Final San Francisco 49ers Preseason Game Grades and a Look at the 53-Man Roster

Michael ErlerCorrespondent ISeptember 1, 2012

Final San Francisco 49ers Preseason Game Grades and a Look at the 53-Man Roster

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    The preseason is mercifully over, and the San Francisco 49ers will enter the regular season with a few bumps and bruises but feeling mostly good about themselves after a dominating 35-3 win over the San Diego Chargers in their exhibition season finale Thursday night at Candlestick Park.

    That game very well won roster spots for TE Garrett Celek, RB Anthony Dixon and DB Darcel McBath, and lost them for T Mike Person, RB Rock Cartwright and LB Cam Johnson. 

    Let's look at the roster position-by-position to see not only how each player fared against the Chargers but also what to expect from them going forward. 

Quarterbacks (3)

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    Alex Smith: Incomplete

    Smith started and handed the ball off in each of his five snaps. Coach Jim Harbaugh said he wanted Smith to “break a sweat,” but it’s doubtful Smith exerted himself enough to do that.

    All in all, Smith had the best preseason of his career, completing 13-of-19 passes (68.4 percent) for 134 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He had a QB rating of 123.6 and looks very comfortable and assured heading into the season.

     

    Colin Kaepernick: A-

    12-of-18, 158 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 1 carry for 7 yards

    To illustrate how far Kaepernick has come in a year, he completed fewer than half (24-of-50) of his preseason pass attempts as a rookie, with no touchdowns and five interceptions and a QB rating of 23.9 He finished this preseason 25-of-39 (64.1 percent) with two touchdowns, no picks and a QB rating of 104.3.

    Kaepernick had a couple of rough throws early, but looked more and more comfortable as the game went on, which was a microcosm of his preseason as a whole. As usual, he was at his most dangerous when he was rolling out, regardless of direction.

    The second-year QB continued to show his maturity by drawing defenders to him on roll-outs and passing over and around them for moderate gains rather than trying to scramble for two yards and risking a big hit himself.

    Kaepernick’s accuracy rolling left is a rare talent among quarterbacks, but more uncommon still is the lateral speed and acceleration for someone his size. On more than one occasion, he simply outraced a pressuring Chargers lineman and made something out of nothing.

    Also, he has a rocket of an arm reminiscent of Eagles QB Michael Vick. His windup is a bit funky, but with a simple flick of his wrist the ball travels with impressive zip. One of his passes bounced off intended target Nathan Palmer’s shoulder pad with a thud and flew 10 yards backward in the air.

    Both of Kaepernick’s touchdown passes were a bit improvisational, and that is where his strength lies.

    It’s unlikely that the coaches would be comfortable giving him the whole playbook should something happen to Smith, but they’re smart enough to have packages that fit what he does well. It won’t be the least bit surprising if Kaepernick checks in for a couple of plays here and there during the regular season with rookie back LaMichael James to run zone-read plays.

    Ironically, Kaepernick’s best drive against San Diego didn’t result in any points. In a two-minute drill before the half, he guided the offense from its own 3-yard-line to San Diego’s 29, running for one first down and completing 6-of-7 passes for 50 yards. But that drive ended when David Akers had a rare missed field goal.

     

    Scott Tolzien: D-

    3-of-8, 42 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

    In games against Minnesota and Denver, we could say Tolzien was unlucky, that his best throws were dropped and that he played better than his numbers showed. Against the Chargers, though, he flat-out stunk up the joint, missing receivers high and wide. He threw one interception right into the chest of a defensive lineman.

    Tolzien is fortunate that the coaching staff values his work ethic, attitude and experience in the system because on merit he doesn’t deserve to be on the team over Johnson. However, he is younger, more of a fit in the No. 3 role and will make quite a bit less than Johnson, and those are all factors.

    Coming into the game, Tolzien’s advantages over Johnson were supposed to be reading the defense and accuracy. But not only was he decidedly inaccurate, but he made poor decisions not only on his interception but also on a deep attempt to Chris Owusu, where he threw to a wide-open receiver two beats too late and allowed defenders to get back into the play.

