49ers’ third exhibition may answer questions…or not

This is my Saturday column.

The 49ers’ preseason game Saturday against the Denver Broncos almost matters. It’s the third preseason game, the dress rehearsal. Both teams’ starters probably will play the entire first half so they can get in rhythm and feel confident for the regular season.

Here are the top-three things to watch about the 49ers.

1. The first-string offense

Twelve teams have yet to score a touchdown with their starting offenses during the preseason: Bills, Redskins, Giants, Bears, Jaguars, Chiefs, Rams, Panthers, Cowboys, Seahawks, and the Broncos and 49ers.

Of those 12 offenses, only three ranked top 10 in scoring last season — Dallas, Seattle and Denver. We expect each of them to score a touchdown this weekend.

Do we expect the Niners’ first-string offense to score a touchdown Saturday?

Why should we? Through two preseason games the only starter playing well on offense is running back Carlos Hyde, who’s averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He seems ready for the regular season.

Everyone else seems stuck in minicamp, especially starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He has completed just three passes, none to his new big-play receiver Torrey Smith.

But don’t put all the blame Kaepernick. The Niners’ offensive line can’t protect him. According to Pro Football Focus, Kaepernick has faced pressure five of the nine times he has dropped back this preseason — more than 50 percent.

Kaepernick is a quarterback who often holds the ball too long in the pocket, and now he has no time to throw.

Is this offense a disaster waiting to happen?

2. NaVorro Bowman’s endurance

For the Niners to make the playoffs, NaVorro Bowman has to take them there. Simple as that. Bowman is a three-time All Pro inside linebacker, maybe the best defensive player in the league and certainly the best player on the team when healthy.

Last week against the Dallas Cowboys, Bowman played three snaps — his first live action since tearing his ACL and MCL in February of 2014. And Bowman was terrific those three snaps against Dallas. He made tackles on all three plays, and two of the tackles resulted in losses. He looked like the old Bowman.

After the game, we read all about the return of Bowman, how he picked up where he left off like the injury never happened. Like he’s a superhero or an alien from another planet.

The man played three snaps. Not four. Not five. Three.

Great for Bowman that he can play well for three snaps. How about a whole game? Can he play 70 snaps? Eighty snaps? How sore is his knee going to feel in the fourth quarter? Or the day after a game?

Will the Niners even use Bowman for entire games, or will they take him off the field during passing downs and use him as a run-stuffing specialist?

Can Bowman even make it into the second quarter against the Broncos, or will the 49ers continue to protect him?

Bowman still has a lot to prove.

3. The new dime defense

Watch closely when the Broncos’ offense is facing third-and-long or operating the two-minute drill — obvious passing downs.

In those situations, the Niners are using a dime defense — three cornerbacks, three safeties and only one inside linebacker. This is new.

Under head coach Jim Harbaugh during passing situations, the Niners almost always used a nickel defense — three cornerbacks, two safeties and two inside linebackers. The Niners did this because one of the inside linebackers — Patrick Willis — could cover any tight end in the NFL and also could tackle a running back. So the nickel defense was strong against the pass AND the run. It may have been the best nickel defense in the NFL.

But Willis is gone, and his replacement is Michael Wilhoite, whom the coaches seem not to trust in coverage. They take Wilhoite off the field and replace him with a safety — rookie second-round pick Jaquiski Tartt — when they anticipate a pass.

Tartt wears No. 29. Watch for him. It’s easy to mistake him for an inside linebacker because he lines up next to Bowman, but Tartt is no inside linebacker. He’s the dime back. He weighs only 221 pounds. Willis weighed 240.

Using Tartt is a clever way to replace Willis on passing plays, but not on running plays. The dime defense is not built to stop the run. It simply isn’t big enough. It’s a speed group.

Which could lead to problems. What happens if an opposing team passes to its tight end on first-and-10 when Tartt isn’t on the field? Can Wilhoite cover the tight end? If not, what will the Niners do? Will they let the tight end have a big game, or will they adjust, replace Wilhoite with Tartt. If they do that, the running back will have a big game because Tartt is not strong enough to consistently stop him.

The Niners face a lose-lose choice, a choice they never faced under Harbaugh. Stop run. Stop the pass. Don’t stop both.

The Broncos may not be able to force this lose-lose choice on Saturday—they don’t have a good tight end. But this issue will come up again and again in the regular season. When it does, will the Niners have a solution?

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.

This article has 204 Comments

  1. Grant, thanks for the breakdown. I’ll also be watching…

    – CK’s accuracy long
    – Right side o O-line
    – Can Harold set the edge on runs?
    – Ellington, Ward and the running back who shall not be named
    – Roster spot battle between Percell, Okoye, TJE and a cast of thousands

    1. I’ll be watching Marcus Rush on defense. With the uncertainty over Brooks, I think there’s a 50/50 chance he makes the 53. He doesn’t give up on a play and, from what I’ve seen, has a motor like Harold.

