San Francisco 49ers: Studs, Duds and Biggest Surprises at the Quarter Mark
With 372 receiving yards and two touchdowns, Anquan Boldin has unquestionably been a stud for the San Francisco 49ers in 2013.
But not all Niners, including the guy throwing Boldin the ball, have played up to or above expectations.
And then there are the players who have played surprisingly well this season. Spoiler alert: A rookie is one of them.
The following are the best, worst and surprise performers for San Francisco a fourth of the way through the regular season.
Stud: Ahmad Brooks
Ahmad Brooks has seven hurries, 2.5 sacks and 25 tackles. He picked up some of the pass-rushing slack against the St. Louis Rams from the absence of Aldon Smith, whom I considered for both the stud and dud categories before ultimately leaving him off this list.
Dud: Nnamdi Asomugha
Call this the dishonorable mention. Nobody was expecting Nnamdi Asomugha to be the shutdown corner of yore, but the 49ers weren't expecting awful play either. Pro Football Focus ranks Asomugha 134th out of 142 cornerbacks (subscription required). That was based on his performance in San Francisco's first three games. He was out with a knee injury for the fourth.
Biggest Surprise: Donte Whitner
Donte Whitner's PFF coverage grade is plus-4.2 (subscription required), third best in the league. Sure, he dropped a potential interception against the Rams, but he also had a diving interception (shown above) later in the game. After being a coverage liability last year, Whitner has shown so far this season that he can be trusted.
Stud: Anquan Boldin
Where would the 49ers be without Boldin?
As unproductive as the other receivers have been (see next slide), Boldin has had to put the receiving corps on his back, so to speak.
He was unbelievable against the Green Bay Packers, catching 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. After a pair of pedestrian performances, he excelled against the Rams with five catches for 90 yards and a score.
Sure, Boldin got locked up by Richard Sherman, but who doesn't these days? Without the former Baltimore Raven, the 49ers would more than likely be 1-3 right now.
Dud: Kyle Williams
I considered writing "rest of 49ers receivers" for this slide, but only Kyle Williams has gotten enough playing time to be judged.
And he's been a ghost.
The fourth-year wide receiver has nine receptions for 87 yards this season. With Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree still out, Williams may never get a better opportunity to prove his worth to NFL evaluators.
Unless Williams starts to perform, he'll be awfully expendable when Manningham and Crabtree return (assuming No. 15 returns this season).
Biggest Surprise: Glenn Dorsey
When Ian Williams beat Glenn Dorsey out for the starting nose tackle position, my expectations for the former Chief were tempered.
Then Williams went down in Week 2, opening the door for Dorsey. I wondered whether Dorsey, who has primarily played defensive end in his career, would be able to fill the void.
He's done that and then some.
The former top-five pick has the second-best run defense score in Pro Football Focus' NT/DT rankings (subscription required). And as an added bonus, Dorsey has two sacks, half as many as he had in five seasons with Kansas City.
Not bad for a guy many have called a "draft bust."
Stud: NaVorro Bowman
Without Patrick Willis, the 49ers desperately needed NaVorro Bowman to have a big game against the St. Louis Rams.
The All-Pro linebacker had six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble, leading the defense to its best performance of the season.
“If a link gets taken out of the chain, someone has to step up,” Bowman told Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area after the Rams game. “And being a veteran guy, you have to think like that if you want to be the best."
Bowman also has already broken up four passes this year, two short of his 2012 total.
And for icing on the cake, Bowman has the second-best PFF rating for inside linebackers (subscription required).
Dud: Colin Kaepernick
Lack of quality receivers and some poor play-calling have made things difficult on Colin Kaepernick, but even with that said, he's been more ineffective than expected.
The third-year quarterback has seven turnovers in 2013. To compare, he had just five turnovers in the entire 2012 regular season.
His performance in Weeks 2 and 3 brought back memories of Alex Smith pre-2011.
Kaepernick looked much better against the Rams, passing for two touchdowns with just one fluke turnover.
The Houston Texans come to Candlestick Park on Sunday. We'll know if Kaepernick is removed from his bad play from earlier in the season if he leads a few touchdown drives against J.J. Watt and Co.
Biggest Surprise: Eric Reid
Eric Reid is a rookie, but he hasn't played like one.
Four games into his career, Reid hasn't had one major mistake. He's been steady, helping the 49ers rank eighth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game entering Sunday.
He already has two interceptions and three pass defenses in his young career. He should only get more comfortable as the season progresses.
As Bleacher Report's Dylan DeSimone wrote, he looks like one of the best players of the 2013 draft class.
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