    It could be that Tolzien played so bad because he put pressure on himself to be lights out, thinking he had to outplay Johnson for a job, but that’s no excuse. Playing well under pressure is a part of the job. 

     

    Josh Johnson: A-

    9-of-14, 125 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, 5 carries for 50 yards

    Johnson had by far the best game of his preseason, showing off his strong arm and fleet legs, but it was too little, too late for him as far as making the team. The coaching staff had already made up its  mind.

    This part is a bit speculative, but here’s my theory: Johnson was signed in the offseason as insurance in case either Smith or Kaepernick got injured in camp or preseason. He’s a guy who’s simply far too experienced and talented (heck, he could be the starter for the Arizona Cardinals next week) to be a No. 3, and it’s doubtful whether he’d be thrilled about that role.

    Also, remember, Kaepernick was miserable last preseason. The coaching staff probably wanted a fallback plan in case the kid had another disastrous summer and didn’t look like he could handle the backup job.

    Unfortunately for Johnson, Smith is perfectly healthy and Kaepernick indeed has shown quite a bit of development. My belief is that all along the idea for Johnson was that either he was going to be the backup or be cut. The No. 3 role was never on the table for him.

Running Backs (6)

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    Frank Gore: Incomplete

    As usual, Gore barely sniffed the field during the preseason, but rest assured, once the games count he’ll be getting the lion’s share of the carries and will continue to be the offense’s bell-cow.

     

    Kendall Hunter: B+

    4 carries for 23 yards

    He got a few early handoffs from Alex Smith and ran well behind the dominating starting line before calling it a night. He looks even more explosive in his second season. As sacrilegious as it sounds, I don’t think the team would lose much if Gore missed a few games with an injury. The only questions with Hunter are stamina and durability.

     

    Brandon Jacobs: Incomplete

    Jacobs suffered a knee injury in Week 2 of the preseason at Houston, and while he’s off the crutches, he’s still limping pretty good. He’ll be out for a while, but he will be a useful short-yardage/goal-line weapon for the 49ers when he’s right.

     

    LaMichael James: C-

    5 carries for 27 yards, 2 receptions for 26 yards, 2 kickoff returns for 60 yards, 4 punt returns for 30 yards, 2 fumbles (recovered both)

    It was a mixed bag for the rookie. Offensively his blocking was impressive, and he had his way running  through the Chargers' third-stringers. Really, it was unfair having a guy as talented as James on the field against a bunch of no-hopers, akin to his Oregon Ducks playing a Division II school.

    As a punt returner, though, James continued to look like a fish out of water and had two muffs (though he recovered both) and likely snuffed out what little chance he had to contribute in that role this season.

    No such problems as a kick returner, though, where the explosive James is a real option. His longest return went for 39 yards. He’ll likely be the guy back there at Green Bay while Ted Ginn heals up.

     

    Anthony Dixon: B

    12 carries for 55 yards, 1 touchdown

    With the signings of Jacobs and Rock Cartwright, Dixon seemed to be a dead man walking coming into camp, but full credit to him for playing his way onto the 53-man roster. Dixon’s finally stopped dancing behind the line trying to make something out of nothing and embraced the reality that he’s not going to outrace anyone in the NFL to the sidelines. Nowadays, it’s one cut and go, and he’s been a lot more effective.

    The coaching staff has also noticed his increased maturity and work ethic, and made mention of how impressed they were by Dixon taking the initiative of asking to play fullback in addition to his regular halfback role.

    With all that being said, I still don’t think Dixon deserved the job over Cartwright.

    Fine, you can buy the argument that Dixon is (slightly) a better short-yardage runner than the veteran. But Cartwright does virtually everything else better. He’s better at picking up the blitz. He’s better at lead blocking as a fullback. He’s a better receiver and a better special teams player.

    Once Jacobs returns to action, the only role for Dixon will be on special teams, so why not keep Cartwright since that’s his specialty?

    The “heartwarming story” angle is that Dixon won the coaching staff over, a la “Rudy.” The reality is he’s eight years younger than Cartwright, 32, and about $500,000 cheaper.

