Here are the grades for the 49ers’ 27-17 preseason win over the Chiefs.
QUARTERBACKS: B. Brian Hoyer was on the field for just six snaps, so it’s hard to judge him. He completed only one-of-four pass attempts, but he did make a nice throw to Jeremy Kerley for a 15-yard gain on third-and-12 which didn’t count because the Niners committed an illegal formation penalty. Matt Barkley made a few nice throws while rolling out, including an eight-yard touchdown pass to Aldrick Robinson while rolling left that didn’t count because Aaron Burbridge committed a holding penalty away from the play. If Burbridge hadn’t committed that penalty, Barkley’s passer rating would have been 112. Not bad. C.J. Beathard’s passer rating was 133. He threw two touchdown passes during the second half, including a 46-yarder to a wide open Kendrick Bourne, who had to turn and wait for the pass to arrive. Beathard didn’t make any “wow” throws, and the placement of his passes wasn’t great. But he was efficient and tough – he took hits while throwing the ball.
RUNNING BACKS: A-. Carlos Hyde ran only twice and gained zero yards, which wasn’t totally his fault. He didn’t have room to run. But his first carry was troubling. He stopped his feet in the backfield and lost two yards when he should have cut upfield and powered back to the line of scrimmage. Runs like this one make me question his fit in Shanahan’s offense. Matt Breida replaced Hyde and played reasonably well. Breida averaged only 3.6 yards per carry, but had a few good runs: Two were draw plays up the middle, and one was an outside zone run in which he broke two tackles and gained 12 yards. He also caught a couple passes. He seems like a quality No. 2 back. Joe Williams seems like a No. 1. Williams replaced Breida and gained 60 yards on seven carries – 8.6 yards per attempt. And Williams played even better than those numbers indicate. He had a 17-yard carry and a 15-yard carry that didn’t count because the Niners committed holding penalties. Head coach Kyle Shanahan featured Williams in a number of different ways – outside zone runs, inside zone runs, toss sweeps, toss counters – and Williams excelled at everything. He and Breida will make Hyde expendable.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C+. Shanahan called the first pass of the game for Pierre Garcon. He ran a quick slant route and couldn’t get open against Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters. That was Garcon’s only target. Marquise Goodwin was the primary receiver for only one pass play – he ran a crossing route during a play-action bootleg pass and made a 14-yard catch. Shanahan didn’t reveal how he plans to use Goodwin and Garcon during the regular season. Aldrick Robinson caught a 63-yard pass – he is the third-best receiver on the team. Jeremy Kerley is the fourth-best receiver on the team. He made a difficult, lunging first-down catch on third-and-12 which I mentioned above (the catch didn’t count because of penalty). Trent Taylor is the fifth-best receiver on the team. He made a 19-yard catch over the middle. Kendrick Bourne is without a doubt the sixth-best receiver on the team He made four catches for 88 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown catch. And Aaron Burbridge is the seventh-best or eighth-best receiver on the team. He committed a holding penalty and left the game with a hamstring injury and no catches.
TIGHT ENDS: C. Garrett Celek made a nice 24-yard catch when he extended his hands and caught the ball over his shoulder. He’s a dark horse to make the team. Vance McDonald ran a crossing route in the red zone and beat his man, but Barkley’s throw was low an incomplete. McDonald probably will make the team. Blake Bell caught neither of the two passes that came his direction. He almost certainly will get cut. Cole Hikutini caught no passes and committed an offside penalty on special teams. He might go to the practice squad.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B-. The starting offensive linemen performed better at pass protection than run blocking. They gave up zero sacks but created very little running room. And the backup offensive linemen performed better at run blocking than pass protection, even though one of the three sacks they allowed occurred because Beathard held the ball too long in the pocket. The other time Beathard got sacked, that John Theus’ fault. He completely whiffed on a defensive end. He probably won’t make the team. Third-string left tackle Darrell Williams Jr. played much better than Theus and has a chance to make the final roster as the ninth offensive lineman. J.P. Flynn committed two false starts.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-. The Chiefs gained only 31 rushing yards, and that reflects well on the 49ers defensive line. Nose tackles Earl Mitchell, Quinton Dial and D.J. Jones each played well against the run. All three should make the team. DeForest Buckner also played well against the run, but injured his ankle, and Shanahan says he’s not sure if it’s a low-ankle sprain or a high-ankle sprain. Something to monitor. Aaron Lynch recorded two sacks while rushing against backups – he almost certainly will make the team. But I doubt he’ll play much unless Ahmad Brooks or Elvis Dumervil gets injured. Rookie Solomon Thomas definitely will play, and he probably will start. He was one of the 49ers’ best defensive players in this game. He tackled a running back for no gain, and created pressure up the middle which led to a bad throw and an interception.
LINEBACKERS: B+. Rookie Reuben Foster broke up a pass in the end zone and didn’t injure his surgically-repaired shoulder. NaVorro Bowman looked stiff when Alex Smith easily ran around him while scrambling for a first down on third-and-7. Austin Calitro made a team-high six tackles, but committed an unnecessary roughness penalty.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: C+. Cornerback Rashard Robinson gave up two long catches — the Chiefs went after him relentlessly. Robinson did not play well, even though he had an interception. That pass was thrown right to him. Free safety Lorenzo Jerome forced a fumble and increased his chances of making the team. Strong safety Eric Reid committed an unnecessary roughness penalty. And backup strong safety Chanceller James committed a pass interference penalty.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-. Here’s the good: Trent Taylor returned a punt for 33 yards, and Victor Bolden Jr. returned a kickoff for 37 yards. Bolden might make the final roster as the sixth wide receiver just based on his ability to return kicks. Now, the not so good: This unit committed six penalties and Robbie Gould missed a 51-yard field goal.
COACHES: C. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has installed a simple defensive scheme which is effective against the run, and head coach Kyle Shanahan has installed a creative offensive scheme which was effective Friday night. Now, it’s time for Shanahan and Saleh to instill discipline into the team, as I wrote on Wednesday. Poor practice habits carried over to this game and the Niners committed 17 penalties for 131 yards. This team needs leadership.