San Francisco 49ers: 5 Biggest Storylines Entering Week 3 of the Preseason
The San Francisco 49ers have played two preseason games and looked terrible in both contests.
It is far too early to set off an alarm, however, as exhibition football means very little. Head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff are more concerned with the key players staying healthy. In addition, they want to take a good look at players down the depth chart to make their final roster decisions.
The 49ers will host the San Diego Chargers in their third preseason game on Sunday. This is typically the game where we will see the starters play more in order to get their rhythm and continuity down.
With the 49ers' final preseason game coming only four days later against the Texans, do not look for the stars to play much, if at all, in that one.
The upcoming game against the Chargers will provide a better gauge on how ready the 49ers are to open the season on September 7 in Dallas against the Cowboys.
Let's take a look at some of the biggest storylines in Week 3 of the preseason.
No. 5: The 49ers Sign Glenn Dorsey to a Two-Year Contract Extension
Glenn Dorsey replaced Ian Williams at nose tackle in the second game of the 2013 season. Williams was injured on a brutal chop block by the Seattle Seahawks.
This blocking technique should be outlawed in the NFL; it occurs when a defender is engaged with one blocker, while another cuts him in the lower leg area. The defensive player is in an extremely vulnerable position, and severe knee and ankle injuries are often the result.
Dorsey, who signed a free-agent contract prior to the 2013 season, stepped in as the starting nose tackle and did a very solid job. He more than held his own in the middle of the 49ers defensive line, often occupying two blockers, which enabled his teammates to make the tackles.
In 2013, Dorsey had 30 tackles and assisted on 20 others. Although the 49ers typically remove the nose tackle on passing downs, he still managed to collect two sacks.
Heading into the 2014 season, Dorsey looked poised to have another good year. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn biceps and could miss the entire season. The 49ers hope that Dorsey can return later in the year, but that is a question mark at this point.
In an interesting development, the 49ers and Dorsey came to an agreement on a two-year contract extension that goes out through the 2016 season. As reported by Chris Wesseling of NFL.com, the deal is worth $6.1 million, with a guarantee of $2.6 million.
This is a good deal for both sides and underscores the value the 49ers place on Dorsey. "Glenn is a true pro who has quickly become a valued contributor to our organization both on and off the field," general manager Trent Baalke said, per Wesseling. "He is a quick study and a very good football player who has earned this extension, and we look forward to his future contributions."
No. 4: Levi's Stadium Showed Well in the 49ers' First Home Exhibition Game
The San Francisco 49ers played their first game in their new home of Levi's Stadium on August 17. Although there were a few glitches, the overall experience was far better than in prior events at the new stadium.
Traffic flowed more smoothly around the stadium for the most part, and once inside, fans were treated to a first-class experience. Unlike Candlestick Park, the walkways are much larger and less congested, and the sight lines around the park are outstanding.
The stadium is a technological marvel and has all the freshness of something recently unveiled. As with any new project of this magnitude, there were still some minor problems, but with everything considered, Levi's Stadium is a gem.
No. 3: The 49ers Defense Has Been Sliced and Diced
The San Francisco 49ers have played their first two preseason games with mostly reserves on defense. The results have been alarming, as they have allowed a total of 57 points, and many of those have been against reserves from both Baltimore and Denver.
Against the Ravens, the 49ers gave up 386 yards. Joe Flacco and Tyrod Taylor combined to go 17-of-26 for 149 yards and one touchdown. More concerning was that Baltimore was able to control the line of scrimmage and rushed for 237 yards on 48 carries.
The 49ers defense did a much better job of stopping the run against Denver. The Broncos rushed for 87 yards on 33 carries.
However, the Denver passing attack torched the San Francisco secondary. The Broncos completed 30 of 38 pass attempts for 270 yards and three touchdowns.
You expect Peyton Manning to do well, and he did, but when the likes of Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert combine to go 18-of-24 for 168 yards and two touchdowns, that is a concern.
The 49ers defense will have a chance to redeem itself this Sunday against the Chargers. Look for the starters to play more in this contest and then play very sparingly against the Texans on Thursday.
Heading into training camp, the defensive backfield was a major question mark. After two preseason games, the secondary has done very little to dispel those concerns.
It will be incumbent on the defensive line and linebackers to get strong pressure against the opposing quarterback, or what looks to be a rather porous secondary will be very vulnerable.
Expect Aldon Smith to be suspended for the first few games of 2014. This, along with the absence of NaVorro Bowman and Glenn Dorsey, makes the 49ers defense much weaker than it was last year.
Of the 11 starters, plus the nickel corner, half of the positions will be manned by new starters in 2014. There will be some growing pains and continuity issues, especially early on. The 49ers can only hope to weather the storm and stay healthy until they get Bowman and Smith back.
No. 2: The Alex Boone Saga Continues
Alex Boone is under contract through the 2015 season. He signed a four-year deal back in 2012 and, after only two years, wants to renegotiate.
There is no doubt that Boone is underpaid, but he is losing a lot of goodwill by not participating in training camp. His "hold-a-gun-to their-head" tactics do not endear himself to 49ers management and have made the negotiations very contentious.
In contrast, the 49ers have given contract extensions to Colin Kaepernick, Joe Staley and Glenn Dorsey. Cam Inman of MercuryNews.com reported on the Dorsey extension and the lack of progress with Boone.
At this point, the outcome is unclear regarding Boone's situation. The parties could come to an agreement shortly, he could be traded, or he could continue to dangle in the wind.
The one thing that is for sure is that Boone has missed all of training camp, OTAs and minicamp. Players who come in after missing this much time are more susceptible to injury, as they are typically not in peak condition.
If the 49ers can get a second-round draft pick for Boone, they should take it.
The 49ers still have potential extensions on the horizon with Michael Crabtree and Mike Iupati. They can use some of the money they save by not caving into Boone's demands to sign those two players.
In the meantime, Joe Looney has been starting at right guard in place of Boone. There has been some inconsistency with Looney, but he showed improvement from the first to the second preseason game.
Andrew Pentis of 49ers.com reports on sentiments from Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman about Looney.
No. 1: Will the 49ers Score a Touchdown Against the San Diego Chargers?
In eight quarters of preseason football, the 49ers have yet to score a touchdown. That should change this Sunday against the San Diego Chargers.
Expect to see Colin Kaepernick in the game a lot more than his cameo roles in the 49ers' first two games. We will also see much more of the starting unit in this, the third exhibition game.
With the 49ers playing Houston only four days later in their final preseason contest, this upcoming game against the Chargers is the one to watch. Do not expect to see much of the starters next Thursday against the Texans.
In their first two contests, the 49ers have mustered only 417 yards, which is a decent total for one game, not two. In addition, they have controlled the ball for 47 minutes, 26 seconds, compared to 72:34 for their opponents.
This large discrepancy in time of possession means that a suspect San Francisco defense is on the field far too much.
Preseason scores mean nothing, but playing with continuity and effectiveness mean a lot. It's time for the 49ers offense to get into a positive rhythm and show that it can finish off drives.
With this being the last real tune-up before the regular season for most of the key starters, look for a much better offensive effort.
In addition, as the game wears on, fringe players who are fighting for jobs will be giving it everything they have to impress their coaches. If you are going to watch any 49ers preseason game, this is the one.