     

    (FB) Bruce Miller: B

    1 reception for 9 yards

    Only played two or three snaps, but showed why he beat out Moran Norris for the starting job last season, reaching across his body to haul in a sideline dart by Kaepernick for nine yards on the team’s opening drive. It was the kind of athletic play Norris couldn’t dream of making.

    Miller isn’t a mauler by any means, though, and it remains to be seen how much he’ll actually play in the regular season. Not only does the offense figure to be in two-tight end or three-receiver formations most of the time, but even in two-back sets, the coaching staff seems to be in love with the notion of lining up a 300-pound lineman at fullback. 

     

    Rock Cartwright:  C

    2 carries for 5 yards, 2 receptions for 10 yards

    The classy Cartwright took to Twitter to thank the team for the opportunity after finding out he was cut. I doubt I’d have been nearly as diplomatic in that situation, especially since the guy who beat him out didn’t outplay him in the slightest. The NFL (and its salary cap) is brutal on veterans past 30 who aren’t elite players.

Wide Receivers (6)

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    Michael Crabtree: Incomplete

    For the first time in his four-year career, Crabtree enters the opening week of the season fully healthy and ready to contribute. Expect him to get a lot of looks from Smith, since the 49ers signal-caller still has to get used to new additions Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.

     

    Randy Moss: Incomplete

    As expected, Moss took it pretty easy during the preseason, and it’s not like the coaching staff wanted to show too much anyway. He’s reportedly been killing everyone in camp, so we’ll get a chance to see it for real next Sunday at Green Bay.

     

    Mario Manningham: Incomplete

    He missed the past two weeks grieving for his grandfather who passed away recently and only saw brief action in one preseason game. It’s hard to see him having too much of an impact early on.

     

    Kyle Williams: Incomplete

    Williams so emphatically won a job in training camp that he was a healthy scratch in the preseason finale, even in a game in which Crabtree, Moss and Manningham were also out. Maybe the coaching staff didn’t want him to go into the season with any bad vibes on punt returns on a windy night at “The ‘Stick.”

     

    A.J. Jenkins: B+

    4 receptions for 59 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 carry for 9 yards

    The first-round pick from Illinois will go into the season riding some positive momentum. Not only did he not have any drops for the first time, but he also caught his first touchdown pass, finding room in the back of the end zone as Kaepernick rolled right and bought some time.

    Jenkins also ran a sweep for nine yards, had a nice catch-and-run on a crossing pattern for 24 yards (Tolzien’s lone highlight of the night) and caught another pass right before half and smartly ran out of bounds to set the team up for a field goal attempt.

    Even though Jenkins has shown steady improvement, he figures to be a healthy scratch more often than not, though there is a chance that Ginn’s injury might open the door for him for Week 1.

     

    Ted Ginn: Incomplete

    He missed the last game with an ankle injury he suffered the week before at Denver, though it’s doubtful he would’ve played even if he was healthy. Ginn has a decent limp, so it’s unlikely he’ll be ready to play at the start of the season. With the emergence of James as a kick returner and Williams doing well on punts, Ginn’s hold on his job is tenuous.

     

    Brett Swain: B

    3 receptions for 38 yards

    Swain enjoyed a fine preseason, but the truth of the matter is he had little chance of winning a job after the offseason signings of Moss and Manningham and the team’s drafting of Jenkins. It makes you wonder why he didn’t sign somewhere else where he would’ve had more of an opportunity. A good special teams player, Swain is definitely one of the best 110 receivers in the league, so you’d think he’d catch on elsewhere.

    Chris Owusu: C-

    1 reception for 3 yards

    Owusu is a big target with scary straight-line speed, but his hands are iffy at best and his route-running is raw. Combine that with his troubling concussion history, and it’s a fair question whether it’s worth even having him on the practice squad. He has potential, but the odds of him ever living up to it are long.

     

    Nathan Palmer: B-

    3 receptions for 72 yards, 1 touchdown

    Palmer showed his impressive acceleration, taking a quick hitch from Johnson and outracing the Chargers defense 51 yards for a score. He also hauled in a couple more passes and has shown all training camp that he’s a more polished route-runner than Owusu. However, he also has poor hands and dropped two more passes that hit him right between the numbers.