      1. Rush may not possess the prototypical body, yet he makes up for it with 3 things. His effort, his heart and his instincts.

    2. I don’t know about you guys but for me at least, Brooks was the straw that broke my camels back. I’m still hoping and even excited to see this new squad. But as far as any hope of a postseason, that flew right out the window.

      I hope I’m proven wrong

    3. NFL Passing Leaders: #9. Ryan Fitzpatrick, #13. Alex Smith, #14. Ryan Tannehill,
      #17. Jay Cutler, #18. Mark Sanchez, #19. Kyle Orton, #20. Kap (SF)…First 9 Teams the #20 QB will face in 2015 and their current Division Rankings: #2 Minn; #3 Pitt, #2 AZ, #1 Green Bay; #3 Giants,#1 Balt; #1 Sea, #3 Rams; #1 ATL…Add the teams number ranking)= 17. Dividing this number by the number of teams 1.8. …So the #20th ranked QB will face an average of 9 top teams in his first 9 games…Anyone want to hazard a guess as to who will be victorious…Niners, 0-9 in first 9 games…Top 20 QB source: NFL Passing Leaders: #9. Ryan Fitzpatrick, #13. Alex Smith, #14. Ryan Tannehill,
      #17. Jay Cutler, #18. Mark Sanchez, #19. Kyle Orton, #20. Kap (SF)…First 9 Teams the #20 QB will face in 2015 and their current Division Rankings: #2 Minn; #3 Pitt, #2 AZ, #1 Green Bay; #3 Giants,#1 Balt; #1 Sea, #3 Rams; #1 ATL…Extrapolating these numbers into a statistical formula we get an total ranking (i.e., adding the teams number ranking) of 17. Dividing this number by the number of teams we get approx. 1.2, and rounding off we get an average of #1…So the # number 20th ranked QB will face an average of 9 top teams in his first 9 games…Anyone want to hazard a guess as to who will be victorious…Niners, 0-9 in first 9 games.

    4. 49ers inability to convert on 3rd downs is worth watching…Like in baseball with runners in scoring position, those teams who have a high conversion percentage are usually the ones who find themselves in the playoffs.

  2. Genuine question – is Tartt that big a downgrade from Wilhoite or Moody as a run defender? It sounds like you are saying that weight is what makes for a good run defender…? No doubt it can help when taking on blockers, but so can technique as well as length and even speed to beat a block.

    I’d like to see how Tartt and the big dime D looks against the run before I agree it will be an issue.

    1. Here are his PFF stats for the two preseason games:

      Against Houston
      Overall: 1.5
      Run defense: 0.7
      Pass Rush: 0.0
      Pass Coverage: 0.8

      Against Dallas
      Overall: 1.6
      Run defense: 0.7
      Pass Rush: 0.0
      Pass Coverage: 0.9

      Looks pretty solid so far. I think we need to see him play in more games and hopefully he’ll be playing a fair amount tomorrow against the Denver 1s.

      1. Thanks for the breakdown cubus. He’s looked pretty good playing a wide variety of roles so far, including up at the LOS as a hybrid LB/SS and as a deeper lying FS. He’s the rookie not named Hayne I am most excited about for this season right now. I think he could end up getting the most playing time of any rookie as a starter in the big dime (and even big nickel) D.

    2. We’ll find out. Replacing an LB with Tartt is tantamount to daring offenses to run. If the run can be stopped with Tartt replacing an ILB it will be huge.

    3. @scooter

      Totally agree with you on Tartt ,

      Junior is “Reaching” on the whole weight issue.

      Ask Earl Thomas if that effects him because he’s smaller than Tartt. One of the things that negates the “size” issue is reading the play then beating the block to make the tackle, that trumps all!

  3. Grant,
    As Scooter said, what gives you the impression that Tartt isn’t strong enough to hold up in run support? Is there something in training camp or the games you’ve seen that gives you that idea (besides his playing weight)?

  4. no mention of Mangenious defense! The versatility the 49ers have with their defensive line and ILB. We most certainly will be seeing 4-3 scheme mixed into the defense.

    Dial, Williams, Purcell, Dorsey eliminates any running lanes. While Bowman, Wilhoite can provide sufficient coverage at OLB with Moody at ILB.

  5. Couldn’t Mangini put Bowman on TEs on the early downs? Bethea? Reid? This isn’t Fangio’s defense where he kept his safeties deep 90% of the time or more..I reject the notion that they’re in a lose-lose in their base defense…Also, WHY criticize Kap if you’re admitting that the line he’s been playing behind has been poor? Do you think that a QB can have great success as a passer even if he’s pressured on more than 50% of his drop back? Your assessment is poor at best…

    1. Gray- Grants wording was not necessarily that critical of Kaep. It was directed at his production so far. He did add that he was under pressure more than 50% of his drop backs. It seemed to be criticism of the entire effort including pass protection. We need to remember that Kaep has often mitigated poor pass protection by making plays despite the pressure. I would think that his conservative preseason play might also be a factor. If that’s the case we might not see anything different till the regular season.

