Too early to worry, but 49ers show they have issues to solve

Here is my Friday column about what we learned in the 49ers’ first preseason game.

It’s almost impossible to evaluate the 49ers’ starters after their first preseason game.

We don’t know how much the 49ers game planned for the Broncos – probably not very much. And the starters played just one series. Frank Gore and Justin Smith did not play at all.

That should change next week. Gore should get at least four carries and a couple of passes thrown his direction just to get his feet wet. The starters should play the whole first quarter. And in the third exhibition game, the starters should play the entire first half and the coaches definitely will introduce scouting reports and full game plans.

Until then, the backups deserve most of the scrutiny.

But before I get to the backups, I have one observation about the starters: They still have serious work to do with their passing game.

The 49ers’ offense is dominant when it stays “ahead of the chains” and defenses cannot predict whether Colin Kaepernick is going to pass the ball, hand it off or run it himself. I’m talking first-and-10, second-and-6, third-and-2.

When the 49ers fall behind the chains (second-and-10, third-and-6, third-and-10) due to a bad play or a penalty, the 49ers’ offense becomes subpar for at least two reasons:

1. The 49ers do not have a legitimate split end. A.J. Jenkins was supposed to be that player – the 49ers drafted him in the first round last year – but he’s mostly passive on the field. Against the Broncos Thursday night, he fumbled the one pass he caught. It was embarrassing. Unless he turns it around fast – and let’s face it, he probably won’t – the 49ers will have to use a combination of Kyle Williams (sixth-round pick in 2010) and Marlon Moore (undrafted free agent in 2010) at split end. Between the two of them, they have 47 career catches.

2. The 49ers’offensive line struggles in pass protection. They’re big guys built to run block. Once running isn’t an option, like on third-and-10, the 49ers’ big blockers are vulnerable, especially right tackle Anthony Davis. He gave up a team-high 45 QB pressures last season (9 sacks, 5 hits and 31 hurries). Considering how infrequently the 49ers found themselves in pure passing downs last season, that’s a high number. Against the Broncos Thursday night, Davis could not handle Von Miller. On second-and-10, Davis committed a false start penalty because it seemed he was worried Miller would beat him around the outside, so Davis jumped back a second too soon. Two plays later on third-and-19, Miller spun around Davis to the inside and forced Kaepernick to roll out of the pocket and throw a pass 7 yards short of the first-down marker.

These passing-game problems probably will persist for the 49ers this season. They must work around them.

Now, on to the backups.

1. Backup offensive line. It was tough to evaluate the backup quarterbacks, receivers and running backs because the backup offensive line was horrendous against the Broncos, especially the backup tackles, Kenny Wiggins and Patrick Omameh. They could not run block or pass protect.

Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien had to run for their lives, and McCoy sustained a neck stinger. If either Joe Staley or Anthony Davis gets hurt this year, the 49ers don’t have a backup tackle to replace him. Jim Harbaugh would have to move the right guard, Alex Boone, to tackle. So, Boone, Davis and Staley are three of the most important 49ers this season.

2. Backup quarterbacks. Even though they were running for their lives, it was clear that McCoy and Tolzien are significant downgrades from Alex Smith. Smith is more talented than those two – bigger, stronger arm, plus he has much more experience. The 49ers’ most talented backup quarterback is rookie B.J. Daniels. He didn’t play a single snap at quarterback against the Broncos. If Kaepernick misses any time this season, the 49ers are in trouble.

3. Backup pass rushers. The 49ers had none they trusted last season, so Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks had to play practically every defensive snap. This season, it seems the 49ers will have three good backup pass rushers – Parys Haralson, Corey Lemonier and Dan Skuta. All three got pressure Thursday night – Skuta had two sacks, Haralson one and Lemonier almost had one – he chased Brock Osweiler from the pocket all the way to the sideline before Osweiler threw the ball away.

BONUS: Special teams. The 49ers had one of the best special teams units in the NFL in 2011. Blake Costanzo tackled everybody, and David Akers couldn’t miss field goals. In 2012, the 49ers special teams were middle-of-the-road. Costanzo signed with the Bears after the 49ers showed they had no interest in keeping him, and Akers missed 14 field goals. This season without Michael Crabtree, the 49ers will need their former dominant special teams to be dominant once again. Against the Broncos, two players made big tackles to pin Denver near their end zone – Kassim Osgood and Ricardo Lockette. Those two could make the final roster just to play special teams. Overall, the 49ers’ kick coverage should improve this season.

Place-kicking is another story. The 49ers signed a new kicker this offseason, 38-year old Phil Dawson. He made two out of three field goals last night, but hooked one wide of the goal posts – an Akers Special.

Should 49er Faithful start to worry about Dawson? Should they start to worry about the 49ers’ passing game?

No. The 49ers have played only one game. You can start to worry in a couple of weeks.

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.

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  1. Two questions for you grant 1. What team in the nfl doesn’t struggle on 3rd and long, all teams want to be ahead of the chains. 2. What tackle doesn’t struggle with Von Miller? Its the first gm!

    1. Level very good question! every team in the NFL or even high school would prefer to no be in a third and long situation! so some of Grants assessment really applies to all the NFL teams! now my main concerns with this team:

      1. 2nd string QB! i did not like how both back up QBs played at all!
      2. 2nd string OL, Tackles! they were getting pushed all over the place!
      3. AJ, I know this is getting old but i am sorry to say that there was something wrong with the AJ picture during the first preseason game! he needs to go see a shrink and really show up to play football and not worry about making mistakes!
      4. Vance M just look too inconsistent and needs to catch several of the passes that he dropped! he should be falling sleep next to a jug ball machine every day! If he can improve his catching just like VD then he can become a major threat in this offense!
      5. Safety! we are going to miss DG this year!
      6. Inside LB position must be better! i wished we could bring back Grant!

      Go Niners

      1. Hey Chi! Good to see another windy city fan. IDK…I think that a little be too much is being made of the Jenkins situation. Alex was given several years to develop and other players also took some time to reach their potential. He can’t throw the ball to himself and even though he fumbled the one catch he did make, he showed an ability to make a play. I have a wait and see perspective on this as and I am rooting for the guy to elevate his production as he is a 49ers and deserves support.

