Preseason Week 1 grades: The defense and special teams

SAN FRANCISCO – Here are my Preseason Week One grades for the 49ers defense.

Defensive line: B+. Justin Smith didn’t play. The rest of this unit allowed 4.3 yards per carry to the Vikings, which is below the Niners’ stellar standard of run defense.

The standout player of this group was Demarcus Dobbs, who completely dominated the Vikings’ backup left tackle. In the second half, Minnesota had to give Dobbs the Justin-Smith treatment – constant double teams.

Inside linebackers: A. NaVarro Bowman looked like the best player on the defense when he was on the field. He made three tackles and seemed to beat his teammates to the ball carrier on every play.

Larry Grant is the hardest hitter on the team. He’s a “neck-snapper.” Whenever he makes a tackle, both his the ball carrier’s neck snap back.

Outside linebackers: B. Aldon Smith easily beat Vikings’ rookie left tackle Matt Kalil on the first drive of the game and forced Christian Ponder to throw the ball out of bounds, but Smith bruised his hip later on and had to leave the game.

Cam Johnson didn’t play. Eric Bakhtiari did, and he got two sacks. Suddenly, he has a chance to beat out Johnson as the Niners’ fourth outside linebacker.

Cornerbacks: A. Carlos Rogers got burned by Stephen Burton on the first drive of the game for a 52-yard completion. Rogers seemed to expect help from Dashon Goldson deep, but never got it. Besides that gaffe, the Niners cornerbacks mostly held the Vikings wide receivers in check. Perrish Cox picked off a bad McLeod Bethel-Thompson pass at the end of the fourth quarter.

Safeties: C+. Goldson seemed to blow his assignment on the 52-yard Burton reception. Donte Whitner gave up two catches in the first quarter to tight end Kyle Rudolph. Backup free safety Darcel McBath blew an assignment in the fourth quarter, resulting in a 28-yard catch by Kerry Taylor, John Taylor’s nephew.

Sixth-round pick Trenton Robinson had a huge hit in the fourth quarter to break up a pass. Robinson has the best chance of all the Niners’ 2012 draft picks to suit up for the season opener in Green Bay.

Special teams: A. Despite the strong, swirling winds, the Niners’ special teams made no mistakes. Kyle Williams returned one punt 22 yards. Andy Lee landed two punts inside the Vikings’ 20 yard line, and one inside their 5 yard line. And backup kicker Giorgio Tavecchio kicked a 29-yard field goal.

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