      1. Kap has hardly played in the first two games. Silly to draw any conclusions about him. The offensive line is a real question mark, the weak spot of the team, in my opinion, and it’ll be on Baalke if that costs the team.

        1. if the conclusions from almost no data weren’t silly it would be from Grant. Silly is what he does.

  6. I will once again be watching Pinion, so far okay, but nothing yet that warrants a high pick, I am hoping that changes. O-line, particular center to the right. Also will be looking at Vernon where he is positioned. He lined up in the backfield last week. On defense will be looking at the pass rush and Armstead. I expect pretty much vanilla on both sides of the ball. May see a wrinkle or two but nothing earth shattering. I hope Denver punts a lot, I enjoy watching Hayne run with the ball.

    1. I wonder if they’re saving Pinions’s leg for the regular season. He had a nice counter spin on a punt in the Cowboys game.

      1. Could be Brodie, not sure why they would do that. I saw that counter spin thought it was well done. My thinking is if Pinion kicks as good as his draft status, coupled with Hayne running back punts, the Niners should win the field position part of the game.

        1. I also expected to see more leg from him. It might be that they told him to shorten his kick offs so they could practice coverage’s on returns. Or It least that is what I am hoping is the case.

        1. It’s not high for a punter. The league average for the first punter off the board is the 5th round. Look it up. And yes, Pinion was the first punter drafted and, IMO, deservedly so. If you want to make the argument that, in your opinion, teams should never use a draft pick on a punter, that’s legit, some people have the philosophy. But it’s not often a team tries to replace a 3x First-Team All Pro punter either. If your going to replace a guy like Lee, you better get it right.

  7. I hope the 9ers ramp Bowman up in a controlled way. If he goes from nothing to 60-80 snaps Game 1 that would be a shock to his body….many non-knee issues could have him right back on the DL…

  8. Looks like Zach read one too many articles about how he should be a starter and got a fat head. He laid an egg tonight.

  9. Is this offense a disaster waiting to happen?
    Only if they can’t run block also. If the offense is forced into primarily running 3 step quick fire passes then so be it, it only suits the strength of the QB anyway. If they can run block and the team can run the ball then it’ll also open up the play action which will help buy a little time. Bottom line is if the team is “limited” to running short to intermediate passes it doesn’t matter as long as the completion is made we’ll move the chains.

  10. I’d be curious to see what effect it would have on the Sunday/Monday games if the visiting teams always spent the week practicing with the home team.

  11. People may want Bo to get back into the flow of things, but I do not want Bo to risk his knee in a meaningless game.. Many teams have had starters going down due to injury, so the preseason games have starters playing to not get hurt, which will lead to more injuries.
    It would be too risky to waste his talents by exposing him to possible injury. They know what Bo can do, he does not need to prove anything. Save his talents for games that count, and use the preseason to experiment with different players, so they have tape to assess.

  12. If the 9ers show they can’t throw medium or long (Kaep’s lack of accuracy) and they turn into 3 yard outlet passes….the NFL teams will adjust quickly. They will not worry about getting the top taken off. The 9ers anemic offense will get crushed.

    1. The earlier post noted 3 step drops. A lot of west coast timing throws I suppose.

      I’d welcome them stopping the short to medium routes. All CK needs to do is hit on 1-2 of those deep balls a game and miss the rest. Yes that sucks as elite QBs make you pay but we have to work with what we have. CK has to step up this year. It will be harder with a weaker defense and suspect OL. But this is why you get paid the big bucks.

      I honestly think they should run a lot of shotgun and zone blocking scheme from shotgun. Pick up the tempo.

      1. Logan wants more explosion plays, but that could include a short pass that results in a 40 yard gain. I would like to see the offense more unpredictable, with a threat to go deep and enough speed to turn the corner so the defense has to defend the entire field.
        I hope they keep it simple. Actually, the best play I like is just to line up the RB deep in the I, let him build up a head of steam, and let him pick the hole, or cut back for a misdirection play.
        Once they establish a running threat, then do play action for the deep ball.
        I agree, the O line will determine if the offense succeeds, or struggles. If they are going to start a rookie, I think Thomas or Brown would be a better choice than Silberman.

  13. Don’t care for the criticism of Kaep based on his “only 3 completions”. You said yourself that he has all of 9 drop backs through 2 PS games. Of his incompletions, I recall one specifically was a throw away out of bounds where he extended the play to be able to throw away, whereas a lot of QBs likely couldn’t have. Another incompletion was a pretty darn well placed back shoulder throw to Torrey in the EZ … DB happened to make a great play. Doesn’t take away from Kaep in any regard. Nice decisions and nice throws as well. Looking at a box score can be very deceiving. Kaep may have had one of the best 2 for 5 stat lines you’ll see in the game against Dallas, the gnarly overthrow on the fade to Boldin aside.