    Palmer is probably a more developed pro receiver than Owusu, and while his upside isn’t as high, he doesn’t have Owusu’s concussion history, so he might be a safer bet for the practice squad. 

Tight Ends (4)

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    Vernon Davis: Incomplete

    Davis is at the height of his powers and could be headed for a 1,000-yard season if opposing defensive coordinators respect Moss’ deep speed enough to double-cover him.

     

    Delanie Walker: B

    1 reception for 32 yards, 1 touchdown

    Walker hasn’t gotten to play or practice much after suffering a knee injury in camp, so it was nice to see him show his athleticism and nimbleness when he caught a pass from Kaepernick on a crossing route, ran through one defender and pirouetted another for a 32-yard touchdown.

    Despite the team’s acquisitions of all those other receivers, Walker will still play a lot in two-tight end sets with Davis.

     

    DeMarcus Dobbs: Incomplete

    He missed the game with a leg injury and is another guy who doesn’t look like he’s going to be healthy enough to play when the season starts. The hope is that Dobbs will heal up quickly, though, because the coaching staff has big plans for him as a two-way player.

    Dobbs will be the team’s de facto fourth outside linebacker in addition to the third tight end, backup defensive end and up-man on the special-teams units.

     

    Konrad Reuland: B

    4 receptions for 22 yards

    Reuland might have the best hands on the team, but that’s it as far as his strengths go. He’s not quick nor fast, has zero YAC-ability and his blocking is adequate at best. He doesn’t have much upside. Teams usually look for stouter guys as a No. 3 tight end.

     

    Garrett Celek: B+

    3 receptions for 54 yards, 1 touchdown

    Celek has dropped a couple of balls, but he’s faster than Reuland and a better blocker. I thought for those reasons he would’ve been more deserving of a practice squad spot, but he surprisingly made the 53-man roster. It’s a nice achievement for him. He's the team’s only undrafted rookie to win a job, but it’s unlikely he’ll keep it for long. The guess here is that he’s only on the roster until Demarcus Dobbs is healthy enough to play. After that, he’ll be re-signed to the practice squad.

    In the Chargers game, Celek caught a short touchdown pass from Johnson and ran past a linebacker to get open on a 37-yard catch-and-run from Kaepernick.

     

    Kyle Nelson: Incomplete

    Nelson really never got a chance to play. He was the team’s emergency long snapper in case anything happened to Brian Jennings.

Offensive Line (8)

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    (LT) Joe Staley: A

    He played the first series and got out well on a couple of toss plays to the left side for Kendall Hunter. With Jason Peters out for the season for Philadelphia, Staley’s probably the best run-blocking left tackle in the league.

     

    (LG) Mike Iupati: A

    He completely dominated the Chargers in his lone series of the game, paving the way for Hunter and Dixon on a pair of trap plays where he pulled right. If he can pass-block at all, Iupati will be a Pro Bowler for years to come.

     

    (C) Jonathan Goodwin: B

    He kept former 49er Aubrayo Franklin at bay and anchored a line that ran the ball for all but two plays on its touchdown drive. Like almost everyone else on the starting unit, Goodwin’s specialty is run-blocking.

     

    (RG) Alex Boone: B

    Boone is the only starter who's a better pass-blocker than run-blocker. He’s still learning the guard job on the fly. At 6'8", it will be a challenger for him to get low on the snap play after play.

     

    (RT) Anthony Davis: B+

    He wasexplosive off the snap and drove his man back a number of times. The 49ers hardly passed during his only series, so Davis looked good.

     

    (G/C) Daniel Kilgore: C-

    Kilgore didn’t have any bad snaps in the game and though he got overwhelmed quite a bit against the Chargers and had very few dominating plays, he’s the team’s primary backup at center and left guard. The former fifth-round pick out of Appalachian State is nimble, but hardly a physical marvel. He’s going to struggle to keep his ground on this level, never mind pushing anyone backward.

     

    (G) Leonard Davis: C+

    Davis was the only member of the second-string line who wasn’t noticeably being driven back on every snap. He will be the team’s sixth lineman in the “heavy” package. And while he’s definitely Boone’s backup at right guard, it remains to be seen if he’ll be the first one called should anything happen to Iupati.

