49ers run defense has problems

This is my Friday column.

You can dismiss how easily the Ravens’ offensive line pushed around the 49ers’ front seven Thursday night. You can rationalize the Niners giving up 237 rushing yards by pointing out they had only six healthy defensive linemen, and Justin Smith and Aldon Smith and Ray McDonald and Patrick Willis didn’t play. You can simply forget the whole thing because it was a preseason game and those don’t count.

Let’s try to look at the game objectively. What do we really see?

The coach didn’t look happy on the sideline. He looked like he had eaten bad food.

And his front seven looked like they had Velcro on their jerseys. They got stuck on the Ravens’ blocks all game. It’s not a sin to get blocked, but it is a sin to stay blocked, and the 49ers’ front seven stayed blocked Thursday night. They got blocked, manhandled and pushed around by one of the worst offensive lines in football. The Ravens ranked dead last in yards per rush last season.

Maybe that’s why Jim Harbaugh looked sick. It’s disturbing to give up 200 rushing yards in any game to any opponent, especially the worst rushing offense in the league. This was the first time the 49ers had given up 200 rushing yards in a game since Harbaugh took over. The last time the 49ers gave up 200 rushing yards was in 2010 under head coach Mike Singletary. The Chiefs rushed for 207 yards against the Niners Week 3. That was the season before NaVorro Bowman became a starter.

Now we arrive at the key issue – NaVorro Bowman.

Since Bowman became a starter in 2011, he has been the 49ers’ best linebacker – better than Patrick Willis. Bowman has been the 49ers’ best defensive player regardless of position. Bowman has been the 49ers’ best player, period.

Bowman is not coming back soon. He tore his left ACL and MCL during the NFC championship game in January and will miss most of the season, maybe all of it.

His replacements played terribly Thursday night and don’t delude yourself into thinking it was a mere exhibition game and the results were not revealing. They were. Michael Wilhoite, Chris Borland and Nick Moody did not did not fight off blocks. The Ravens steamrollered them. Ray Rice averaged 5.7 yards per carry, and Lorenzo Taliaferro, a rookie fourth-round pick from Coastal Carolina, averaged 5.5 yards per carry. The 49ers made him look like Jim Brown.

The 49ers have had the best front-seven in football since Bowman became a starter in 2011. Will the front seven still be great without him? If Bowman was the only guy the 49ers had to replace, maybe. But there are others.

According to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, the 49ers expect the NFL to suspend Aldon Smith for the first six to eight games of the season.

Justin Smith had shoulder surgery a few months ago and has not practiced all offseason.

Ray McDonald had biceps surgery in January and has not participated in training camp.

Glenn Dorsey tore his biceps last week and will miss most, maybe all of the season.

Ian Williams broke his ankle last season and is still rehabbing it.

Best case scenario, the 49ers open the regular season starting three defensive linemen who have had no offseason and are on the mend – Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Ian Williams.

Just two starters in the 49ers’ front seven are healthy and have been healthy all offseason – Willis and Ahmad Brooks. That’s two of seven.

The past three seasons, Willis and Brooks played on the same side of the defense. They played on the left side, the strong side, the side with the tight end. Bowman, Aldon Smith and Justin Smith played on the right side.

With Bowman and Aldon Smith out, the 49ers have a major weakness on the right side of their front seven. Justin Smith is all alone over there. He turns 35 in September – he needs help. So the Niners are moving Willis over to that side, the side Bowman used to play. Is that enough?

Wilhoite, Borland or Moody has to start next to Willis at inside linebacker. None of those three currently is a good option. Mike Purcell has to start at nose tackle until Ian Williams can play – Purcell was terrible against the Ravens. And Corey Lemonier has to replace Aldon Smith. Lemonier wasn’t terrible, but he did nothing special Thursday night. He’s just another guy.

For the first time in the Harbaugh Era, the 49ers’ front seven isn’t the strength of the team. The front seven used to shut down the opponent’s run game and force it into tough passing downs like second-and-8 or third-and-8. Then, the 49ers’ front four created tremendous pressure on the quarterback – they didn’t need blitzes. All of this covered up obvious flaws in the 49ers’ secondary.

If the front seven is merely ordinary this season, the whole defense could be in big trouble.

You can’t dismiss what happened in Baltimore as a mere exhibition game fluke.

Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at grantcohn@gmail.com.

  1. “If the front seven is merely ordinary this season, the whole defense could be in big trouble.”

    Well, I’m glad you mentioned that Grant because I always thought the Niner’s secondary is their strenght the last few years :)

    1. Grant is always looking for anything to badmouth the Niners – just like Lowell. It’s the Cohn way. Hate on!

    2. Panic? I don’t think so. I think Grant is offering his opinion of the game. The D line was awful and it showed that the Niners have no depth. I think Harbaugh said the same thing..and that should be no news to all of us who watched the game.

      Care to focus on the game, and not on what the journo writes/opines?

    3. I read the title of this article on 49erswebzone and clicked it wondering who would panic over a preseason game with a bunch of non starters. Should have known it was this guy.

