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Chargers vs. 49ers: Final Grades and Player Analysis for San Francisco

Dan MoriCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2016

Chargers vs. 49ers: Final Grades and Player Analysis for San Francisco

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    The San Francisco 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers 35-3. It was a convincing and workmanlike showing for the 49ers. The 49ers look ready to begin the regular season. They will open the season on the road against the Green Bay Packers.

    Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will be a stiff test for the 49ers' defense. They have shown vulnerability against the pass, and will need to shore that up against the Packers.

    The return of Aldon Smith, who did not play against the Chargers, should add a strong pass rushing presence to the 49ers' defense. If they can pressure Rodgers, it will help the 49ers' defensive backfield immensely, as they will not need to cover the receivers for as long.

    The 49ers came away from the game with no major injuries, which is another goal of any preseason game.

    Read on for individual player grades and analysis.


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    Alex Smith - Grade: Inc.  Smith handed off five times and then left the game.

    Colin Kaepernick - Grade: A  This was the best I have seen Kaepernick play. He showed good command of the offense, found his receivers and didn't automatically take off running when he was pressured. Kaepernick threw several very good passes and had only a couple of shaky throws.

    Kaepernick was 12-18 for 158 yards and two touchdowns. 

    Scott Tolzein - Grade: D  This was Tolzein's weakest game as a 49er. He missed Nathan Palmer running a quick slant on a third down throw. he also threw late to Chris Owusu, who ultimately dropped the ball. If the ball was out in front, Owusu, who had beaten his man, could have scored.

    Tolzein also telegraphed a pass, which was intercepted by linebacker Bront Bird. Tolzein was 3-8 for 29 yards and the one interception.

    Josh Johnson - Grade: A  Johnson may have played his way onto the roster with a great game. He showed excellent mobility and threw the ball well. Johnson showed very good poise when he fielded a bad snap in shotgun formation and turned a broken play into a first down.

    Johnson was very impressive, as he engineered a 12-play 75-yard scoring drive. Johnson went 9-14 for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for 50 yards, with five very good runs.

Running Backs

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    The 49ers gained 176 yards rushing in a game that featured more of a focus on the passing game.

    Kendall Hunter - Grade: A  Hunter looked quick and explosive rushing for 23 yards on four attempts.

    Anthony Dixon - Grade: A  Dixon has solidified his chances of making the 49ers' roster. He ran hard and effectively. Dixon had 12 carries for 55 yards and one touchdown.

    LaMichael James - Grade: A  James saw his most significant action of the preseason and showed some of the burst and elusiveness that the 49ers were hoping for when they selected him in the second round of this year's draft. he had 5 carries for 27 yards.

    Rock Cartwright - Grade: C  Cartwright only had two chances and gained five yards. However, he is an outstanding special teams performer, which could ensure his spot on the roster.

    Bruce Miller - Grade: Inc.  Miller played sparingly.

    Will Tukuafu - Grade: A  Tukuafu is normally a defensive lineman by trade. However, he is also used as a fullback in the 49ers' jumbo or short yardage formations. Tukuafu showed that can be a devastating lead blocker, as he plowed through the Chargers' line, opening holes for the 49ers' running backs.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

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    The 49ers got very good play from their receivers and tight ends.

    A.J. Jenkins - Grade: A  Jenkins had his best game as a 49er. He found ways to get open and made some nice catches. Jenkins also showed good speed and may have elevated himself into some playing time in the regular season. Jenkins had four catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.

    Nathan Palmer - Grade: A-  Palmer looked very good in this game. There were a couple of passes he could have caught, but overall, his performance was impressive. Palmer had three receptions for 72 yards and one touchdown. He showed great speed on a short pass he turned into a 51-yard score.

    Chris Owusu - Grade: C-  Owusu got open deep on a pass that Scott Tolzein threw late and short. Owusu then lost his concentration on the ball, as the defender ran past it and then he dropped it. he finished the game with one catch for three yards.

    Brett Swain - Grade: B  Swain caught three passes for 38 yards. He is unlikely to make the team, however.

    Garrett Celek - Grade: A  The rookie tight end may have solidified his chances to make the roster. He caught three passes for 54 yards and one touchdown.

    Delanie Walker - Grade: A  Walker played sparingly, but made a fine catch, spun off a tackle and scored the 49ers' second touchdown on a 32-yard pass play.

    Konrad Reuland - Grade: A  Reuland, a former player under Harbaugh at Stanford is battling Garrett Celek for the third tight end job. The loser, could end up on the practice squad. He had four catches for 22 yards.

Offensive Line

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    Offensive Line - Grade: B+

    The 49ers' offensive line did a very good job opening holes for the running game. The Niners rushed for 176 yards on 30 attempts, good for a 5.9 yards-per-carry average.

    The offensive line has had problems this year protecting the passer. This game was a little better, although the mobility of Colin Kaepernick and Josh Johnson was crucial to help the 49ers avoid sacks.

    When the regular season begins and the offensive line faces more exotic blitz packages, the line must improve their pass protection. In 2011, the offensive line took a few weeks to gel, so hopefully they can start this season on track and in top form.


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    Defense - Grade = B+

    I am grading the entire defense together. The Chargers' first unit, with Phillip Rivers at quarterback, moved the ball well. Only a couple of timely turnovers created by the 49ers' defense kept the Chargers out of the end zone in the first quarter.

    Rivers was 8-10 for 89 yards. He did throw one interception, as safety Darcell McBath made a good play down near the 49ers' goal line. Outside of that one poor decision by Rivers, the 49ers' defense was having trouble in the first quarter.

    I will single out Matt Masifilo, Trenton Robinson and Perrish Cox as having good games. Linebacker Tavares Gooden led the 49ers' defense with six tackles.

    The 49ers' second, third and fourth team defense stifled the Chargers' similar offensive units.

Special Teams

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    The 49ers' special teams were one of the best in the NFL last year and the outlook for 2012 is much the same.

    David Akers - Grade: B  Akers was solid on his kickoffs and extra points, but he did miss a 47-yard field goal attempt to close out the first half.

    Andy Lee - Grade: A  Lee looked in midseason form deadening a punt at the San Diego nine-yard line.

    Coverage Units - Grade: A  Special teams coach Brad Seely has built outstanding coverage units. Again, they did a great job, which helps the 49ers consistently win the field position battle.

    LaMichael James - Grade: C-  James had an excellent return on the opening kickoff, taking the ball five yards deep in the end zone and bringing it back 39 yards to the 49ers' 34. He did have trouble fielding punts, as he did not catch the ball cleanly and even dropped it three or four times.

    James will need to improve his ability to field the ball cleanly if he hopes to see action as a punt return man.



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    Coaching - Grade: A

    The San Francisco 49ers were well prepared for this game on offense, defense and special teams. Head coach Jim Harbaugh has built an elite staff of quality coaches that the players respect and will play for.

    Harbaugh also won both of his challenges in this game.

    The regular season is next for the 49ers and they are looking ready to get underway. offensively, my main concern is with the offensive line. On defense, the 49ers must get pressure on the quarterback, or their secondary can be vulnerable.

    I do expect the 49ers to win the NFC West, but with a tougher schedule, they will not reach the 13-3 mark they had last year. I expect more of a 10 or 11 win season, which may not be enough for the first-round bye in the playoffs.

    If the 49ers stay healthy, they have a legitimate shot at the Super Bowl.

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