     

    (G/C) Joe Looney: C

    The rookie from Wake Forest had a few plays where he showed some push in the running game, but he struggled to hold his ground on passes. Sound familiar? He played some center late in the game and had an awful shotgun snap that Johnson scooped up and turned into a positive play.

     

    (T) Mike Person: D

    Person was on rollerskates a number of times during the game, gave up quite a few quarterback pressures and was called for a holding penalty. He has generally looked poor the whole preseason, and it wasn’t surprising at all that he was cut.

    However, it wasn’t really fair for the coaching staff to ask Person to play left tackle during the preseason when he was not drafted to play that position. General manager Trent Baalke was quite clear in explaining that Person, who was a seventh-round pick of Montana State a year ago, had athletic limitations that would restrict him to right tackle or possibly guard in the pros.

    My conspiratorial nature leads me to believe that the coaching staff purposefully played Person on the left side knowing he’d struggle there, hoping to throw teams off the trail so they could keep him on the practice squad rather than waste a roster spot on him as the fourth tackle.

    Boone, though he’s the starting right guard, is the de facto “swing tackle” on the team and will move there should anything happen to Staley or Anthony Davis.  

     

    (G/T) Derek Hall: C+

    Hall has made steady gains in his second year, but he’s still a marginal talent. It can be argued that he’s got more upside as a player than Person and therefore it should be him who gets the practice squad job. But fourth tackle is the extent of his ceiling as well.

     

    (T) Kenny Wiggins: C-

    The Chargers game was the first time all preseason when Wiggins wasn’t terrible.

     

    (G) Al Netter: C-

    He played a lot in the second half and was serviceable, though I don’t see the point in keeping him around for a practice squad spot as the team is reportedly interested in doing. 

Defensive Line (6)

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    (DT) Ray McDonald: Incomplete

    He won’t be able to sneak up on the league this year. But with the attention of opposing coordinators still focused on blocking the Smith brothers on the other side, he still figures to get opportunities to clean up.

     

    (NT) Isaac Sopoaga: Incomplete

    It’s a catch-22 existence for Sopoaga—the better he plays, the less he plays. He does such a good job of holding the point in the running game that teams are better off abandoning the run altogether and just playing with three and four receivers. Of course, if they do that, Sopoaga would be subbed off the field.

     

    (DT) Justin Smith: Incomplete

    Packers starting left guard T.J. Lang will be watching a lot of Justin Smith film this week. Lang will not be sleeping well.

     

    (DT) Ricky Jean Francois: C

    0 tackles

    Jean Francois mostly played right end during the preseason, but he’ll be the primary backup on all three defensive line spots when the games count.

     

    (DT) Will Tukuafu: C+

    1 tackle

    Most of his impact came on offense as Tukuafu played quite a bit at fullback and had a pair of devastating lead blocks on Dixon runs. It was the kind of eye-opening performance where now I’d be surprised if Tukuafu doesn’t get used in that role for a handful of snaps per game.

    On defense, Tukuafu wasn’t nearly as productive. He was driven back a couple of times himself.

     

    (NT) Ian Williams: C

    4 tackles.

    He got rag-dolled trying to hold the point a few times, but he hustled enough to record four tackles. Williams didn’t win a roster spot so much as no one else proved worthy of one. But his job remains tenuous as he doesn’t figure to dress for games barring injury for a second straight year.

     

    (DE) Matthew Masifilo: B+

    4 tackles, 2 quarterback hits

    Had his best game against the Chargers, driving his man back and getting constant pressure on the quarterback. While he had no chance to win a roster spot, he may have done enough to earn a practice squad spot over Tony Jerod-Eddie.

     

    (DT) Tony Jerod-Eddie: D

    1 tackle

    He had a quiet game as a pass-rusher. The Chargers were able to drive him backward on quite a few runs. It was a disappointing way to go out. Who knows if we’ll ever hear from him again?

Linebackers (7)

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    (OLB) Aldon Smith: Incomplete

    He's close to 100 percent now after suffering a hip injury in the first preseason game, but he’ll likely be rusty for the first game against the Packers. Stamina may be an issue.