      1. He writes what he sees. That should be respected not ridiculed. If I want to read a cheerleaders article I’ll go over to the Mercury News.

  2. Bowman is a huge loss no doubt about it, but there’s another 4 weeks until things start for real and as mentioned more than half the starting unit did not play last night. If every preseason game goes along these lines we can start to worry, but right now I’ll take it for what it is: a lot of young players playing together for the first time with little experience around them. They have to be given time, and judging anything long term after one preseason game is severe hyperbole.

          1. My best friend is screwing Godell’s Secretary, and he’s assured me it will be no more than 4 games and a hefty fine…..

  3. Oh brother one pre-season game and its doom and gloom. Don’t you think these players are going to get better as they have more experience ? Time for the offense to shine.

  4. 8/7/14 will forever be known around these parts as the day the sky fell.

    Too many assumptions in this article to deal with them all but here goes:

    1. Justin/Ray won’t return to full health and will be old/broken down versions of themselves
    My response: Complete assumption. Both had surgeries on shoulders and should be more healthy than they were in the NFC CG.

    2. The NT position is a mess.
    My response: Right now, I tend to agree. We’ll know more if Ian Williams returns to practice soon. Taylor Hicks’ report on 49ers.com re Baalke/Tomsula giving Williams a thorough physical test sounds promising. Dial also played really well last night. This is an incomplete.

    3. Bowman is the best member of the front 7.
    My response: He’s excellent, and a comparable player, but I think Willis is still the best and he’s healthy. Bowman flashes because his assignment puts him in roles to make tackles. Willis is all over the field, and often in coverage which frees Fangio to use safeties elsewhere. Also, look back to pre-Bowman years. Takeo Spikes played his role very well and our front seven was very good at stopping the run. Note: If today’s a day that stats matter, then I fully expect to get PFF Bowman stats thrown at me :-)

    4. Moody/Borland/Wilhoite’s performances are indicative of how the defense will look in the regular season.
    My response: Complete assumption. These guys were all playing with each other for the first time, and with no starters on the DL in front of them. It’s a symbiotic relationship. You can’t extrapolate their poor collective performances when so much of it depends upon the guys around them. Put Justin/Ray/Ian/Patrick/Ahmad/Brock and co around Wihoite/Borland and you’ll likely see a very different picture.

    All we can draw from preseason game 1 is that if our entire starting DL, Patrick Willis, Navorro Bowman, Aldon Smith, and Tremaine Brock are out, and some combo of Wilhoite/Borland/Moody starts at ILB, we’re going to be a mediocre DL front. Thank goodness that’s not the case. :-)

    1. Do expect anything less from grant. He is always bashing the 49ers. I bet grant thanks the raiders will win the sb

  5. Thanks Grant. A few thoughts…
    – Remember how Harbaugh looked after that preseason game vs the blitz happy Saints in 2011?
    – Someone on the radio (forgot who) mentioned only 1 defensive starter played.
    – Yup. Aldon and Bowman are superstar talents, often in the running for DPY. They will be missed no matter how well the 49ers drafted.
    – There is no healthy NT. Dorsey will be missed.
    – Dial looks like a stud, but is NT his natural position? He’s tall, and more likely better suited to RayMac/Justin’s spot.
    – The offense was so bad, the D was on the field all day.
    – The MLBs did not impress. Often when teams are getting run over there’s still an occasional flash of MLB play… a tackle for a loss… a big hit. But the MLBs were almost invisible. Dead legs? Vanilla scheme?
    – Where was the behavioral experiment Lynch? Hammy?
    – Tis the season for overreaction, and I’m a willing participant.

  6. Seriously, though, Stop, Cohn!!!

    This is why the hashtag was coined, because Grant Cohn is an alarmist who makes ridiculous headlines for blog hits, while simultaneously dismissing reality.

    Here’s the truth, add filler language as you like:

    Justin Smith, Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial, TJE, Ray McD, and Ian Williams is a whole different kettle of fish than Tank, Dial, TJD, Purcell, Okoye, etc …

    In other words, not a single starter on the D-Line played a single snap last night, and yet we saw solid play from TJE and stellar, starter-quality play from Carradine and Dial.

    Moody, Borland, Wilhoite, and Skov is a whole different kettle of fish than Willis and Moody.

    It has yet to be seen who starts next to Willis, but it’s safe to say that person will shine because of Willis’ presence, like Bowman has. Patrick Willis is still better than Bowman, always has been. Bowman is the second best LB in the league. Borland is a pathetic Pygmy of a player, the player Grant thought Keuchly would be. He needs to be cut, or reside exclusively on ST. Moody will start the season next to Willis. Moody will be haled as the next great thing.

    So that’s the front 7.

    For the first 6 games of the season, the front 7 will be:
    RayMc/Dial
    Williams/Dial
    Smith/Carradine
    Lemonier/Smith
    Willis/Wilhoite
    Moody/Willhoite
    Brooks/Lemonier

    Add a little TJE/Dobbs/Okoye for a blow, and the sky is most decidedly NOT falling.