        Tolzien on the other hand has been given all the support that one should expect and some. He was out played last year by JJ, yet made the team. He knows this offense better than anyone and it is shameful that he has yet to put a TD on the board since he has been wit the team. It is almost like he is jinxed or something and if he can just get that monkey off of his back, he maybe alright. Right now, his lack of production is alarming. Something tell me though that BJ maybe special enough to not become too concerned.

        I agree with you with your assessment of Vance M. He simply needs to concentrate on catching the ball. Actually, I would like to see what the other rookie brings as his skill set may offer more flexibility.

        Good to have options.

      2. My name is Chicago49er! And I like to end every single sentence with an exclamation point! It’s almost like I’m yelling! For some reason I am incapable of utilizing the period key!

        Go Niners!

      3. 1. it was pretty hard to evaluate the backup quarterbacks when they had constant pressure.

        2. its irrelevant what the 2nd string offensive tackles looked like because neither of them will make the team. Snyder is the swing tackle and Boone is the backup after him, so i don’t even see Grants point there.

        3. AJ looks weak just like last year, needed to put on a solid 10 lbs in the last year and hasn’t, it shows constantly

        4. totally agree, but they knew that coming out of the draft that he had suspect hands. he’s replacing Delanie who had the worst drop % by far in the league last year so we are used to it.

        5. what are you basing this on? i thought Eric Reid played very well

        6. again what do you want here? Wilhoit played fantastic, and Moody is a rookie special teams ace.

      4. 1. I agree with the 2nd String QB situation. I too wondered why JJ didn’t make the cut last year. Trust in Harbaulke, but scratch your head when Tolzein looks a lot like Tim Ratay. Ratay looked the part and knew the offense, but wasn’t productive and ultimately made mistakes at the wrong time regularly. I see Tolzein in the same mold. I used to be high on him given his reputation out of college, but he’s simply not gotten it done.

        2. Definitely work to do w/BU OL.

        3. AJ is worse than just the fumble and lack of confidence although that’s probably the biggest factor. The HOT pass Colt tried to get to him when there was a blitz on could have been catchable, but he looked around after it hit the ground clueless it might have been coming his way. HE was the HOT route, he was running a drag and didn’t notice the blitz, nor did he look towards the QB. Had he paid any attention at all, he had a chance at that ball.

        4. Vance is a physical specimen who’s worth grooming. Gotta work on the hands, but what you get when he catches it…it’s probably worth it.

        5. We may miss DG, but you work with who’s here and while Reid looks a little inexperienced right now, he looks better than DG did in his first couple years. The ceiling is high.

        6. Wilhoite looked good, but I agree. What’s the problem w/bringin Grant back? We won’t have him for 4 games because of suspension, but after that…should be good, right?

      5. ttime1, I agree with your point about AJ needs more time to develop and it would be great if he becomes a great football player. Trust me i would be so happy if he proves me wrong the next few games or even during the season. My concern is his energy level and it appears that he is not on the same page with the QBS. I might be completely wrong but it appeared the QBs did not look to go his way either.

        I believe Vance M has the skill set to become a great player for us however just like VD he really needs to work on his hands to improve his catching ability.

      6. EB Niner, i was impressed with the Rookie # 35, but my point is he is still a rookie and its going to take some time for him to really learn the game and mesh with this defense. You are correct DG was not great right out of school and he had to work on getting better but the window of opportunity is short and we need to win now. So i hope our defense can show up this year and we can go all the way. GO NINERS

      7. 1. Agree, back-up QBs did not look good. Some of that was bad, second-string line play, but nothing the back-up QBs did should inspire confidence. Kaep getting hurt during the regular season would be a bad thing, but 49ers could probably still compete with their running game and stellar defense. Kaep getting hurt during the playoffs though would mean complete doom though.

        2. Grant is right that our tackles need to stay healthy, because the back-up options are pretty threadbare.

        3. I think AJJ still deserves a chance to show what he’s got, especially with the first string QB. Cannot fumble like he did though. Harbaugh will bench him for life if he fails to secure the ball again.

        4. Vance McDonald is a rookie, dude. Of course he has to improve, but everyone knows that already, including him. Even as a rookie, he’s probably near as good as the guy who replaced, and certainly his cap number is much more friendly. If he works hard, he will be a SOLID contributor to this offense for years to come.

        5. I doubt if we’re gonna miss Goldson that much this year. He was not a very good safety, IMO. Reid is young and will make rookie mistakes, but he’s obviously very athletic and has some great natural abilities. Our bigger liability at safety will be stone-footed Whitner. Watching him getting abused during the Super Bowl was tough, because he’s a great guy in the locker room and has a ton of knowledge. But he’s just not capable of covering today’s receivers with any sort of consistency. Too slow!

        ILB is solid. Wilhoite will be the #3. I think he’s probably as good as Grant or near-enough. Certainly, he’s a much friendlier cap number, which helps the team as a whole.

    2. This. Agree completely. Grant, grant, grant, you are like the bad guy in the movie Diehard. Annoyingly wrong. Well, “Ho ho ho, now we have a Keapernick!” for 3rd and long.”

  2. Every team has issues. It’s the ones that have a stud franchise gunslinger that usually make it to the Super Bowl. As long as you have one of those, you have the ability to overcome. Hakuna matata Mr. Cohn…

  3. “If either Joe Staley or Anthony Davis gets hurt this year, the 49ers don’t have a backup tackle to replace him. Jim Harbaugh would have to move the right guard, Alex Boone, to tackle.”

    And Adam Snyder would go in at RG. The position that he played in 2011 when the 49ers were 2 muffed punts away from the Super Bowl.

    After watching that game last night I don’t have any additional worries about the offensive line. Neither of the he guys that struggled the most, Omameh and Wiggins will be on the final 53 man roster.

  4. First of all, Snyder is a good guy but he cannot play for beans as he proved with us two years ago and Arizona in ’12. So forget that. Second, Grant is completely wrong about Tolzien. He is a much better QB than Smith and if he ever gets a chance to play with a good OL he will light it up.