  14. To further my point … Tom Brady in 2 PS games, 3 completions for 23 yards, in exactly 9 drop backs.

    Not comparing Kaep to Tom Terrific by any means, but if these stats given a small sample size are alarming for a young and still developing QB like Kaepernick, they should be drawing tons of criticism when on the part of a proven vet and future HOF QB like Tom.

    Not exactly an apples to apples comparison, but likely enough to make the point that dishing on Kaep for being 3 of 9 through 2 PS games is a bit pre-mature at best.

    Not to mention Brady threw 2 picks in 13 throws tonight. I’m confident Kaep will do better than that, even with an O-Line in flux.

      1. I’m simply saying that what we have seen of Kaep so far is not enough to write him off and categorize him as potential doom for the upcoming season. I’m not wearing rose colored glasses. I’m simply allowing the opportunity for growth and development from a young player.

          1. To orchestrate and to be a master of the data; from formation, to blitzes, to coverages, Colin Kaepernick is young. You need a coach who is willing to teach him. By going to the Warner Mastery School for quarterbacking, Colin has embraced the idea that he cannot let his legs prevent him from graduating. That’s a big step, and for you or anyone else to expect him to play with reflexively at this stage in his career is either ignorant or agenda driven….

  15. Good write-up Grant. I’ll also be keeping an eye on:

    -the RB rotation
    -Quinton Patton and whether he can ahow that he is the third best WR on the offense or not
    -the right side of the OL
    -Brandon Thomas
    -how much Skov and Moody play
    -Harold and Lynch
    -the CB situation
    -Jimmie Ward and if he is full go
    -the PR/KR rotation (if Hayne is the first or second option, then that will be a good indication that he made the team)
    -whether the team will do anything with White
    -the number of penalties

  16. Gee, Grant, let’s take our most valuable defender in NaVorro Bowman, a guy coming off a horrific knee injury, and play him 80 plays in his first game back. Seems like a good idea. Prudent. Really?

    Got any more gems? Oh yeah, using a safety for run support? Unheard of. Uh, right. What did Tim McDonald weigh? 220. Donate Whitner? 210. Yeah, real pushovers. Terrible in run support. Seems like the commenters here have a bit more football acumen than you.

    Pass blocking is and was the problem with this team. If this team can’t pass pro, then their opponents will stop the run. You know. Just like last year.

    1. The Niners didn’t use Whitner as a dime back in the box. He never had to take on blocks from pulling guards in the running game.

  17. Can I get a list of those who will be participating in the Quest4Six fantasy football league so I know how many members I have? I plan on having the draft sometime before the beginning of the regular season, but I need to know if I will have to shrink the league down or not. I’m currently trying to aim for twelve league members.

    1. I’m new here as one who posts. Have been reading along and following comments for quite a while now. I know it’s a leap of faith, but if you need manager for your fantasy league, I’d love a shot at it.

  18. Come on Grant, if the 49ers don’t get this offensive line straightened out, it doesn’t matter who’s playing QB. The idea that the offense might be a disaster in the making becuase the offensive line sucks ANd Kap holds onto the ball too long is silly IMO. Holding onto the ball too long is just as much of a problem when the QB is getting adequate protection, but takes unnecessary sacks because of this problem. Kap does hold onto the ball too long some times, but he makes up for that by using his athleticism to extend plays and scramble for yardage.

    Bottom line, if our offensive line performs poorly in pass protection, it’s going to be a long season period, end of discussion! Quarterbacks need protection, it’s vital. Joe Montana needed protection, Tom Brady needs protection (no matter how much he cheats), Peyton Manning needs protection. It’s not rocket science.

    I usually give Trent Baalke the benefit of the doubt, I like his draft philosophy, but if this offensive line continues to LEAK LIKE A SIEVE, and it ends up Trent didn’t do everything in his power to sign Evan Mathis I’m going to be yelling from a mountain top!

    1. Mathis would never sign with the Niners. The pundits and Vegas have the Niners winning less than 8 games, and Mathis wanted to play for a contender. Baalke did not want to break the bank to get him, and he could probably play for only another year, so he is not in their long term plans.

  19. You lost me when you said Bowman was injured in February. The only game ever played in February is the super bowl. Pretty basic.

  20. “Kaepernick is a quarterback who often holds the ball too long in the pocket, and now he has no time to throw.”

    Depends on who you ask. I think the knock on Kaepernick to date is not that he holds the ball too long, it’s that when he feels pressure after his first read isn’t open, he tucks and runs. So, first read not open, then run, would mean to me that he doesn’t hold the ball “too long.” I personally think he should hold the ball longer and improve his pocket awareness/presence (which is another knock).

    Another convenient assumption by a downtrodden, sky is falling, blogger.