    Bowman is great, but he’s no Willis.

    The defensive backfield is MUCH, MUCH stronger than last season.

      1. Bowman was better than Willis last year. Willis lost a step last season. He is now 30. Still good but not the force he was in his prime. Age kills speed and quickness. Hopefully he will use his experience to make up for the step or two he lost..

    1. Agree whole heartedly. Except I do think Bowman is better than Willis.

      Instead of whining about the defense I preferred to be excited about Hyde and Ellington.

  7. If it was any other team, I don’t think we’re this nitpicky.
    .
    We didn’t win the game and the 2nd and 3rd stringers looked a little lost…big whoop!
    .
    Two important things happened yesterday:
    1) the backups got alot of snaps in an actual game which are invaluable;
    2) there were no major injuries.
    .
    Now, if the team that takes the field in the 3rd preseason game looks that bad…do start to panic.
    .
    Until then, relax.
    .
    .
    .
    *ALOHA*

      1. That’s what happens when you workout with the Cowboy and ole McDonald all off season….

        1. I think that’s absolutely a direct result.
          .
          It’s not only a conditioning thing, but a mindset thing as well.
          .
          I agree 100%.
          .
          .
          .
          *ALOHA*

  8. Grant- Non issue, but you do have a job to do. Let’s look at it objectively…

    6 active DL
    5 DL had never started a NFL game
    3 had never played in ‘regular’ season game
    1 had never played in any football game

    Missing 3-4 of the best DL on team, Smith-Dorsey-McDonald-Williams

    Add the fact the Ravens HAD to show major improvement on the rushing game form last year, it was obviously a point of interest. This, added to the facts above are the reason the DL got pushed around.

    1. Another point is that a coach that wants his team to look good in the preseason will be sure that they don’t play with dead legs. The six DL guys looked like they were playing on dead legs — maybe because of the heavy load they’ve been carrying in practice.

      Another reason is that Harbaugh could care less about winning in preseason. All he wants to do is evaluate for the final 53 as speculated elsewhere this morning.

      Today’s post ranks right up there with counting off sides in practice.

    2. YEs, let’s look at it objectively. Those guys out there are the bench players..but they are also the depth of the team. The point of it is that this team has no quality of depth on the D line.

    1. He really looked like a deer in headlights if you ask me.
      .
      His play closely resembled a turnstile.
      .
      .
      .
      *ALOHA*

  9. The best thing about last nights game is how the 49ers got into the redzone than put the brakes on screeching hard with giving it to the Jewel.
    I love how Coach Harbaugh will not show any new wrinkles in his new redzone scheme. As for the run defense, it wasn’t even a bonafide run defense with half the personnel playing their first NFL game in a new scheme.
    Grant I know its aonly preseason but surely to God you can find another angle to cover than harping on a run defense in the 1st preaseason game?

  10. Looking at the PFF grades, Purcell was bad (-1.2) but not as bad as Tony Jerod Eddie with his -3.8. Also Looney was pretty decent (-0.7) compared to Iupati (-1.7) and Martin especially (-3.5).

        1. This is definitely one of those times when I don’t know what PFF was grading on. Martin was either dinged big time for the two mistakes (missed block on a sweep, false start) or they are watching different footage than I am.

            1. Wasn’t it J. Martin who was forced face down by air into the turf when he came around the right side?

            2. Jack,

              Ok that makes sense then.

              Razor,

              Yeah that was him. Not a good moment and overall the run blocking wasn’t great by any means. My points have been in regards to pass protection.

        2. I would be more worried about the play of Kilgore and Looney, than the back up QB and the back-ups on the D line. Kilgore and Looney are the first line starters, and they have shown nothing. They got blown out by rookie D-linemen throughout the first quarter. They have been with the team for 3 years, they wont’ get any better in the next 2 pre season games…they are back ups at best.

  11. Very discouraging game to watch. If any version of the 49er defense had looked halfway decent against any version of the Ravens offense, it would be easy to dismiss what happened. Since every Ravens run into the line yielded about five yards, since the 49ers seemed to lose every battle in the trenches, it’s hard to look on the bright side.

    But it’s preseason. Oftentimes preseason 4-0 teams fall on their fannies, and preseason 0-4 teams make the playoffs, let’s not read too much into what we saw.

    But let’s not ignore it,either. Need further data.

    1. In the old days the 49ers used to beat the Browns in preseason. That never got them past second place in the pre-NFL standings.

  12. Good D starts with strong play up the middle. With the injuries at NT and Bowman, anyone looking objectively at this team had to know there would be some struggles on defense.

    Those problems were compounded last night with no Willis, and Dobbs/TJE showing why they were UDFA’s.

    There have been a number of people saying that Dial looked good, and he did. The problem is, he didn’t play any NT. It was Purcell, and when he left it was TJE.