     

    (ILB) Patrick Willis: Incomplete

    Willis started relatively slowly (for him) last season. He’ll have a big challenge right away trying to man up Packers TE Jermichael Finley.

     

    (ILB) Navarro Bowman: Incomplete

    Bowman, meanwhile, will be free to seek-and-destroy sideline-to-sideline as the Packers don’t really have any receiving threats at running back. He may have to spy on the mobile Aaron Rodgers, though.

     

    (OLB) Ahmad Brooks: Incomplete

    The 49ers will need more from Brooks, who re-signed for six years, in his second full season as a starter.

     

    (ILB) Larry Grant: B-

    3 tackles, 1 pass defensed, 1 special-teams tackle

    He started slowly and was as responsible as anyone for the second unit being gashed on some runs. But he played with more gap discipline as the game went on and was able to disengage from blockers. He got beat in coverage a couple of times on short passes to the backs.

    Grant, a ferocious hitter and special-teams maven who’ll be the backup for both Willis and Bowman, may be another guy who can see some snaps on the outside. He’s just as good a blitzer up the gut as the starters and played as an ‘outside backer in the Rams' 4-3 defense, so it’s worth giving him a shot there. He can’t be worse than Parys Haralson.

    One thing to look for with Grant, however, is for opposing teams to target him in the pass game. Coverage just isn’t his strong suit. 

     

    (ILB) Tavares Gooden: B-

    6 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss, 2 quarterback hurries

    Gooden started the game typically horrible against the run and gave up an early completion as well. But he got better as he went along and led the defense with six tackles. He had one remarkably athletic play where he cut right on a lineman during a delayed blitz to get around the blocking back and closed quickly on Chargers backup QB Charlie Whitehurst on a sack.

    Still, Gooden remains a guy who shies away from contact and would be a complete liability against the run and similarly lost in coverage if forced to play from scrimmage.

    He’s a great special-teams guy, but that’s it.

     

    (OLB) Parys Haralson: Incomplete

    Haralson was “working through something” according to Harbaugh, which means we’ll see him on the field sometime between next week and 2017. For 49ers fans, the later the better.

     

    (OLB) Eric Bakhtiari: C+

    3 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 special-teams tackle

    Bakhtiari was in on a sack and had a pair of solid tackles to limit Chargers backs to short gains after receptions, but the team was scared off by his latest concussion, suffered in the Broncos game. That  pretty much killed his roster chances. As a fourth outside linebacker, he wouldn’t have dressed for the games barring injuries anyway.

     

    (OLB) Cam Johnson: D

    2 tackles, 1 quarterback hurry

    He saw his first action of the exhibition season after being out with a knee injury and looked a couple biscuits short of being ready for prime time. There’s a chance he can make the practice squad because of his pass-rushing potential, but Johnson needs to hit the weights and learn the defense. He got swallowed up by blockers way too easily Thursday night.

     

    (ILB) Michael Wilhoite: C-

    2 tackles

    There was some speculation that Wilhoite had a chance to beat out Gooden for a roster spot, but he needed a better performance on Thursday. Still, he showed enough where he’s still one of the team’s biggest “locks” for a practice squad job.

     

    (ILB) Joe Holland: C-

    1 tackle.

    He is fundamentally sound and has good instincts, but is just not big enough or fast enough for this level.

     

    (OLB) Ikaika Alama-Francis: B-

    3 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 2 quarterback hurries, 1 special-teams tackle

    He played the best of the team’s outside linebackers and got the most consistent pressure. He may have done enough to beat out Johnson for a practice squad job.

     

    (OLB) Kenny Rowe: C-

    1 tackle, 1 quarterback hurry, 1 special-teams tackle.

    He seems smallish to me.

Defensive Backs (10)

8 of 10

    (CB) Carlos Rogers: Incomplete

    He figures to play a lot from the slot as opponents will go with three wideouts quite a bit against the 49ers defense.

     

    (CB) Tarell Brown: Incomplete

    He was a completely different and better player in the second half of the season vs. the first half. We’ll see if he can carry it over.

