Here are the grades for the 49ers’ 19-12 preseason loss to the Denver Broncos.
QUARTERBACKS: C+. Give Colin Kaepernick credit for gaining 53 yards on three runs. He still is one heck of a runner. As a passer, he seems to be getting worse. Against the Broncos he completed only two passes, pushing his preseason total up to five. Five. Blaine Gabbert completed nine passes in this game alone.
RUNNING BACKS: B+. Carlos Hyde has been the MVP of the offense through three preseason games. Saturday he averaged seven yards per carry. He seems like a big upgrade over Frank Gore. The Niners’ offense will be in good shape next season if they can give the ball to Hyde on every play.
WIDE RECEIVERS: C. It’s almost impossible to evaluate the wide receivers, because the starting quarterback and the starting offensive line were no good. Torrey Smith made his first catch of the preseason and probably could have picked up a first down had he cut upfield. But he ran parallel to the line of scrimmage and got tackled short of the first-down marker.
TIGHT ENDS: B. Garrett Celek made a 22-yard catch on a post route, and Blake Bell made a few catches on play-action roll-out plays. Both tight ends seem to have earned their way onto the final roster.
OFFENSIVE LINE: D. The run blocking was pretty good, but the pass protection was terrible. It was the opposite of protection. It was destruction. Rookie right guard Ian Silberman seemed completely over his head. He is not ready to play, let alone start. Which means the Niners don’t have a right guard. They should have signed Evan Mathis when they had the chance.
DEFENSIVE LINE: C-. Got pushed back by the Broncos’ offensive line until late in the second quarter, and allowed Denver to pick up 79 rushing yards in the first half. The past few seasons we have taken the 49ers’ run defense for granted. Is it still elite? Only one member of the front-seven is returning from last season—nose tackle Ian Williams.
LINEBACKERS: B. NaVorro Bowman played the entire first half and was excellent blitzing through the A-gap—he sacked Peyton Manning twice in one drive. Bowman probably is the 49ers’ best pass-rusher, so expect him to blitz a lot next season. The other inside linebacker, Michael Wilhoite, didn’t make any glaring mistakes, but he gave up two or three catches on the Broncos first drive.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: A. Most of Manning’s passing yards came on throws to tight ends and running backs. The Niners’ corners did a good job against Denver’s wide receivers, but the corner who did the best job was Kenneth Acker. He intercepted a pass in the end zone and broke another pass in the end zone. He should be the Niners No. 2 cornerback.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B. Reggie Bush misjudged a punt and let it bounce all the way back to the 49ers’ 5-yard line. He seemed uncomfortable. Jarryd Hayne did not. He returned one punt for 12 yards. He clearly is the best punt returner on the team.