    Last thing. The Ravens were poor in the run game last year, that’s why they had 3 new starters from the group that started their last game of 2013.

    1. The reports on how Dobbs, TJE and Purcell performed are exactly why I have been saying leading up to the past 3 drafts the 49ers should look at the DL early. Getting Dorsey, Carradine and Dial last year was very smart, and looks like Carradine and Dial will provide much upgraded depth this year. But another talented DL certainly wouldn’t go astray right now…

    2. “Good D starts with strong play up the middle”

      This is something that Baalke swears he abides by, but you gotta wonder why he seldom places priority in the NT position. Dorsey had a solid season, but to have Purcell as your plan B has me a bit confused.

      1. I think the expectation was that Williams would be the #2 and they could afford to bring him along slowly.

      2. Leo,

        I think they liked their depth at NT coming in, and the fact that position is only involved in about 35-40 % of the overall snaps. If Williams can return healthy before the season starts, it won’t be as big of an issue, but if he can’t then it’s going to be interesting to say the least.

      3. I understand what you guys are saying, and I’m hoping he’s back soon. But you gotta also wonder if and when he comes back how ready will he be. Last year was going to be his 1st year starting, how confident are we that are NT will be resolved with him back?

        1. Leo:

          If you want the glass-is-half-full perspective, look at this way. Williams beat out Dorsey last year.

        2. I’m with you Leo. I was definitely concerned once Dorsey went down. Last night did nothing to change that.

      4. The team went into the season with Ian Williams and Dorsey at NT. They looked very deep at that point, but now people suggest that a NT should have been drafted. Williams should be back by the start of the season or soon thereafter. Dial didn’t play much if any NT last night, but he has experience with it. I suspect that we will see several snaps with him at the nose the next couple of weeks. Worst case scenario- Sopoaga is available as a free agent and only one year removed from the SF scheme. They can probably get him on the minimum vet deal. Sky- not- falling…

        1. Actually, I was suggesting they draft a DL before the draft.

          I was a big advocate of Easley in the 2nd round if he had lasted that long (not a NT, but would have allowed them to put Dial at NT exclusively), or a NT/DT hybrid such as DaQuan Jones. I’ve never been as enamoured with the depth at DL as some have been. Lots of UDFAs that can be ok backups and look ok when they have the rest of the high quality starters surrounding them, but not guys you’d feel confident having as regular starters.

    3. Yes, that’s a problem with using last year’s stats and rankings. Ravens OL was weak last year. They don’t have the same OL this year. A good analyst might point that out in the mix. Another point that can be made about the ILBs. The NG is crucial to the effectiveness of the ILBs. Wilhoite has already demonstrated that he can play at at least a moderately good level in the base D, but especially in a 3-4 scheme the heavies have to keep,the OL off the backers. With ineffective play by Purcell and TJE the backers weren’t likely to look very good. Borland takes too many false steps but will improve. It’s about Nose Guard right now.

  13. You can’t ask me to look at those number below(starters on the field) and compare last nights game. That’s not the same comparison. You want me to compare stats that a few possible hall of Famers put up to the 2nd and 3rd string, it makes ZERO sense

    “Maybe that’s why Jim Harbaugh looked sick. It’s disturbing to give up 200 rushing yards in any game to any opponent, especially the worst rushing offense in the league. This was the first time the 49ers had given up 200 rushing yards in a game since Harbaugh took over. The last time the 49ers gave up 200 rushing yards was in 2010 under head coach Mike Singletary. The Chiefs rushed for 207 yards against the Niners Week 3. That was the season before NaVorro Bowman became a starter.”

  14. Thanks Grant, nice writeup. While I don’t agree with everything here, I understand where you’re coming from. They definitely have work to do in run defense, but the good news is these guys need the work and they’re getting plenty of it.

    I have a question about the NT spot. It seems like Ian Williams is close to returning (at least if you take his quasi workout in front of Baalke as a good sign), but if he’s not ready to go, what do you think they ultimately do there? In know Dial can play inside, but he’s a more natural at DE. Do you think it would be better, at least in the short term, to bring in a more natural NT? I know options are slim at this point, but maybe it wouldn’t hurt to bring in a vet to help with the process.

    Also, who do you think is the best option at ILB. None of the three really impressed last night, but who would you play if you were Harbaugh? I would tend to lean towards Moody since he seems like the most athletic option, which could help in nickel as well.

  15. If our defense is anywhere near as unhealthy during the regular season as they were last night, then our expectations for this season would have to be revised. If the hit on Kaepernick last night had put him on the shelf for several games, another revision would be called for. Team health during the season, and especially in the playoffs can’t be underestimated.

    When the 49ers loaded up in 1994 to beat Dallas and win the Superbowl, they started the season with 4 of their offensive line out with injuries. Steve Young almost got killed against the Eagles, Kansas City, and Detroit (The Crawl of Agony Game). Eventually they got healthy and had an outstanding season.