     

    (S) Donte Whitner: Incomplete

    He will share the tight-end coverage duties with Willis and will look to blitz more this season.

     

    (S) Dashon Goldson: Incomplete

    He's playing with the franchise tag, so the pressure will be on Goldson to prove he’s deserving of a long-term deal for good money.

     

    (CB) Chris Culliver: C+

    4 tackles

    He was beaten by Malcolm Floyd for a pair of receptions, but as usual kept everything in front of him. He was physical in stepping up against the run. It remains to be seen if Culliver can learn to play tight press coverage.

    (CB) Perrish Cox: C+

    1 tackle, 1 pass defensed

    He was credited for slapping a ball down in coverage, but it looked like the guy just dropped it. Cox is a physical guy for a fourth corner. You get the feeling he’ll be on the field quite a bit.

     

    (S) C.J. Spillman: B-

    4 tackles, 1 forced fumble

    Spillman was abused in coverage by Antonio Gates, which hardly makes him unique. He did strip the future Hall-of-Fame tight end after allowing a reception, though, and was generally a secure tackler.

    It might be asking too much of Spillman to be the team’s third safety. He’s alright as long as he’s close to the line and supporting the run, but he doesn’t have much in the way of coverage instincts. He’s a first-rate special-teamer, though.

     

    (S) Trenton Robinson: C

    1 tackle, 1 fumble recovery returned 22 yards, 1 pass defensed

    He had a near interception in the fourth quarter when he broke on a pass in the end zone and also recovered Spillman’s strip of Gates early in the game. It would’ve been nice to see him more active versus the run but he was pretty effective in his center-field role.

     

    (CB) Trumaine Brock: B-

    3 tackles, 3 passed defensed, 1 special teams tackle

    After a nightmarish pair of games, Brock will go into the regular season on a high. He started poorly, giving up a few catches to former Niner Micheal Spurlock, but got better as the game went on and batted down a few passes.

    Brock is not a guy you want on the field in any meaningful situation, but he’s a pretty good gunner on special teams.

     

    (CB) Darcel McBath: B

    1 tackle, 1 interception returned for 19 yards, 1 pass defensed, 1 special teams tackle

    Was able to bait Philip Rivers into making a horrible throw in the end zone when his intended target, Antonio Gate, was well-covered. He jumped the pass to pick it off.

    McBath won a roster spot in part because he’s versatile enough to play corner and safety. It could be argued he’s the most suited for the third safety job until Robinson gets his feet wet.

     

    (CB) Anthony Mosley: C

    2 tackles

    He gave up a couple of completions that didn’t do much damage and remains very much on the radar for a practice squad spot.

     

    (S) Colin Jones: C+

    1 special-teams tackle

    Jones was consistently the first guy to fly in on the returner, and even though he didn’t make most of the tackles, he was always able to force the man to hesitate or cut, which allowed the second wave to close in on him.

    Unfortunately for Jones, all he can do is play special teams, and coaches want their guys to be more versatile than that. So he was shipped to Carolina for an undisclosed draft pick, believed to be a seventh-rounder.

     

    (S) Michael Thomas: C-

    1 special-teams tackle

    Thomas is a poor man’s McBath in that he’s also versatile enough to play in the slot or at safety. He’ll get a chance to hang around and learn the game on the practice squad.

Special Teams (3)

9 of 10

    (K) David Akers: C-

    Missed 47-yard field goal, 5-of-5 PATs

    At least Akers got his one miss for the season out of the way early. His kickoffs were typically boomed.

     

    (P) Andy Lee: C+

    4 punts, 38.8 yards gross, 37.5 yards net, 2 downed inside 20

    I’m not so sure about this Lee guy. Does he have the leg?

     

    (LS) Brian Jennings: A

    5 million consecutive perfect snaps in a row and counting.

Practice Squad (8)

10 of 10

    One man's guess at the 49ers' practice squad.

    WR Nathan Palmer

    G Al Netter

    T Mike Person

    DE Matthew Masifilo

    ILB Michael Wilhoite

    OLB Cam Johnson

    CB Anthony Mosley

    DB Michael Thomas