    1. The whole point about Kaep and his protection is that forcing Kaep to be only a pocket passer is like putting an Abrams tank in a pit. It did not help when the O linemen were turnstiles like last year.
      This year, I hope they have a mobile pocket so the rushers cannot tee off and run to a spot because they know where the QB will be. I hope they roll out Kaep more and let him use his athleticism to avoid sacks.
      Kaep in space is so much more dangerous, and he will befuddle the defenders so they forget all about the receivers because they will freak out about Kaep and his threat to run for another TD. Hopefully, Kaep will find a wide open receiver like he did many times before for an easy TD, and the preseason angst will be long forgotten.

      1. This is exactly what I have been saying. Any and all games where Kaep has balled he started running early. It seems like that gets him into the flow of game and it gets him into a tempo. When he starts throwing early and he is off you can literally see the frustration in his body language. You gotta play to the mans strengths. They drafted a running QB so let him run. Moving the pocket would give him the perfect opportunity to get going early no matter the condition of the O-line.

        1. I remember last year against the Cards. The Niners started out with the no huddle hurry up offense, and scored 2 TDs, then did not do it again for the rest of the season.

          1. In fact, JH was so arrogant and stubborn, he refused to run the hurry up offense even while behind in the 4th quarter, and lost the game. I wonder why he was told he would be let go after that game…..

    2. Kaepernick tends to wait for visual confirmation a receiver is open before throwing, as opposed to throwing in rhythm with anticipation.

      1. Grant

        You have, in my opinion, in one sentence nailed the difference between champs and chumps…We (49ers), will be no better than a .500 team as long as CK is our QB. The Oline is fixable…Kaepernick is not.

          1. sebnynah..

            .As long as you put it in that sarcastic tone…YES. You make a joke of Tebow, but I’d rather put my faith in a Heisman award winner who is much more accurate passing, is a better runner,and has one more TD this training camp than CK. The joke is on you , my friend…Tebow knows that you don’t run out of bounds on 4th down when you’re trying to kill the clock.

            1. That’s one I haven’t seen in awhile. Putting Tebow and the word accurate in the same sentence….

              1. Tebow “much more” accurate than Kap? Any football opinion you’ve ever had or will have in the future, is officially invalid.

            2. Doubling down, I see. Whatever floats your boat.
              Good, now I can say outright that you prefer Tebow to Kaep.

              1. JaMarcus Russell has a big arm. Mallet too.
                I wonder what Jeff George is up to these days ………?

              2. sebnynah…

                Yes, you may say outright that I prefer Tebow to Kaep…neither would be my first choice…


                I don’t think I’ve seen too many references as to Kaep’s accuracy either



              3. I never said Kaepernick was accurate. Don’t pull a Hillary in an attempt to distract from the issue…..

        1. Oregon-
          Some like Kaep
          Some not sure
          Some don’t like him
          Some really don’t like him
          You’re allergic to him, LOL! Jihad

  21. “The dime defense is not built to stop the run. It simply isn’t big enough. It’s a speed group.”

    Hmmmm…are you talking about dime defenses in general or are you talking about ours? Because, even if you just play Madden on the weekends, I think you know this is an obvious statement.

    But…I think ours is built to stop the run and I’m not even talking about Tartt’s special tackling ability. Our depth at D-line is enough to keep it fresh in the game, for passing situations.

  22. Good read. WorkingonSix, I agree if he held it in the pocket with the intention on passing, cool. When I hear “Kap holds it for too long” I can’t help but think of the countless times he has either ran out of bounds with the ball (for a loss), or taken a hit for a loss when all he had to do (depending on where he is on the field) was get rid of it. As a Kap supporter these plays are the ones that sting the most.

    Before preseason started the WR competition was a huge topic, most predicted Ellington would take the #3 spot. I would love to see General Patton get thrown into the mix more like MidWestDynasty said.

    Definitely excited for this week, and the rest of the season!

  23. I, too, am wondering about Patton. First, he runs backwards for a 12 yard loss, then forgets to run out of bounds to stop the clock. 2 boneheaded plays that makes me shake my head, and wonder if he is too much of a liability to entrust with the ball.
    Then he blocks a punt for a TD.

  24. I don’t care about the on-field performance it will take this team till mid season to display its realistic ability. The key will be Coach Tomsula and his coordinators. What we should expect as fans is solid coaching correcting the many Harbaugh team deficiencies that have been discussed to the ninth degree. Will Tomsula think quickly and critically in close games, will play calling be efficient, will poor use of time outs be yet an issue, challenge flags, will the team score more than 19 points a game, on and on it goes. This is a team that needs a new direction on and off the field. I am hoping for the best.

    1. Thing this offense should be ok they try to make ck a pocket qb to fast let develope him and use is stengh

        1. Nah, that’s his auto-correct kicking in while he’s typing on his phone while on horseback on a Steeple Chase course. That always happens to me too.

    2. The 2 previous games and the last game of 2010 showed me a coach who gets it. I did not see any wasted time outs or delay of game penalties. In last game, the players were focused, well prepared and energized. The play calling may have been vanilla, but it is preseason, so I did not expect an intricate detailed game plan. Coach T has solved the game management incompetence, and that is worth at least 2 wins. because if they had decent instead of putrid game management last year, they could easily have won 2 more games.

