along with being bigger and stronger, NFL linemen play with a tremendous amount of discipline. That means staying patient behind the line of scrimmage until a crease opens up and then hitting it with all he's got.
Dashon Goldson scares me a little bit.
The one big pass play the team gave up all night came due to his inclination to guess on a play and abandon his zone. The team looked to be in a three-deep zone, with Donte Whitner filling the middle and Goldson responsible for the deep middle, along with the two corners.
Goldson didn't cover his zone, and Carlos Rodgers was left looking like a fool. At least, that's how I saw the play. If you saw something different, I'm open to hearing your thoughts in the comments section below.
Otherwise, the secondary looked pretty good.
Perrish Cox and Chris Culliver are the team's No. 3 and No. 4 corners, from what I can tell, and they are both really good. Cox's debut with the team was impressive, and his sideline, semi-shoestring interception was a thing of beauty.
Scott Tolzien Deserves a Shot at the Backup Quarterback Spot
Scott Tolzien—not Colin Kaepernick or Josh Johnson—looked like a polished NFL quarterback that could fill in for Smith if he were unfortunately injured.
If Tolzien had received any decent protection he would have absolutely shredded the Vikings' secondary. As it was, he went 13/16 on the night, executing the offense with precision and command—not to mention his passes were generally right where they needed to be and on time.
His interception wasn't really his fault, as he was hit right as he threw the ball...and it wasn't like he had all day to throw the ball.
One or two more performances like this from Tolzien during the preseason, and I'll be stunned if he's not named the No. 2 quarterback on the depth chart before the season begins.
Hit me up on Twitter @JesseReed78 if you want to talk 49ers football, NFL in general or the Olympics.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?