    As far as the rest of this article, ho-hum. The backups are just that for a reason. They need some serious coaching up. A. Davis is one of the best right tackles in the league, period. Daniels will never be an NFL QB, too small and too light on his feet.

    As far as worrying, I have far more important things to do than worry about any sports team of millionaires. I am a die-hard fan of the Niners, have been since I moved to Cal in 1968.

    But I watch the game to enjoy the game, not to piss on anyone who doesn’t measure up to my so-called “standards” which are based more on opinion than actual knowledge. Life is better that way. Means people won’t think of me as a blowhard…

    1. Since tolzien is better than Alex smith let’s trade him for two second round picks…. you are just Alex smith hater with no ability to rationally without emotions involved. You aren’t a blowhard, you just blow…at evaluating QBs.

  5. Jr.

    “Too early to worry, but 49ers show they have issues to solve”

    Right….

    Because it was the 1st Pre-Season game possibly?

    In other news the sky is still blue. Great observation there Jr.

  6. Great read Grant. I do think that Marlon Moore has what it takes to be our split end for the season. The question is who will work in the slot.
    Your statement about the Niners struggling when falling behind the chains is concerning. A good number of people blamed Alex Smith for that problem when he was here but it is obvious that Greg Roman is the one at fault. I hope that he can fix that problem before the season begins.
    It is good to know that we have two quality STs players and some solidity behind OLBs Smith and Brooks.

    1. The whole league struggles when it falls behind the chains (obviously some more than others). The 49ers defense is centered on this principle. Stop the run and force 2nd, 3rd and longs. This isn’t a new concept. As for faulting Roman, sure I guess so, but you would have to fault every other OC out there too. The good OCs limit the amount of times a team faces third a long each game.

    2. Keep in mind Marlon Moore was unable to work his way into a starting role last season on a team that had one of the worst WR groups in the NFL. There is a reason they let him go. I know Moore has been receiving some praise in TC, primarily for making tough catches, but if he is the starting split end I’m worried.

      1. Exactly. I have very little faith that a player who was unable to garner much meaningful playing time on one of the worst WR groups last year will evolve into a solid starting split end this year.

      2. Zeigler did it against the 3rd and 4th team guys in the second half of games. Moore did it against starters last night, and in practice.

      3. He did it once yesterday on a play that was breaking down and Kaep had held onto the ball for some time. In practice I have heard he has made some tough catches, but I haven’t heard about him making lots of catches. Tough dude – yes. Good at getting open – jury is still out.

      4. Scooter,

        I’m not arguing how good Moore is, only that his comparison to Zeigler is a bit off based on the level of competition.

        The starting SE will come down to Moore and Williams, and I think when the dust settles for opening day it will be Williams.

      5. I agree with that Jack. Williams and Moore are the most likely candidates for the split end role until Manningham is back, unless Patton’s finger heals and he starts showing something.

        I think if Williams had played yesterday he would have been the starting split end, and I agree he’ll probably win that role by opening day.

      6. Sometimes diamonds are formed. Carlos Rogers was a sort of bumb till he produced his first year. It happens every year that someone comes out of no where. Hopefully can do it this year.

      7. Really? The arguments for Moore are that:

        - Rogers was also a nobody before coming to the 49ers: He was a 1st round pick and considered a decent starting CB before coming to the 49ers – the main criticism of his game was and still is that while he is decent in coverage he doesn’t make enough plays on the ball.
        - Miami let Welker go as well: Welker, unlike Moore, is an example of an undrafted FA that forced his way into significant playing time for the Dolphins. As a RFA the Dolphins wanted to keep him and he was offered a 2nd round tender. NE were going to sign him to an offer sheet with a “poison pill”, so Miami decided to trade him to the Patriots instead, getting a 2nd and 7th rounder.

        Sorry, not seeing how either story is similar. Moore is a guy that has never forced his way into significant playing time, despite playing on a team with poor WRs, and the Dolphins were happy to simply let him walk.

  7. I believe the offense will be as good if not better than it was in the playoffs last yr. In the G.B.,Atl and Balt games the O was certainly good enough to win and we did’nt have a split end with breakaway speed last yr either.

  8. 1) Split end is absolutely a problem this year and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better any time soon. I, for one, would love to be surprised and proven wrong in this regard.

    2) It was Von Miller, Grant. Admittedly, there was no excuse for AD’s brain fart/false start, but cut the guy some slack when he’s playing one of the premier pass rushers in the league w/o chip help from a back or TE. I don’t think anyone’s been confused about what AD is good at (road grading) since he came to the team but even you can see his pass pro has improved, right?

    1a) OMG, cut those back-up tackles (Wiggins, Omameh) immediately! Go directly to the unemployment line – do not pass Go! Wow, were they awful! How about that kid we just drafted… Bykowski?

    2a) Back-up QB’s…. meh. Obviously Tolzien knows the offense – you can tell by his decisiveness as he decides where to go with the ball – but I’m definitely scared shirtless of CK going down for any length of time.

    3) It was great(!) to see Parys back in action, even if it was against the 2′s. He looks ready to play and our LB’s are better with him backing them up, no question. Lemonier was showing flashes against the 2′s and 3′s. Looking forward to what he can do against 1′s. I think he’s got a bright future with our team.

    Bonus) I don’t know about our special teams. I mean, we went out and got all these guys who’ve proven to be ST producers in the past but I was NOT impressed with our coverage units last night. Lanes open all over the place and returners getting tackled by our back-up kick-off camp leg. Ugly, ugly, ugly. However, Cox was looking like he’s not ready to be cut just yet. I liked his efforts both on ST and D last night.

  9. Grant, I think some of your observations are a over-reactions, based on ONE pre-season game. Of course we weren’t perfect and have some kinks to work out, but who doesn’t? That’s what the preseason and training camp is for!

    You say that the starters need “serious” work on our passing game – but we went 4-4 and were pretty effective in that area. I also think it’s ridiculous to say that our offense needs serious work with “falling behind the chains”, based on ONE possession on the FIRST preseason game. I think we had a lot more trouble in that area with SMITH as the QB, but CK showed the ability to convert 3rd and long plays quite a bit last season. And I wouldn’t jump to conclusions so fast, especially when our offense is super vanilla at this point. Obviously this is something that we need to be better at, as well as the rest of the league – but we won’t know how well or bad we’re doing until the REAL season starts, when we actually game plan and show our REAL offense.