  25. 12 out of 32 is not that different from 3 out of 10. First your assuming you can project from last years offensive performance (big assumption there). But then if you expected that scoring a td during preseason was predictive of – anything, you’d think that those 12 teams would populate the bottom 3rd of the nfl’s offense. Well, your own numbers don’t support that. If anything they suggest that the non preseason scoring doesn’t correlate with regular season scoring as 1/4 of these poor performers are in the top 1/3 of last years scoring offenses. It’s nearly as if it’s a totally meaningless statistic. Some bad preseason offenses are good, some bad preseason offenses are bad. Thanks, Grant!

    1. Dallas hasn’t played most of their starters on offense and Seattle hasn’t played Lynch. Carolina is a disaster.

      1. One year, Pats went 0-4 and did well. Singletary went 4-0, then sucked during the regular season.
        I guess I am spoiled. The Niners had such depth during the glory years, their 3rd string could out perform many first string teams. They rarely lost a preseason game.

      2. Yeah, and? Your own statistics don’t support the argument you’re trying to make. If there’s a correlation between preseason incompetency and regular season play you haven’t demonstrated it. On the contrary your numbers support the null hypothesis.

        1. That is what I was trying to say. It does not matter too much what happens during the preseason. Winning in the pre season is no guarantee of success.

          1. Correlation does not imply causation. Just because two events covary does not mean that one caused the other….

              1. It seems every good offense that isn’t depleted has scored a touchdown in the preseason. My stats support that. Going touchdown-less in the preseason is cause for concern.

        2. Seems the only offenses that haven’t scored a touchdown yet are mediocre to bad offenses or offenses sitting key players.

          1. The Patriots offense, and specifically Tom Brady looked awfully mediocre Friday evening….

          2. Thats a qualitative value judgement. And if you had some stats to back that up it would be a much stronger statement. Instead you gave us stats that undermine your argument.

            1. Not really. The only good offense that hasn’t scored a touchdown yet is Denver, and they seem to be the exception.

              1. I’m not rejecting your premise. I’m pointing out that you’re a hack. You started with a rather obvious observation and then found evidence that contradicted it. Everyone knows why you have this job.

              2. You clearly have no understanding of statistics. It’s probably better for you to stick to anecdotal evidence.

              3. Again. That’s a qualitative value judgement and if you said that to begin with we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You attempted to back it up with a statistic that undermined your statement. Do you understand that?

              4. Everyone knows the good offenses I listed are depleted. They don’t undermine the statement.

              5. Hack, why DEMS FIGHTIN WORDS.
                Actually. Grant seems to attract the simple minded who cannot differentiate between dreck and insightful writing. Obviously, you seem to have a problem with his prose, but I can appreciate when someone can turn a phrase.
                Please go troll on the NN site.There you can twitter amongst your fellow dull dilatory deviants to your hearts content.
                I am getting sick and tired of the ad hominem attacks on GC. If he does write dross, I will let him know, but so far, he is spot on with his analysis and emphasizes the salient points. Admittedly, he says some strong things, but that is a modus operandi for any blog, and I kinda expect that. You , on the other hand, will parse his words and take umbrage over non controversial subjects. The unreasoned hate is almost at the Jed level.
                Attacking Grant seems to be a blood sport, but the people doing it just invite scorn and derision because they cannot string three sentences together to make a cogent argument, so they just spew invective’s and insults.
                Have a nice day.

              6. No, he is cursing up a storm because now, he will have to produce some scintillating work that will be scrutinized and dissected.
                I always quote Sun TZU in The Art of War, to be interesting.
                Maybe he can cite Bill Walsh to verify his arguments.

      3. Yup. Dallas only played two starters on their O-line. They sat alot of key defensive players too.

  26. Kaepernick has to show some growth in this game. He has to play extended minutes and develop a rhythm to being a passer, scan the field, look for the 2nd and 3rd read and throw the ball to Torrie Smith. He has Boldin, Smith, Davis, Hyde. Those are pretty good weapons.

    It’s up to him now. Game On!

  27. Denver got 7 sacks against the Seahawks, so the Niners should invite the blitz, then burn them with quick passes and screens.

  28. There’s an apparently false premise in Grant’s piece; that Tartt can’t stop the opponent’s run because he’s too small.
    >First, I haven’t seen that much of him but I’m quite sure Tartt can tackle any running back the Broncos have; he’s not too small for that.
    >More importantly, Tartt is too small to take on an OG and hold his ground. That’s the flaw.
    > If opponents want to leverage that mis-match, they’ll be running into the middle of the D, where there’s a lot of help.
    >If opponents want to run the ball on third & long because they see a dime package, how often are they going to get 8-10 yards on that run? If its 3&L, they didn’t do too well on 1&2 down.
    > Tartt’s job is to be one piece on the chessboard, not to stop the other team’s ground game.
    Finally, since this is pre-season, and given the close-to-the-vest public styles of Tomsula and Mangini, it seems highly unlikely they’ll be all that revealing tonight. I hope Peyton really puts our secondary under a lot of pressure, challenges them, and perhaps burns a couple of guys as a Wake Up call and a learning experience. I hope their D puts a bunch of pressure on the OL to toughen them up too.

