Here are my preseason Week 2 grades for the 49ers’ defense.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+. The starters didn’t get much pressure on the quarterback, but they mostly shut down Arian Foster and the Texans’ great running game – Foster gained most of his yards in the second quarter against the Niners’ backups. Speaking of the backups, Ricky Jean Francois and Ian Williams played well, busting into the Texans’ backfield a few times. I think they’re locks to make the team.
INSIDE LINEBACKERS: B+. Patrick Willis got three solo tackles and he only played nine plays. NaVorro Bowman didn’t get any tackles, however, and Larry Grant missed one. Joe Holland sacked T.J. Yates once and broke up a pass on third and 4.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS: C+. Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks didn’t play, so Parys Haralson and Eric Bakhtiari started and did not get pressure on Matt Schaub, who leisurely went through his reads and connected for long completions. Bakhtiari played the entire game, and he dominated the Texans’ backups for stretches.
CORNERBACKS: B-. Chris Culliver gave up a 22-yard completion to Keshawn Martin on the first series of the game, but that was Culliver’s only bad play. Matt Schaub did not test Carlos Rogers or Tarell Brown, but he did go after Tramaine Brock over and over again, beating him three times in one drive, including once for a touchdown to Lestar Jean on third and 7 from the Niners’ 9-yard-line.
SAFETIES: B. Donte Whitner made a nice tackle on third and 8 to prevent a first down. Michael Thomas struggled in coverage, giving up a touchdown and a first down conversion on third and 7. To his credit, he also sacked T.J. Yates on a blitz later in the game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D+. David Akers made all three of his field goal attempts, including a 55-yarder. That was the only bright spot from this unit. LaMichael James caught one punt and ran backwards before gaining two yards, and then later he dropped a punt which bounced out of bounds. Not so good. The worst moment came when the coverage team allowed Trinden Holliday to return a punt 87 yards for a touchdown. Corey Nelms and Joe Holland let Holliday run right by him when he caught the ball, and no one had a good angle to tackle Holliday after that.