    1. Yep, Harbaugh ain’t showin sh!t in the preseason. Whatever he does show, you can bet there is a methodology behind it.

    2. stop with the kaerperscuses timmmy
      and dont stop beleiving in your boy nate davis–he still has the it factor people other than you just dont know it

  10. Im hoping Lemonier replaces Brooks on passing downs. He can be that stud outside pass rusher we need opposite Aldon. Ian Williams Justin Smith Corey Lemonier Aldon Smith can be a beast pass rushing front 4 for us. Also I know AJ Jenkins is getting crushed for that fumble. I just want to see him with Kap and the 1st stringer offense. Its hard to impress when Tolzien or Mccoy is throwing to you. He looked open on alot of plays but we didnt have a real qb back there.

  11. My observation regarding the starting split end is that Mario Manningham’s knee and Quinton Patton’s finger had best get healthy sooner rather than later.

    Austin Collie should be the slot WR.

    1. I doubt we see either one of those guys any time soon. They’ll need to work there way back into the lineup. Patton I assume fractured his finger which is a 4-6 week recovery time I believe.

      1. Me too razor… hopefully Kyle Williams can hold the fort in the meantime.

        As for Jenkins, well, he still doesn’t look ready to be in the mix for the starting role. He’s being given every opportunity, and is now literally fumbling those opportunities away (on the rare occasions he gets open enough to receive the ball).

      2. Right now I’m focused on how he responds in the next game. Like I said before, I think I would force feed him the ball. Start him off next game with that fly sweep. Follow it up with a bubble screen. Etc. I think it’s time to find out what this kid is made of inside….

      3. Razor
        Interesting that you mentioned the fly sweep. On our second drive (from our own 2) the first play AJJ ran a fly sweep action but LMJ got the inside handoff for a minimal gain. Had AJ gotten the ball coming around he would have had an easy first down and then some as that whole side seemed to collapse on the middle. Granted it was in our own endzone and it was somewhat remeniscent of the StL option pitch but i was surprised that they didnt go back to that play (actually giving it to aj this time) for the rest of the game. AJJ is fast and shifty, if a part of the problem mental or otherwise is geting him the ball. Why not start of with an easy ” screen” or a simple hand off to him to get his confidence up and to get him in space on the move?

      4. BOS9er is on to something. It’s just like when you fed the baby veggies. Pinch their nose, they open their mouth and in go the peas. Over the course of the next three games, I’d like to see the 49ers force feed Jenkins until the turtle comes out of his shell…..

  12. One pre-season game in … and I’ve got a mancrush on Vance McDonald … that dude looked like Thor out there. McDonald will move the chains all season…sorry Celek, no-play-for-you.

    1. Sherman is matched up on VMac in the red zone. He shouts across “Thou didst not reckon with the might of Thor, knave!”

    2. Vance really did look good out there.

      I was also really, really happy to see Boldin continuing to be completely solid as a receiver.

      Opposite Boldin though… ouch. The #2 receiver spot is hurting.

    3. Il second the VMac love but was not too happy that he gator armed that second pass. On the replay you saw him slow down a bit and not reach out in front of him as if he felt the guy coming up to stick him. aside from that one minor blip he had a great start. Id love to see him in the red zone vs a LB or a safety where he can just get big and box out for position on a ball thrown high

  13. After last night’s game, who do people think the 49ers will keep at WR now?

    I’m going with Boldin, Williams, Collie, Patton and Moore (primarily playing ST). Osgood or Lockette could also be kept for their ST contributions if they go with 6. Manningham I’m assuming will be out for the start of the season, but when he’s ready again he’ll be back. I don’t see room for Jenkins any more.

    1. I don’t see how they keep AJ Jenkins. He is their worst WR, and has been so for the past year. Harbaugh sees him day in and day out in practice, he knows Jenkins is awful.

      I see the Niners picking a WR from the waiver wire after the final cuts. So I imagine the WR roster will be: Boldin, Williams, Collie, Patton, Lockette, and X receiver picked up from the waiver wire. Manningham to be added later…depending on Patton’s progress and contributions.

      1. * I nearly forgot about Marlon Moore. Moore makes the team.

        Lockette is on the ST bubble. He is competing against Osgood for a spot as a ST player and fringe WR.

    2. I’m not sold the 49ers are going to release Jenkins and eat 4 million. Before doing that, I would think they would have him inactive as part of the 53 man roster.

      1. Again, my caponomics isn’t the strongest, but as it is now post-June 1, wouldn’t the dead money be spread over this and next year’s cap? Proration wouldn’t accelerate to this years cap, but next years?

        Keep in mind they need to pay that money next year anyway, whether they release him or keep on the roster. If he isn’t as good as other guys on the roster is it really worth keeping him?

      2. The cap issue is what has been bothering me too. However, almost anyone who replaces him would be relatively cheap. So the cap hit might not concern the team very much. If that’s correct, the issue for them would likely be does he have the mindset or not. I was a big fan of his a year ago, but now I put together his refusing Jerry Rice’s training offer, his dropsies, and his recent comments, and I doubt he has it above the neck. Hope I’m wrong.

    3. Looks like Trent Baalke is in need of some industrial strength egg remover for his face for wasting a #1 on AJ. That being said I’m not worried about the #2WR position.

      We run the ball very well with an outstanding O line, FB and TEs to block for Gore & Co. We have 2 TE’s that can catch with the addition of McDonald (fired up about him). We have RB’s that can catch out of the backfield and have breakaway playmaking ability. We have Boldin who is a stud so all that is missing on the O is for one guy to step up.

      We know Williams and Manningham can fill the void when healthy at some point soon and Collie I believe can be productive once he gets up to speed. Oh, and we have that #7 guy that keeps D coordinators sweating bullets. The #1′s looked good on both sides of the ball..nothing to worry about.