    1. Weird how writers get attacked for simply pointing out a problem. I knew this article would bring the homers out.

      1. You can’t compare 2nd & 3rd string players to 1st string vets. That’s terrible. To say our 2nd and 3rd string aren’t good okay. But don’t compare those two. It’s apples to oranges

        1. You can, because that’s what they’ve put on the field through 11 training camp practices and 1 preseason game.

          1. 11 training camp practices versus many years of real game experience. There’s no comparing season vet to rookie and “redshirt” rookies.

            1. I understand that, but this is the group that they are putting on the field right now. Can these guys sit out all training camp and be effective if starting week 1? Perhaps we’ll see.

      2. @eekamouse

        You’re right! Everyone does the” YUK, YUK it’s only the first preseason game…” and we still have the most talented roster….The ‘homers’ seem satisfied with ‘coming close’ That’s not where Lombardi’s come from

  16. Harbaugh looked sick because coaches are always coaches.He expects his players to excel and play sound assignment football, even if they haven’t played an NFL game, even if they haven’t played in a game for over a year…that’s what coaches do by nature. He expected that every player would step up and dominate their matchup and fulfill their assignments. Arrow up, they have something to build on.
    Are we going to get another article on how the offense sucks? To be honest with you, I would be more worried about an offense missing fewer starters than this defense.

    1. Players’ performances are a reflection of coaching so last night’s game also is an indication of the work that coaches face in upgrading the quality of play from their position players. That’s why, I guess, coaches can be a bit high strung and sensitive before, during and after a game. Therefore, last night’s performances by players, particularly the front 7, also was a dismal grade for the coaches, the scouts and the front office because, collectively, they are responsible for the guys on the roster and those who cross the white line and play in the game. Fortunately, it was a pre-season game and presents an excellent teaching moment. The real issue is how much improvement will be seen next Sunday night? If not noticeable, they there is cause for concern.

  17. Hey, idiot, your language should not be tolerated on this or any blog. Every person has the right to free speech and his or her opinion, just as your opinion is allowed to be displayed on this site.

    It is what it is and the eye in the sky (film) does not lie. The Niners, at this moment, are what they are based upon what they put on the field last night. It is a teachable moment for the coaches and an opportunity for the players to evaluate their performances and to critique their techniques and fundamentals as displayed last night. Remember, some of these players are just one play away from going from 2nd string to starter; therefore, performances cannot be dismissed that easily. Simply look at the injury to Bowman and the eventual impact it could have on the defense this year.

    1. That’s very hard to say because Borland with the first string DL would probably look a lot better because he wouldn’t be trying to Manuever around an OL and his DL.

      1. ‘…Borland with the first string DL would probably look a lot better…’
        .
        .
        But he’d still look like T-Rex with those short arms of his.
        .
        His nickname should be T-Rex.
        .
        .
        .
        *ALOHA*

    2. I didn’t see the comments, but that person also has the right to post whatever they want, just as Grant has a right to take it down, and you have right to complain about it. Frankly, I give folks on this site a little latitude as Grant is a bit of a shock journalist, who takes pride in getting his pro-niner audience riled up. I come here to see the car crash. I lost respect for Grant when he pushed the panic button after just 3 games last year, world was collapsing, we wouldn’t make playoffs. I called bs and we would go 11-5 or 12-4. We did. Here is my prediction this year, we will go 12-4, and any games we lose will be early. Barring more injuries, this team will be better than last year. Not predicting SB, but we will be right there.

  18. I agree Grant. It’s a complete disaster and the 9ers are screwed. Stick a fork in ‘em. I think we should all give up now. I’m tuning football out until next year. I’ll wait until the first pre-season game of 2015 to decide whether we have any chance then.

  19. There’s no doubt, the entire defense, not just the run defense didn’t look good last night. Work to do, absolutely…throw your hands up in the air in despair, no way. That’s not how this team was built, it’s not how they usually play. You can bet Coach Fangio will make some changes…in schemes. Of course they miss Bowman…who wouldn’t. They miss Dorsey, Ian Williams, too. The preseason is to see what you’ve got beyond your starters. Dial and Carradine looked just fine. Borland had some nice plays, Cook snared his first NFL pick, Ward looked good. Borland could end up starting over Wilhoite, but it’s too early to say definitively. It’s only one game. If Fangio/Harbaugh aren’t comfortable with Ian Williams’ recovery, Baalke could well sign a vet to help at NT. As it happens every preseason, there’ll be some good football players cut from other teams. No reason to panic…it’s only the first game.

  20. I agree with Grant on every point. Couple his opinions re: our front seven with the fact that we have the worst starting CBs of any non-rebuilding team…I could see our defense having a very difficult time getting off the field this year.

  21. I was hoping you’d grade out the secondary at some point as well Grant. The camera work wasn’t great on the game and not to many close up shots to see how some of our new prospects and new starters faired.

  22. I would bet the front office is looking for a nose tackle and searching rosters who will have to cut one at this point. I think Dial and Carradine will sub for MacDonald and Smith and they’ll need someone to find someone till Williams can play if he can even return to form.

