SAN FRANCISCO – Here are my grades for the 49ers in their 34-14 preseason win over the Minnesota Vikings.
QUARTERBACKS: B. Colin Kaepernick played 17 snaps and played well, although he failed in his first appearance in the red zone, getting his pass tipped away on third-and-11 from the 12 yard line. But Kaepernick succeeded in his second red zone appearance. On third-and-goal from the five, Kaepernick rolled right, spotted Quinton Patton running across the back boundary of the end zone and hit the receiver in stride for a touchdown. It was a beautiful play by Kaepernick.
Colt McCoy played two quarters. He was OK, scrambled around, threw some short slants. In the second quarter, he was terrible. His passer rating was 17.7. He threw an interception on a five-yard pass. But in the third quarter, he played better, leading a scoring drive. After the game, Jim Harbaugh said McCoy is Kaepernick’s backup. That may be, but McCoy is not a good backup quarterback option over the long haul.
Why did Harbaugh play McCoy for two whole quarters if Harbaugh is set on McCoy as Kaepernick’s backup? Here’s my best guess: Harbaugh is not set on McCoy as Kaepernick’s backup. Maybe another team expressed interest in McCoy before tonight’s game but wanted to see him play more, so Harbaugh left him in the game longer to market him.
Scott Tolzien didn’t play. Obviously, he’s gone.
B.J. Daniels played one series in the fourth quarter. He led a touchdown drive and made two spectacular plays. First, on third-and-11 he threw a perfect 22-yard pass down the left sideline, hitting Lavelle Hawkins in stride. The only other QB on the 49ers who could have made that pass was Kaepernick. On the next play, Daniels scrambled to the right and sprinted down the right sideline for a 20-yard gain. He probably is going to make the team.
WIDE RECEIVERS: A-. Quinton Patton was terrific in his first game as Niner, catching a team-high four passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. He even played with the first-team in the first quarter. He mostly lined up in the slot.
Marlon Moore was the starting split end. He caught three passes for 32 yards. He’s a tough guy and will not give away the split end job. Someone’s going to have to take it from him.
If anyone takes it from him, it might be Jon Baldwin. He made two nice catches. First, he won on a slant route and caught a pass throw low and behind him. Next, he beat the cornerback down the left sideline for a 19-yard catch.
RUNNING BACKS: D. The only running back who played well tonight was Jewel Hampton, and he was facing the Vikings’ backup defense. Kendall Hunter had one good run, a 15-yard gain, but the offensive line deserves most of the credit for that play. They created a huge hole for Hunter.
LaMichael James was terrible, rushing 9 times for 15 yards and catching zero passes.
On the other hand, Anthony Dixon caught three passes for 33 yards and rushed for a touchdown. Dixon might be a better player than James right now.
TIGHT ENDS: B. Vernon Davis caught back-to-back passes. On both plays, he ran the same route – the Y-stick, and on both plays he was wide open.
Vance McDonald caught two passes for 24 yards and hurdled over a defender. He also made some terrific blocks in the running game.
Garrett Celek caught no passes and dropped one.
OFFENSIVE LINE: C. They created a couple of big holes for the running backs, but that was it. They mostly got dominated by the Vikings’ defensive line. Anthony Davis got beat by Brian Robison, who slapped the ball out of Kaepernick’s hand while he was throwing. Mike Iupati was flagged for a false start. Daniel Kilgore got destroyed on one play by Fred Evans who tackled James for a three-yard loss.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A. Adrian Peterson didn’t play, so this group wasn’t really tested. Still, they played well. Justin Smith ripped into the backfield a few times on running plays.
Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey split time at nose tackle with the first-team defense and both guys played well, each recoding a tackle.
Tony Jerod-Eddie played especially well in the second half with the second-team defense, recording three tackles. Don’t be surprised if he makes the final 53-man roster.
LINEBACKERS: A. Ahmad Brooks was fantastic, knocking away a pass, forcing a fumble and sacking the quarterback on the same play. NaVorro Bowman was excellent as well, recording three tackles in the first quarter.
CORNERBACKS: B. Nnamdi Asomugha is beating Tramaine Brock for the No.3 cornerback job, Chris Culliver’s old job. Asomugha played with the first-team defense today and gave up zero catches. He knocked away one pass and C.J. Spillman picked it off. On the other hand, Tramaine Brock was flagged for pass interference.
SAFETIES: A-. Eric Reid started at free safety and played well. He didn’t give up any long passes and he made two good tackles. Later, Trenton Robinson jumped a short pass from Christian Ponder and would have picked it off if it hadn’t been a ground ball.
At the end of the game, Michael Thomas let an interception bounce off his chest.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A. The punt and kickoff coverage was terrific, Lavelle Hawkins returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown and Phil Dawson made a 50-yard field goal that would have been good from 60 or 65 yards.