      1. Nobody gets it right every single time. Not Bill Walsh, not Belichick, not Parcells, nobody. So far I think Balke’s draft record is right up there with all the great GMs even if Jenkins turns out to be a swing and a miss.

  14. Watching the last bit of the game now on NFL it is obvious on that 4th down go-for-it pass from Tolzien to Collie at 2:30 that both of them are solid and talented. And so is the coach who said o for it. If collie doesn’t get his noggin bonked, he will be a major player for the Niners…

    1. I know Tolzien has gotten a bit of flak for his performance last night, but I don’t think it was as bad as has been made out. Hard to look good when the OL is giving up constant pressure. The competition between he and McCoy may be closer than I originally thought.

      Collie is the 49ers 2nd best WR if his knee holds up.

      1. Mey…Tolzien is not a play maker. He has not produced a TD in three years and has several turnovers against back-ups. The OL may breakdown on any given play and your QB has to be able to adjust. This is not to say that he is a bust, he just hasn’t produced at all given the vast amount of opportunities to do so.

        Collie is probably the 3rd or 4th best receiver on the team based on his previous production. He has also been in the league longer than some of the other guys and have been given the opportunities to produce by catching passes from a future HOF QB. I think that some of you are kicking Jenkins under the bus way too early; given the number of actual opportunities he has actually had to produce.

  15. The problem here is that, before the article even starts, you tell us that it’s “too early to worry,” thus effectively telling us that there’s no reason to read your article.

  16. LOL. Did Cohn seriously write the 49ers have problems defending the pass rush because Davis had problems with Von Miller?

    I guess 90% of the teams in the league also have pass protection problems too.

    1. The 49ers give up a lot of sacks. I think most knowledgeable fans realize pass protection is a concern for the team.

  17. Not much to see in PS #1 but I did watch the 1st Q of the Seahawks game. They pretty much ran with the 1′s for the entire 1st Q and were getting beat in the trenches on both sides of the ball. RW was scrambling constantly, his receivers either weren’t open or he didn’t see them and when he did his passes were off target. Rivers looked good and the Chargers were moving the ball on the ground and in the air with their 1st team. I wasn’t impressed with Seattle ( especially their front 7 and O line) but when the scrubs took over they were able to score and win which is why the pre season really doesn’t mean much.

  18. Both backups are worse than ASmith? Really? The guy’s an above average starter in the NFL. Our #2 was traded for better draft position, ASmith was worth 2 high draft choices

  19. Grant, much of your analysis is what I was trying to spit out last night but apparently tripped over my own tongue. You put it much better.

    I am the “dude” who said that they were not super bowl bound (with a misspelling) and also said “based on this preseason game”. That latter was the important part and was apparently missed by some reactionaries.

    My stated take away from that game was that they are just a couple of injuries away from not being SB bound. How about one offensive tackle injury away from Seattle shutting the door on us?

    When I said I missed Alex (Smith) that was following my stated concern for how poorly the two QB back up prospects performed last night. So let me be a bit more blunt. Based on how McC and Tolz look right now (and frankly have looked in their respective NFL pasts), if the Kap goes down, so goes a super bowl opportunity. So, yes, last night I found myself missing Alex. I miss the best back up a team could ever hope for (maybe excepting the paycheck).

    Now if I am not in deep enough, about this year’s lightening rod. Though he had an abysmal game last night I am not ready to give up on AJ Jenkins just yet. That is because I am still holding onto a preseason game from last year.
    I was at the Vikings preSea game last year and took the opportunity to just focus on the new intriguing prospect when ever he was on the field. I saw a guy who was constantly separating and getting open. I mean I left that game thinking this guy is the 49er future. I still see that graceful speed and those big open waiting hands like sugar plumb visions in my head.
    So now I am asking you all —- This guy seems to have the phys tools so what is going on in his head? Work ethic, smarts, cobwebs? I am wondering if he just needs a giant confidence booster shot to get his head straight.

    The dude

  20. I don’t think that our #2 WR was on the field last night.
    I was holding out hope that AJ would rise to the occasion, but his lack of passion and urgency is starting to give me pause.

    Based on what Kyle Williams was able to do in his small playing stint with CK last season, I would have to lean with him emerging as the #2 WR.

    Harbaugh fired a loud salvo AJ’ way after the game by his comment that AJ could have been better. This coming from a head coach who makes it a standard practice to protect his players does not bode well for AJ.
    AJ’ lack of performance in TC and now in his preseason stint is beginning to sour my opinion of him and it seems to be having the same effect on Harbaugh.

    1. Good news for AJ is he gets 3 more weeks to show if he is really NFL capable. The bad news for AJ is his teammates and coaches are losing faith in him daily and now making public comments about his performance.

      1. Prime,
        The problem with AJ is that he seems to be on a free-fall and is possibly about two weeks behind already.

        AJ does not have the fire and the confidence that a WR has to have. You’re right about having three more weeks to get right, but at this rate he needs to start ‘wowing’ and playing jaw-dropping ball if he’s going make any kind of run.

      2. You are right, the body language says it all, he is not confident and he is not hungry. Now I don’t know him personally but it looks like this is not something he is fully committed to.
        A 1st round pick should be able to display some fire and prove all these critics wrong.
        I would play him in the first 3 quarters of the next 3 games. If he can’t show something then, bust out the bust label!

      3. On the other hand, the bad news for AJ is that the next three games are game preparations for 53 players and coaches, not exclusive to a single player. I doubt they will script an entire game around him. He’ll get practices and nothing more. After all, the next 2 games, starters play a bit longer. I don’t see AJ starting or playing against front line players–not unless you want more press articles noting his failures. We will see him in the 4th quarter against 2-3r stringers..and in the last pre-season game.

        Moreover, there are, what appears, hungrier and more skillfull receivers in this team: Moore, Jacobs and Lockette, also fighting for a job. So far, they are miles ahead of AJ..and I imagine their game will improve. They look full of confident and ready to contribute…

        AJ is a distraction for the fans. I don’t imagine it is any different for the team, coaches and team execs.