  23. David Fales first NFL pass was a long bomb.. completion
    from under the shadow of his own goal posts ..

    Is there any way we can get a “Draft do-over” ?

    1. Is there any way we can get a “Draft do-over”
      ——————–
      But Fales wasn’t in the 2011 draft.

  24. Grant has a point.
    If the nines are deep, we have nothing to worry about.
    But when the 2nd and 3rd string play, we need to see some bright lights. We didn’t,so we aren’t that deep.
    and that is alarming unless you think that the season will be without injuries. Our first choices are injured, aging or out for the season.
    Look at it this way, what if we have Gabbert at QB for half the season?

  25. Hey Debbie Downer…. THE FRONT 7 DID NOT PLAY. You think Smith and McDonald are going to let lineman get to the second level? Get real. This is a horrible article.

  26. If the NFL really wants to make the Rams’ Michael Sam’ entrance to pro football seamless, perhaps it would be more expedient not to ask Jeff Fisher how he felt about Sam’ 1 tackle performance in his first game.
    Just let the guy go out and prove himself the same way other players are doing. I don’t need the football analysts (NFL Network) giving me a report on his every move.

  27. So Dial was dominant and Carradine was very good, yet you never mention either in your piece. Why? Oh, because it doesn’t support your negative conclusion. Last year you said the Niners would end up missing playoffs after like 5 games, now you are worried after a single, worthless preseason game. The Pats got smoked too. Think they are going to lose their division. Please.

    1. Dial will only play half the snaps and Tank will also be a sub. Does including their positive play take away from Grant’s main point? I don’t think so.

      1. dial is critical on run downs which was the entire basis of this article, so yes, it does take away from his position. Secondly, are d line subs will have to play more than ever due to age and health of McDonald and Smith, including dial moving over at times to natural end spot. Bottom line, the niners had 6 healthy lineman and at least 4 of them have little or no actual nfl game experience. D line is one of the hardest transitions from college to nfl…in spite of that dial and Carradine shined. By season start, r d line will once again be a strength and Grant proven to b what he is…his dad

          1. Reminds me of last preseason, remember when someone wrote about the epic position battle between Marlon Moore and Jon Baldwin? Good thing Baalke’s best move of the calendar year was that Baldwin trade, remember?

          2. Not because dial. Dial held the point of attack very well. LB’s job is to make tackles and they did not fill the gaps at all. Carradine was less consistent, but improved as game went on. Guy hadn’t played in two years, nervous and cautious is understandable.

            Did you actually play football Cohn? I did, 2 years Cal Poly SLO until concussions forced me out. Do you understand the mental side of this game, what makes a player great? We had a line full young pups who either didn’t have experience, or were coming off injuries. Either way, they need to build confidence and gain confidence to succeed, and by game one they will. Stop pushing the panic button every time something doesn’t go according to plan. 12-4, just like last year, book it…then give me your column.

    2. I didn’t watch that game but remember hearing Brady didn’t play. They are going to have a good year.

  28. Grant you are such a tool. You don’ know what you are talking about. Thing aren’t nearly bad as you say. Niners will get through this this preseason just as long as the front 7 doesn’t take anymore injuries. Niners are professionals, something which you aren’t! They will work through this. Take your chicken little panicking and fly the coup now!

  29. I think the most urgent problem for the Niners is on the O-line. Kilgore and Looney are back-ups at best. They were outmatched in every pass play.

    It is time to bring Boone back and get Martin ready to take over by midseason–or get the QB ready to scramble for their life in every play like they did against Baltimore.

    1. Or who’s not looking so good in the eyes of the staff. Would they carry an extra receiver this season due to the defenses injuries and suspensions? Or could it be an injury were not hearing about. Kind of weird picking up a receiver right now. Id think

    2. He has no chance to make the 53. Jacobs was a big part of their scout team last year so they are looking for a PS eligible guy to fill that role.

  30. PFT Headline: “Jordan Mathews inconsistent in debut.”
    Whaaaaaaat? Best WR in the draft? RoY? Say it ain’t so!
    (PS: He’ll be fine, but he’s not the Second Coming.)

  31. I agree with Grant that there should be some concern about the injuries and the play we saw in game 1. But I’m not going to throw the season away and say our front 7 won’t be dominate.
    I do however think he grazed the panic button about bowman’ time he’ll be missing. Not a snowballs chance in hell he misses the season. I have my doubts about missing 8 games. I’ll predict 6 games he misses. Some players are unique in injury healing. I believe Bowman is one of those freaks.

  32. I’m starting to get a bit more concerned about the length of Aldon’s suspension. We’ve been speculating around here a lot shorter time than the eastern media has and I’m worried that Roger G. will invoke the ‘repeat violator’ clause and sock it to him with 6-8 weeks. I imagine there will be some relativity between Aldon’s and Josh Gordon’s penalties due to repeat offenses; not equivalent, but proportionate.

    1. But Gordan was already suspended where Smith hasn’t been yet and even though he got paid for his five game leave last year that also should be taken into consideration.

