SAN FRANCISCO – Here are my preseason Week One grades for the Niners’ offense.
Offensive line: A. In the running game, they completely pushed the Vikings’ defensive line around. The 49ers averaged 6.3 yards per rush because the offensive line created gaping holes all night. Rock Cartwright gained 44 yards on 8 carries. When was the last time you saw Cartwright do that?
In pass protection, the offensive line looked better than last season. The first-string unit didn’t give up any sacks. Second-string left tackle Mike Person gave up pressure a couple of times, but third-string left tackle Al Netter held his own in the fourth quarter.
Running backs: A. Brandon Jacobs picked up four first downs on four carries. It seems like the Niners’ Plan A to improve their 31st –ranked third-down offense is something like this: Avoid third-and-long. On third-and-short, hand the ball off to Jacobs. If he comes up short, it will probably be fourth and inches. If the offense is near midfield, go for it – hand it off to Jacobs again.
Kendall Hunter averaged 4.8 yards per carry and caught a screen pass as well. If Frank Gore misses any time this season, the Niners will have a good one-two punch with Hunter and Jacobs.
Rookie LaMichael James had an 11-yard run, but he seems a year away from seriously contributing to this team. He’s not as strong as Kendall Hunter, who can break tackles. After a year in the Niners weight-lifting program, James should be strong enough to become a playmaker.
Anthony Dixon did not run particularly well, averaging 3.8 yards per carry against third-stringers, but he did make some good blocks as a fullback.
Wide receivers: C+. The top receivers hardly played. Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Ted Ginn Jr. got a few snaps. Mario Manningham didn’t play at all.
Kyle Williams was solid, catching both passes thrown to him. Chris Owusu was even better, catching three passes and gaining 19 yards after two of those receptions.
Brett Swain was the receiver of the game. He got himself open at the goal line when he caught the TD pass from Alex Smith, and he made the key block on Colin Kaepernick’s 78-yard touchdown run.
First-round pick A.J. Jenkins made two difficult catches, including a diving catch at the sideline for a 15-yard gain. He also dropped two easy ones.
Tight ends: C. Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker played a few snaps but were not targeted for any passes. Konrad Reuland caught two passes for 17 yards. Demarcus Dobbs did not catch any passes, but he dominated on defense.