  21. Judging a team during the preseason is like writing the review of a singer after they’ve cleared their throat.

    1. Preseason is a great tool to use in terms of evaluating depth. It can show where you are strong and weak. Based on last night we lack depth on the oline greatly. Other areas look good to solid.
      After that the coaching is scaled back and it becomes a pick up game.

      1. The good news is that one of the key OL backups looked pretty decent. Kilgore started at centre and showed some promise.

        The real problems were the guys that aren’t going to make the 53-man roster anyway. Kilgore and Snyder will be 6th and 7th lineman suited up on game day. Snyder may not be that good but he’s a serviceable backup. Looney will be the 8th OL on the roster. The other guys are pretty much fighting it out for the PS.

      2. Kilgore might start at centre over Goodwin. Although hurt and as we have seen, can’t practice or play, you might lose your job.

  22. I’m interested in whether the 49ers are hiding Daniels to stash him on the practice squad or Tolzein has beaten out McCoy and they want to get him as many reps as possible.

    1. That makes sense. They could be hiding Daniels because he will be used in special packages pegged for the regular season.

    2. I heard Raider a coach was at the 49er game scouting players. I’m guessing 5-10 players cut by the 49ers will wind up on a roster somewhere else. My “hope to be stashed on the PS” list is includes Okoye and Daniels. Not sure if Lockette is still eligible.

  23. I see yesterdays “game” as a player evaluation scrimmage. It went better then I expected actually.

    I have the same concerns re WR depth as I did before the “game.” Williams/Manningham can be productive, but can they stay healthy? I’m not even worried about the O-line depth. The 2nd string O-line was awful, but that’s expected.

    The 49ers use a small number of backups because they like multiple position guys (saves roster space). To rest the starters, they had to put in guys we never heard of as early as the 2nd series.

    Offensive line snap breakdown by percentage
    Looney 77%
    Omameh 77%
    Kilgore 56%
    Netter 44%
    Tribue 44%
    Bykowski 41%
    Wiggins 38%
    Snyder, Staley, Davis, Iupati Boone 23%
    Goodwin 0%

    It only takes one or two bad players to make everyone look awful. Of course things fell apart. They will continue to fall apart until the regular season. Fine.

    With Crabtree gone it will be hard to overcome 3rd and long. The 2011 team was skilled at avoiding negative yardage plays. Those are drive killers. Gore and Hunter are better at avoiding them compared LMJ. A. Davis gave had an offside, but that was against V. Miller. All reports indicate he has improved. AD will dominant this year.

    I feel very good about the “game.”

    1. B2W,
      I don’t believe that covering 3rd downs will be an issue this season even without Crabtree.

      Boldin will be huge for us on 3rd downs, and Roman will insert more plays for VD as well.
      I also like what I see in our rookie VMac.
      And there’s always the prospect of CK running on 3rd down.

      MC became CK’ go-to WR last season. This season I really believe that CK will actually become a better QB (forced to spread the ball around) by not having to rely on MC.

      Our defense and special teams did not play at optimum level especially down the stretch and playoffs.
      Our defense and ST’ play will be better than last year.

      If we can escape any key injuries, we are SB bound again.

      1. Hope you are right about Boldin converting those 3rd downs. McDonald looks like a chain moving machine. Read somewhere about 2/3rds of Williams catches went for first downs too.

        I agree. This team looks like the 2011 defense (with a deeper front 7), a more dynamic offense and a comparable special teams. I’m thinking 10-11 wins because of the tough division capped with a SB victory.

  24. Alex Smith was 7 for 8, 78 yards and a TD. Without Crabtree, is it possible that Alex has better numbers than Kapernick this year?
    He has a younger RB, a better #1 receiver, and probably a more WC style offense that’s suited for his dinking and dunking, and a better OC in Andy Reid.
    I would also say that if the situation were reversed, if CK was on the Chiefs, CK would have better stats than Alex.
    The Niners D is going to be even better then last year. They’re stacked.
    The Offense? Hmmm. Not so much.

    1. The KC papers say Alex threw lots to Jamaal Charles and TEs. A methodical drive. The single incompletion was a “throwaway when nobody was open.”

      KC goes 7-9 the 49ers get a mid 3rd rounder. 8-8 it’s a mid second. Go Alex!

      1. From what I have understood from the sports articles here in Kansas, the TEs are the best options in the passing game behind Dwayne Bowe and Jamaal Charles. Baldwin is looking like what Jenkins is aiming for. A BUST.

    2. Andy Reid is back to his roots – lots of screens. It looks like he’s doing a great job of using Alex’s strengths; presnap recognition and being careful with the ball.

      This is great for us because that means it’s more likely the 49ers will get an additional 2nd round pick next year!

    3. How short your memory is. Don’t you remember Alex taking the 1-5 yard pass all of the time? His numbers were inflated by that, his yards per completion were among the lowest.

      1. Alex will probably have his best stats with Andy Reid. He lucked into the best situation for him. He goes from the toughest division in the league, the NFC West, to one that is the most average. SD, DEN, OAK?? At worse he splits with DEN. He has a great home crowd.
        I think they make it to 9-7. This is more about scheme and offensive x and o’s. Harbaugh is a better overall coach, he got the most out of his players. but in a chess match, I would take Andy Reid.

    1. Who cares about the secondaries, we are a run 1st team. So unless we are playing teams withour linebacker core im not worried. All these brash statements are all for not… Unless we have a season ending injury to kap or our 3 starting linebackers im not concerned at all. We weren’t built for a high passing team so im not worried abut the wr, we weren’t built to stop the long pass, we were built to mske other teams 1 deminsonal, with our run stoppage so powerful, im not worried about the db. If you guys look up when coach 1 st got here you were all bitching aout the same crap. As far as i see, we are way better thaan 2years ago. So why bitch. We didnt draft a corner, so what, we have plenty of corners, alot of them better than this years crop. So why waste a pick on a corner if your current corners are better. We believe in the pass rush, sans our commitment to drafting pass rushers. So go back check the bitch session you guys had about all the players leaving san fran and the players not coming back to san fran. Then check our 13-3 record. Hell we only had crabs then, we won, we only had crabs last year,we won, we only have boldin this year, we will win. Period. # LETS GET IT

      1. Careful Steel, some fans here might frown at the idea that we are indeed a run first team. For them it’s about fantasy and entertainment.
        I look at the record and say good enough!