    2. There is a real danger of self fulfilling prophecy. Before the Rice decision, many were expecting a 0-4 game suspension…
      – Goodell said suspensions are about correcting behavior, not punishment.
      – Goodell praised the 49ers for suspending Aldon and sending him to rehab.
      – Goodell has been encouraging teams to implement their own suspensions. Adding 8 games to last season’s 5 would create a disincentive for teams. The opposite of what Goodell was trying to accomplish.

      Now the eastern “8 game suspensions” chatter could nudge the suspensions higher.

      Despite the cultivated perception of the NFL as a quasi culteral/civil authority, in the end its an entertainment business. Fears of public anger over “light” suspensions could jack Aldon’s suspension higher.

      1. The Niners didn’t suspend Alden and send him to rehab. He did that on his own which will count in his favor. The Niners didn’t dock his pay which they could have.

        What they might do is suspend Alden for something like eight games including pay and then reduce the number of games missed for time served. That could mean that he would be out a big chunk of money, but only miss one to three additional games.

        Or something similar.

  33. Look for Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Ian Williams to return next week according to Harbaugh.

    1. The Three Amigos need to stay healthy. I wonder if they’ll see any action against Denver….

    2. Ian Williams too? That’s the best news I’ve heard all camp. The 49ers have their rock in the middle.

      This frees up Dail to play at his more natural spot behind RayMac and Justin. He’ll be a monster there.

    3. “We’re thin still and will be through the weekend and until we get back next week. We’ve got some reinforcements coming next week, from our own team.”

    4. Was this something Harbaugh just mentioned? Reports I have found mention Justin Smith and Ray McDonald returning. None mentioned Ian Williams.

    5. Ian Williams return is huge, but I can’t find any news on that. Only Justin and RayMac.

  34. In 2011 Chilo Rachal and Adam Snyder started at RG. Two muffed punts kept 49ers out of the Super Bowl. Boone has no leverage.

    1. Have you gone temporarily insane or is this your version of putting things in perspective and calming the troops ;)

    2. If I may fix that for you……
      In 2011 Chilo Rachel didn’t play RG but filled the position, and Adam Snyder also started at RG.

  35. ok ok ..

    “Mud” .. was a name given to our resident troll.. who goes by
    different screen names ..
    (forgive me but, I don’t remember who saddled him with the “mud” name)

    You’ll recognize our resident troll by his constant ranting
    to “Coach Harbaw” ..as if the coach actually pays attention
    to him ..

    Most, here just put him on /ignore, though

    1. MWNiner:

      Thanks. I guess I have been ignoring him for so long that I missed/forgot the whole “mud” thing.

    1. MWD: Good, glad to hear. It was a joke anyway. I know you’re from KC,Kansas. You had asked me where my family came from: Before they moved out “west’ Kansas City, Mo, you know the “show me” state and across the river from you. If I remember correctly you’re from Kansas City, KA. Anyway some were also closer to the Arkansas border, hence the slippage into certain southern expressions.

      1. Actually I live in a small town in Kansas Mary. I’ve never traveled to Kansas City mainly because I can’t afford to.
        So you hail from the ‘Show Me’ state huh? Good to know there’s another with Midwest blood on here along with MWN and myself, albeit a Seahawks fan. :-p
        Kidding with the tongue of course.

        1. MidWestDy: Travelling is overrated. And don’t you dare hate me for my misguided team choices, Besides, my dentist thinks this is the year of the 49ers.

  36. I’d say the run defense problems were more about the front 3 or 4 and less about the linebackers.

    Dial and Carradine were highlights of the game (one with few Niner highlights). But the reality is that the Niner’s defense was run on with those guys in there. So if these guys are making big plays but also giving up yards, what does that tell us? To me it says that they are talented D-linemen that are still learning how to read plays and blocks. Sometimes they guess correctly and make a big play and other times they don’t understand what is going on and get easily blocked out of the play (because they were out of position). This is compounded by the absence of the starters like Justin Smith, Dorsey and McDonald. Remember these guys play together and communicate with each other about what to expect and how to react together insych. If you throw a bunch of guys together, even if they’re talented they’re going to have to understand what they’re seeing and also how to react to it together; which gap to attack or how to control the blocker and position yourself on the outside or inside shoulder of the the blocker, how to best negate pulling blockers, zone blockers…etc….

    also, disciplined gap control by the front line extends to how well the linebackers are able to flow and fill their gaps too. I’m not saying that the ILBs didn’t make mistakes. They probably did, I’m just saying that the problems of the front down linemen cascade to the linebackers help to make them look bad too.

    so what all this tells me is that the Niners still much of their practice time with their presumed starters taking up most of the practice snaps and the back ups (whom may have even started in the preseason game) don’t receive enough snaps to work well enough collectively. Fangio is known to focus on his veteran players….but starters getting most of the reps in practice is hardly only a 49er problem…it’s pretty common in the league. But what I think Harbaugh and company should be more aware is that they should probably have a better system in place for getting back ups ready and developing future starters.