    1. There’s a reason the Niners are lining up Tartt at ILB only on passing downs. It will be interesting to see if teams like the Seahawks can force the Niners into using a big nickel defense with Tartt at ILB against 12 or 21 personnel on first and second down.

      1. I believe that reason is because the strength of the team has shifted from LB’s to Safeties and DL. Your thoughts?

        1. Exactly. The Willis/Bowman combo was a big luxury. Now the 49ers have to insert a safety.

          1. Will they be forced to insert Tartt for Wilhoite on first and 10 against the Seahawks, or try covering Graham with different zone coverages? That’s a lose-lose.

              1. If you were Mangini, would you play your base defense or a big nickel with Tartt in place of Wilhoite at ILB on first and 10 against the Seahawks’ base offense?

              2. I would probably play my base initially, and then mix it up based on results. I think Mangini could press and then drop into zone as part of his confusion campaign….

              3. A big variable… can any of the 49ers corners cover with less safety help? If yes…

                Mangini could go big nickle, but drop an extra safety down low to bolster the run.

                Mangini could go base, blitz a safety or glue him to Graham.

            1. It might be like the right guard spot… They will tinker, trying to find the right combination to cover Graham.

              Harold+Tartt are fast. Mangini will be probably be more aggressive with Reid.

              The could study the way Chancellor plays Vernon Davis to get ideas on how Tartt should cover Graham…. but Chancellor has the luxury of corners that need minimal safety help.

              1. I think Graham is a product of an excellent passing qb with years of work together.
                He isn’t getting that in Seattle. Not scaring me at all. Then again I’m not playing.

        2. ILBs are supposed to stop runs better than (equally talented) safeties. I’m hoping Tartt can stop the run just well enough to prevent offenses from simply running at us when only one ILB is on the field.

          It will be a big challenge for the D-line to keep blockers off Tartt.

          Losing Brooks will hurt too because he could set the edge and also play some ILB roles. Harold has flashed good play, but I saw him getting dominated trying to set the edge.

          1. Yet even with these latest losses, I see the Niners as still being competitive. I hope Lynch and Lemonier can replace Aldon and Brooks, so Harold can come in on passing downs fresh and energized for the sack.

            1. According to Staley, Lynch is recovering from back surgery. As for replacing Brooks and Aldon, that’s a big jump for a bad back guy and a no sacks guy.

      2. I think we’ll see several teams utilizing the dime this year in various ways; maybe some Mangini can copy or run variations off of. Its one reaction to the evolution of the game.

  29. The Niners have a new HC—his first time assembling an NFL staff. An OC, who has not coordinated an offense since Dubya’s first year in office…..a new OL coach. who apparently wants to run zone and plus some man.
    New personnel on the OLine, mix-n-match, 180’s and a QB who has been basically a thrower in his NFL career so far….Not exactly a surprise that the Niner pass offense is lagging.

    1. Interesting perspective. How about another one. This new coach is like a breath of fresh air, his coordinators were promoted from within to provide continuity and the assistants have tons of experience, even HC experience. You may say the offense is lagging, but I see them keeping things under wraps so they can spring it upon the league when it counts and surprise the opposition. Slamming Kaep is par for the course, but I see him as an immense talent, who breaks records and can win on the road in the playoffs. How many other QBs can put their foot on the one yard line and then sprint upfield untouched for a TD? Could Brady or PM do that?
      I counsel patience, but do have trepidations about the O line.

  30. TJE for Shaquil Barrett would be an outstanding trade for the 49ers. I don’t think Elway is that gullible though….

        1. That is why Lamin Barrow or Corey Nelson would be better trade options because it would be fair to both sides. TJE is not as valuable as Barrett. IMO

          1. Broncos have Miller, Ware and 1st round pick Shane Ray. Barrett could easily be a guy the Broncos look to move for a position they need more depth in.

            1. True. Barrett was an UDFA, while Barrow was a 5th and Nelson was a 7th round pick.
              They are also on the bubble, but Barrett has played the best so far this preseason.

  31. Now the Seahags present the ultimate challenge in the nickel-dime, but agree with Razor and Grant that Lynch is a bigger threat than Graham. Fangio came up with some schemes to limit Graham in NOLA. Getting away with that two (3?) times a season will be harder against a division opponent. The ‘Hags’ rookie Lockett is a Joker too; I think he may be what they hoped Harvin would be.

  32. Is this additional news to anyone but me?

    “Lynch only recently started practicing following what Staley revealed was off season surgery on Lynch’s back. (The 49ers have only said he had an injury, with no specifics.)” … Paul Gutierrez

    The dome of secrecy seems to still be in place.