    2. Nice read MidWestNiner,
      I had the Mathieu going to the 49ers at about the 3rd or 4th in my mock draft.
      The kid can play ball, and even at his somewhat small stature plays like a linebacker.

      Playing football has never been an issue with Mathieu. Making the right choices and learning to walk away from potential trouble has.

      At the end of the day, the 49ers may have determined that Mathieu’ penchant for making poor decisions was to much of a risk.

      Playing along side his former college teammate (Patrick Peterson) might turn out to be the best thing for Mathieu’ career, or…
      I’ll just leave it at that for now.

    3. Who cares about the secondaries, we are a run 1st team.

      We are Steel but if the passing game is taken away from us then we will become too one-dimensional on offense and one-dimensional offenses are not capable of winning Super Bowls.

      What I said to Steel also applies to your post Prime.

  25. It seems to me that the Niners moved the ball well when the first unit was in there and with the Broncos keeping their starter in much longer than the niners (many Niners didn’t even play one snap),that the Niners didn’t give up anything to the bronco’s starting offense while moving the ball well on their defense.
    In other words the Niners pretty much dominated a boring PS game except for one fumble that led to the only TD of the game.But the defense didn’t give up much of anything to Peyton Manning or any of the players that came after him.
    As we all know the score doesn’t matter in preseason to good teams,but after evaluating the play of their players I am pretty sure JH and Baalke are smiling right now about the future !
    If I were a team in the NFC West I would be worried about this Niner team !

  26. My concern isn’t whether they will move the ball. It’s injuries. Out two most talented areas of the team (lb’s and O-line) have the most shallow relief on the team. If the 9ers have any shot at making it back to the Super Bowl they will have to be healthy throughout the year in these spots.

    I am also wondering if Harbaugh will let off the gas later in the season in practice. I read a story where brother John was basically told by his veterans last season to ease up on the full pad full speed practices late last season, and it was the driving point of their success late in the season.
    If I remember correctly after the 88 season the dominating 49ers got *itch slapped by an underdog Minnesota team in rd 1. Walsh changed his practice ways because his team was exhausted. The 49ers have played a ton of games over the last two seasons. JH is going to have to do what his brother did. To keep them fresh throughout the playoffs.

    Grant… Any way you can ask Harbaugh about this. Maybe later in the season so he doesn’t give a “that’s later down the road” answer?

    1. Because of cap constraints all teams have to fill their squads with some scrubs. Some of those guys the Niners eventually cut will still make it on other teams so our overall depth is good. The situation is going to get worse when Kap, Aldon & Iupati get big contracts. The Niners are doing a good job of developing young talent like Ian Williams to upgrade from old vets with big contracts. No worries

  27. some excellent points Grant, but I would offer one palliative for worries (as we all tend to be): almost all of the 2nd teamers whose weak performance you note are very young, and some will get better over the course of camp or the season.

    we’re still short a frontline WR, and the hole is so gaping that I wonder if Baalke tries to pull off an end-of-camp trade. No idea what that looks like, but for a team expecting to fight for the SB, it’s a glaring need.

    1. also playing with the starters may elevate the game of some of these young pups…on the mccoy interception jenkins had the corner beat..kaepernick has a much better chance than mccoy of threading the needle and getting the ball in jenkins hands

      still wish niners had taken stephen hill rather than aj

  28. How nice would it be to have Alex Smith still here as the backup. So far the guy they used that pick on hasn’t even stepped on the field in practice.

    1. Hammer,
      I think that we’ve been down this path before, but why would Alex Smith want to play second fiddle for a coach who basically used him as a bridge for the sole purpose of giving CK more time to prepare for the starters role?

      In a perfect world Alex would make a nice backup to CK. The NFL is far from a perfect world (sport).
      And more importantly, Alex Smith is a starting NFL QB, not a backup.

      1. Right MidWest, and that 2nd round pick has yet to even practice. Meanwhile the team is stuck with McCoy and Tolzien as backups.

      2. Don ‘t forget the 8 million in cap space the trade created – basically Bouldin. Would it be better to have a top-flight backup qb with no one to for either qb to throw to?

      3. It’s not an either or. They could have kept Smith and still picked up Boldin. The team is still $7.4m under the cap. There are a number of different ways they could have made up the difference.

      4. Ok, so they let Bowman go. Or they aren’t able to keep Iupati or Aldon Smith. 8 million is too much to spend on a backup qb.

      5. Not really. You could have Kaepernick, Smith and Tolzien for roughly half of what Detroit is paying Stafford per year under his new deal.

    2. niners didnt want to be put in a potentially embarrassing position of smith outperforming kaepernick this preseason, so a trade was in their best interests

    3. Jack, are you saying Tank Carradine was a wasted pickbecause he isn’t on the field yet? Or just that having Alex as the backup QB is better value than a 2nd round pick that isn’t on the field yet?

      Either way, I think that is a little short sighted. Everyone knew Tank was coming off knee surgery and common belief is he would have been a 1st rounder if not for the knee. Trading the backup QB – who ideally would never play a meaningful snap all season – to get a 1st round talent (+ either a 3rd or 2nd next year) still seems a good move to me, even if the 1st round talent needs to sit a year to heal. Especially when it is on a team that doesn’t have a lot of holes – despite the gloom and doom, this is still a stacked roster in most positions.

      1. I know it’s short sighted Scooter. Was wondering how long it would take for someone to bring that up.

        Next weeks game is going to be fun for about a quarter. ; )

      2. Aha, I see! I also forgot to mention that the 2nd rounder they got for Smith they traded for the 40th pick (Carradine) + the 216th pick + another 3rd next year. The 216th pick was then used to trade up in the 3rd and take Lemonier.

        So Smith in total has netted them Carradine, KC’s 2nd or 3rd rounder next year based on performance, + Titans 3rd rounder next year, and allowed them to move up for Lemonier. Great value for a backup QB.