  37. Good writeup Grant, I too am worried about our run D and the problems it can potentially create through the rest of the D. Without Dorsey and Bowman it’s like the heart of our D has been ripped out, it’s been gutted from the middle and I think we can expect to see teams test it often. . Hopeful our new secondary can hold up but our cbs and safety have always benefited from obvious passing situations as a result of a stout tun D. I think we can reasonably assume drop off in production from NT and ILB it’s just a matter of how much and how greatly it affects the D as a whole.

  38. Ah, the Childish Churlish Crybaby Curmudgeon of Coronado Calls out desperately for attention one more time. He’s been surfing in the Tijuana sewage again.

  39. MWN: You’re right no idea. I’ve heard Tuna refer to “mud” before and thought he was being literal. Although I thought it had something to do with DS; but I’m trying to stick to football, and avoid the drama.

    But actually, where is ex-golfer????? He’s been MIA for sometime. Maybe he’s on vaca???

  40. Okay MWN/Tuna tell us that story about Mud, pls. And do tell me if it’s “reality based” or “fiction.” OMG I’m being subjected to that SeahawkBronco game again. Painful!

  41. seems every time I post .. it shows up above, and not in chronological
    order ..
    (the “mud” explanation showed up just after Jack and Mary’s
    exchange above)

  42. Mary
    Please see my response to Claude about Mud. In response to your question, yes, this is reality based in the case of being a fair description of my views. Two relativistic hedges on that though:
    1/ you’re getting my opinion. Please make your own judgements about its validity. ; >)
    2/ Mud does not dwell in the land of reality, he only visits here.

  43. MWN: I never have a problem. But I go to the individual site and post. Where are you when you actually comment.

  44. Two comments were deleted by Grant or the editors. That almost always causes some oddities for the rest of the thread.

  45. MidWest ..

    I’ve found that if you hit the “Reply” link before posting..
    it will go (more or less) where you want ..

    (sometimes)

  46. Claude
    I don’t recall exactly who it was, perhaps Chicago or Mid or maybe even Spaceborn who coined it in the context of: Your name is Mud. I liked it and stayed with it. It was better than whatever pejorative moniker I was using in reference to him at the time.
    “Him” is the Troll who posts here under ever-changing names (such as Super Bowl Monkey), but has no name, no identity of his/hers/it’s own. Sadly he lives only to worry about, whine and obsesses about Jim Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick. His only pleasure lies in any disappointment they experience. Given their record, he isn’t happy that often.

  47. OK, final thought on it:
    Check out Mud’s syntax. Could Mud actually be Sarah Palin? Just sayin’.

  48. Don’t scare me please. I used to be very political but, as y’all might guess, I’m a liberal. But SP is charismatic. Men adore her. And what’s not to love: she’s attractive and if you get lost in the woods she’ll blast an Elk, skin it and fry it by dinnertime. Now, I believe all politicians are crooks, don’t trust any of them. End of story, except I hope to God she sticks to writing books.

  49. Just swallow Claude — you’ll be okay.

    And Claude, I didn’t include you in that group of men who might love SP, b/c everyone knows you’re infatuated with “you” ;)

  50. Don’t include me in that group, either, Mary ..cuz
    In this case .. I’ll hafta go with what Razor said ^ ..

    Your “infatuation” with a woman who inhales way
    too much helium .. really baffles me..

    On another note .. if anyone caught the Packers / Titans
    game .. Scott Tolzein looked pretty good ..
    (any chance for a straight up trade for Gabbert ?) =>

    http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2014080902/2014/PRE1/packers@titans#menu=gameinfo%7CcontentId%3A0ap3000000376515&tab=recap

  51. Scott Tolzein looked pretty good ..
    (any chance for a straight up trade for Gabbert ?) =>

    You do realize MW that that makes you sound like you inhaled too helium? ;-)

  52. Thanks for that, MidWest ..

    (I say that while wiping coffee off my screen) ..

    Hey .. I was thinkin’ he sure looked better than Gabbert did
    (and Tolzein did it in the rain, too!) … but ..
    truth be told .. I mentioned that trade with
    tongue firmly planted in my cheek ;-)

  53. Razor, I think you’re onto something. I didn’t think of my choice of words. Why didn’t I choose the over-used word “love” v. “adore.” Because I think every woman secretly wants to be adored. Well, be careful what you wish for b/c I had that once.

    I was visiting Seattle from Chicago and staying with an old girlfriend and her husband. I asked my friend to set me up on blind dates Friday and Saturday. She did. One I had secretly had a crush on for a couple of years and the other was unknown and a college friend of theirs. Well the college friend (date) had me laughing the whole evening. He could have been reading out of a phone book. He was good looking, and incidentally had played football in HS & college. He even named a song after us, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” He told me the next weekend he was falling in love with me. I mean I know I’m charming, but get real.

    This clip from Moonstruck comes to mind. This might have solved everything.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0x-fkSYDtUY

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