    1. Back surgery is a real concern for not only Lynch, but VMac as well. Should last around 3-5 years though….

      1. Looking good from what I can tell Brotha, small screen and poor resolution at times…

        1. You’re watching your neighbor’s TV from your yard with binoculars?
          Cheapskate! : -)
          We get Bolts here at 5:00 before Niners kickoff on another channel at 6:00.
          Comcast didn’t renew my NFL Network. I think they and NFL want me to buy a bundled package. I won’t be able to hold out I suppose. Cheers.

          1. **Update**Brotha, I’ve been looking for Bud in the 3rd quarter, but just heard he’s out with a right foot injury….

  33. I just want everyone to know that both Unca_chuck’s/Skeebers blogs either removes your post if they don’t agree with you or like Unca_chuck’s blog he either deletes your post or changes your post into his own words. Fans should stay away from both of these sites.

  34. One thing I haven’t seen yet is how Hayne will respond when fielding a punt that really can’t/shouldn’t be returned because the defenders arrive at about the same time or even before the ball is caught. I know he is fearless and that’s great, but there are times you just have to fair catch it or let it go. He hasn’t needed to do that in the pre-season games yet, but I hope he can fair catch when needed. I don’t know rugby league so maybe someone can provide me with some perspective on if there is a similar situation in rugby league. I would certainly hope that the special teams coaches have done some work with him on this.

    1. For mine, I’d be happy with him never calling for a fair catch but I think he’s smart enough to realize his limitations, if that situation were to present itself….

    2. Not really anything similar in rugby league, cubus. Any kick is a live ball for both teams, so when you have a kick chase that gets close like that they will often look to contest for the ball in the air, with players jumping up and trying to catch it above the others. The only thing that is kind of similar is if the player defending the kick (similar to the punt returner) is not allowed to be tackled while he is leaping in the air to field the kick. Have to wait until he lands.

      Good news is that Hayne is very comfortable fielding a ball while players are breathing down his neck, ready to smash him.

      1. I asked this question, because if Hayne isn’t accustomed to fair catching when needed (when needed for him is a different situation than most), then simply kicking the ball high will readily defeat his return ability and possibly have a higher than normal probability of leading to a fumble. But since you are very knowledgable in both sports, if you’re not worried, it would seem there is no reason to be worried.

        1. Twice he had a player in his face, and he wiggled his hips and left that player falling down. Classic rugby move.

        2. Its a fair concern, cubus. But in league, because both teams are allowed to contest for the ball it is important for the fullback (punt returner) to have good awareness of where defenders are around him. So I’m hoping that carries across as a punt returner in the NFL and when he feels the pressure getting too close he does call for the fair catch.

          But, even if he doesn’t every now and then, he does have experience fielding kicks under a lot of pressure, so he might be able to hang on while taking a hit.

          1. Let me add too, Scooter, that if opposing teams are so concerned about his big play return ability that they feel they need to kick the ball very high, that in and of itself could lead to 10 to 20 yards better field position (with a fair catch) – which is still a win for the niners.

            1. Absolutely. If Hayne is capable of making teams change how they punt to avoid him returning the ball that is a big win itself. Like Devin Hester.

    3. I would coach him to stay back, then move up to catch the ball while contacting with the gunner, thus drawing a penalty. Hayne is savvy enough to keep his eyes on the ball while the contact is being made. It ensures a Niner possession and 5 yards.

  35. Another thought on the Dime:
    I seem to recall seeing the Dimes of yesteryear were teams bringing in two extra cover corners to match-up against an AirCoryell or Marino spread.
    I also recall SF lining up Jeff Fuller as a LB in a Nickel. He could run, hit, tackle and cover at around 220 lbs.
    Mango can field 3-3 or 2-4 Dimes, but the 3-3 is a incremental hedge against the run.

  36. Maiocco – Dahl, Vance McDonald, Wheeler, Brock and Bishop will not play today.

      1. That’s what I’m afraid of… key DBs Brock and Ward will have injury plagued careers.

  37. Bridgewater takes the hit, and to prove he’s legit, throws a beauty into perfect coverage. He could be trouble….

    1. The Vikings week 1 will not be an easy game. Bridgewater is going to be a very good QB.

        1. He requires as much attention as Lynch. He will be our first look at Mango’s dilemma.

        2. Heh, yeah, of course he is. Just meant that now they have a legit QB and passing game as well. That offense will be tough.

            1. To be honest, I’m liking the 49ers chances week 2 better than I am week 1. Steelers without Pouncey, Bell and Bryant and a D that is struggling in the DBs department.

      1. Not so good chemistry between Harbaugh and Gruden. I can’t be sure, but I think Harbaugh tried to Woody Hayes Gruden….

        1. Razor- Whhaaaaaat? A Woody? Or a Jimbo- on-Schwartz? Whazzup?
          PS- Seahags stuffing SD’s runs, but Rivers is pitching and catching at will.

          1. Redskin pile drives a Raven, Harbaugh runs across field and gets verbose with Gruden….

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