      3. I’d say its great value regardless Jack. No backup QB is worth keeping if he can net you that sort of haul, unless you think he has the potential to beat out your starter. That boat already sailed, which is why Alex was expendable in the first place. It is then up to the brains trust and the coaches to come up with another viable backup option at QB.

  29. It’s not just the quarterback and wide-receiver positions in question, depth on the entire offensive side of the ball is suspect. Any starter on offense goes down and there’s a huge drop-off. I understand it’s still preseason but things better change fast.

  30. My assertion: this 49er team is stacked. The major issue with this team last season was lack of pressure on opposing Q.B.’s. which in turn caused the secondary to struggle. What do the 9ers have now?? Corey Lemonier is really explosive off the edge and can turn the corner ( Ahmad Brooks struggles turning the corner to pressure Q.B.’s), Ian Williams has the power to push the pocket back and not just hold his ground the way Sopoago did.. Williams pushing the pocket back along with the Smith brothers is going to be trouble for opponents. Cam Johnson is a lot stronger, bigger and will be a force in relief of starters to continue pressuring offenses. We seem to focus on A.J. Jenkins a lot but the guy gets open, he has to get himself together and make plays. That said, the receiving core as a whole is better than its been in years. Boldin and Collie will prove to be absolute steals. With experienced playmakers in Manningham and Crabtree returning eventually, no other team can boast to have that kind of talent on the horizon come mid season. This team is all good

  31. Talk about lack of depth at QB sounds silly to me. In realityland, no QB can play well behind a crumbling oline. Perhaps we need better depth at tackle. If we do, they’ll find someone by the end of preseason.
    In realityland, here’s what they’ll put on the field:
    – An improved defense. Despite talk about a weak secondary, Reid looks like he’ll be fine, and I doubt the CB play will be worse than last year. Even if it is, with the transformation of Ian Williams, the addition of Dorsey, Tank, and Lemoniere, and the return of Haralson, the pass rush should be outstanding. Here’s what Buddy Ryan was quoted as saying about his vaunted “46″: “To stop a passing game, you can’t stop it unless you put pressure on it. Now some people are good enough to put it on with a three-man rush; well, we’re not. In fact, I don’t know whether we’re good enough to put it on with a four-man rush. If we have to send eight, we’ll send eight, but we’re not going to let you sit back there and pick us apart all day.” I realize the Niners use a different defense, but the point is the QB can’t make completions if he’s running for his life or on his back.
    – An improved offense, because they will field
    * A more experienced amazing QB
    * A more experienced oline (and it’s possible Kilgore will be an upgrade)
    * Gore, a returning Hunter, and a stronger James
    * WR: Boldin, Moore/Lockette, and Collie. I am guessing here.
    * TE: V. Davis, McDonald
    Harp all you want about Jenkins, who I agree is probably a bust. But if it takes a mistake like Jenkins to field a team like this, then bring on more AJs. TB is an amazing GM. Anyone who doubts that should ask themselves who they would want to replace him.

  32. Mr. 5.2 yards per carry is back. Kendall Hunter is off the PUP. Hunter helps keep the offense less predictable because he’s a run threat inside and outside the TEs.

    There has been little discussion of Hunter, Manningham and Williams this training camp, but those three staying injury free is key to a successful season.

    1. Hear, hear!
      Although I personally believe that LMJ will eventually settle into the #2 backup behind Gore, I love that KHunt is back in the mix.

      Can’t say that I was impressed with LMJ’ performance on Thursday. He did not appear to have the burst of speed that I saw last year. Only one preseason game in the books, but I hope that the extra weight LMJ put on hasn’t effected his speed.

      1. AES
        U wernt impressed with LMJ? I thought he broke a few tackles and did not go down on first contact (like he often did last year) on that 9 yrd run to the outside he looked like he had a nice burst. the announcers even said that VMiller was in good position but LMJ beat him to the edge and turned the corner. Id love to see a few screen passes come his way because once in space and on the move the man is dangerous

      2. Hunter is a much stronger runner between the tackles and better in pass pro. Hunter IS the #2 back, LMJ is better as a COP back. By limiting his carries, he can explode through a tired defense. Overusing him will wear him down.

  33. Waaaayyyy off topic here but whats up with those hideous two toned JAX helmets. This is the nfl is it not? its bad enough that the sehags look like the saskatchewan roughriders in their away unis now we have the terrible college trend of colorful helmets (ORE TCU MD)seeping in. It looks like a bad acid trip. Haven’t they ever heard the GOAT “you look good you feel good, you feel good you play good”

  34. is there any word on Manningham didn’t he get injured the same game Hunter did I know people heal in different ways but is he close?

    1. Hunter got hurt in game 10, Manningham game 16. He’s been working out with the trainers on a side field so he’s making progress.

  35. Practice starts at Candlestick in three minutes. I’ll post a full report on Kendall Hunter and the rest of the 49ers around 5:00.

  36. Grant

    Nice piece. Good tone, informative, on point.

    On the backup QBs, I concur that Tolzien is very poor, but I question whether you had ample opportunity to assess McCoy, and further, whether your assessment is valid. I think McCoy has more to offer than Tolzien, and I think I’d take him over Alex Smith, frankly. Or at least I would have before his concussion (courtesy of James Harrison). I’m not so sure anymore whether Colt has “it” in him like he used to, but at one time he had a winning swagger reminiscent of some of the greats.

    1. Tarzan says ” I think I’d take him over Alex Smith, frankly”

      Again is that the former pro NFL SCOUT speaking or the lonely child looking for attention?

  37. But inquiring minds might question Raiders posts on a Blog titled “Inside the Forty Niners”. Some here hate the Raiders. Some don’t care much. The blog regulars from out of state and foreign lands must really be scratching their heads. This doesn’t irritate or offend me, but its unquestionably out of place & context.
    Grant, by avocation, is decidedly “Not-a-fan”. Perhaps he forgets that we come here because we are fans. The golden ganders, as it were.

  38. I know harbaugh won’t show anything during the preseason but his team has to be able to play their best games in the first 5 weeks GB, Seattle, colts, texans and rams. If they dont iron out the issues they have before the season starts they mihgt have a losing record after week 5, but after that i only see 2 other losses on their schedule

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