Though there were plenty of bright spots, to me it looked at times as though the 49ers thought they were playing in a scrimmage perhaps.
Maybe that's the way the coaches wanted to approach this game. Don't play your butts off, save some for the rest of the preseason, regular season opener, etc.
The offense looked crisp, spirited, efficient, (insert adjective here) during the first series. It was nice to see Vernon Davis thrown to twice in the first few minutes of play (and to see him catch the ball and run with it).
Then Alex Smith came in.
I'm not a hater. I want the guy who's playing the best to be our QB. Last night however, Smith looked a lot like the old Alex we all want to forget.
Granted Shaun Hill only got one series with which to compare himself to Smith. But that leaves a handful of positive plays to compare to a few dozen roller coasters.
I would have been even more pleased if Hill didn't take a sack while holding the ball far longer than the three second drills from camp would allow. As for Smith...well, he moved outside of the pocket numerous times and then failed to either hit a receiver or throw the ball away. In fact, I'd be fine if one out of every ten plays was a ball chucked onto the Gatorade table if necessary. Interceptions are a loss of possession. Sacks are a loss of down AND a loss of yards. Incompletions are only a loss of down. You decide.
The QB's aside, I thought that Glen Coffee calmed my nerves about what I seemed to have been reading about his performance thus far in training camp. It had appeared that he was doing nothing exceptional, even impressive in camp as of yet. However Friday night he was the one-cut-downhill runner we all were hoping we drafted to spell our most prized possession, Frank Gore - who, by the way, I'm glad is resting.
At this point I don't think Gore is going to be affected by missing preseason action. Give him one series in each of the last two preseason games and he'll be fine. If you give him any work in the preseason at all.
Other bright spots in the offense were Kory Sheats 5.1 yards per carry including a nice long run. Looks like we will have the tools necessary to be the bruising, bone crushing, clock eating unit that Singletary (and most of the fan base) wants.
Josh Morgan looked great to me. This kid is athletic and smart. He had limited opportunities and didn't make any "wow" plays, but I liked the comeback route where he took charge and went and got the ball. I'm excited about our young prospect this year.
Another wonderful surprise came in the form of Brit Miller, the converted linebacker who looks poised to be a big time contributor at the fullback position.
Miller caught two touchdowns in the contest. The first one was a bailout for Smith where Miller sat in a hole and provided an emergency outlet near the goal line. Smith panicked but did finally pull the trigger and find Miller standing alone just outside the end zone. The other was a play where Miller caught a dump-off pass in the right flat, wide open, and took the ball streaking down the sideline for a touchdown.
Miller's blocking in the passing game was pretty good too compared to Zak Keasy's efforts which directly lead to two sacks. Rather ironically, Keasy left the game after breaking his forearm during a special teams tackle, making Miller's good performance even more important.
Pass protection didn't look stellar most of the night, although most people realize we're built more for run blocking. Still, we need to occasionally give these guys the full three or four seconds to throw, INCLUDING an actual pocket from which to do so. Again, this was one of the elements that seemed to be lacking.
The other side of the line wasn't real impressive as it pertains to the passing game either. Moreover, our pash rush was almost nil. I know we have good depth of young guys here so it's not the utmost of my concerns but it was obvious that this aspect of the defense was nonexistent.
The run defense was pretty good although I thought we could have made more plays for little gain or loss. Justin Smith was all over the place for a D-Lineman, once making a tackle near the sideline that really got me going.
The guy who I really like, although he doesn't figure to heavily contribute much beyond special teams, is Scott McKillop. The kid isn't "prototypical linebacker" by design but he's got a good motor and was playing his heart out. He also seems very humble and willing to do anything just to make the team and contribute. He ended up with quite a few tackles albeit playing against scrubs for most of the second half. I can really see him developing into something special if he keeps it up.
Enough about my new man crush...let's talk secondary.
Sure what you'll see on the highlight film are the four interceptions—something some will probably solely attribute to Kyle Orton rather than the talent of the Niners secondary. A few of the picks were very athletic plays and I like the ball hawking style we seemed to play with in that respect.
However the troubling part was the cushion and look of confusion the secondary played with at times. Again, this may have been the plan all along—to play a "bend don't break" style to keep guys healthy, etc. It is only the first preseason game and one would expect the energy to elevate as time goes on.
And I'm not the coach so what do I know? I guess I want to see our defense SCARE people this year in every facet. I want to see receivers getting hit, balls batted down, pressure on opposing quarterbacks, punishing blows to backs daring to run between the tackles.
I hope this style of play reveals itself during the season opener and throughout the 16 games, and into the future for the Niners defense.
I know this article was kind of all over the place, lacked really any statistical info (even though we all know stats mean almost nothing in preseason anyways), and yes, it's entirely written from the point of view of a life-long fan of the Niners. I hope, however that it comes across as honest and relatively objective as it pertains to what we learned and what we need to improve upon if this in fact was any indication as to how we'll show up for game one in September and beyond.