49ers vs. Ravens: Time to see what Trent Dilfer has left in the tank

Since we're going to start looking at this weekend's matchup with the Baltimore Ravens, we might as well deal with the glaring elephant in the room. Trent Dilfer will be starting for the 49ers at quarterback. This willbe his first start since he was a Cleveland Brown, in Week 12 of the 2005 season. Dilfer's numbers that day:

23 for 35, 214 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs

So what can we expect from our slightly rusted quarterback? Considering he hasn't played a meaningful game since 2005, we'll start by looking at his preseason numbers. He mentioned in an interview in early August that he wanted to get more touches in preseason games on the off chance he had to step in for Alex Smith. Well, the off chance is upon us, so let's see what we're looking at:

  • vs. Denver: 7/10 52 yards, 1 INT
  • vs. Oakland: 7/11 77 yards, 1 TD
  • @ Chicago: 9/12, 99 yards, 2 TDs
  • @ San Diego: DNP - Coaches Decision
We all know that preseason performance is not indicative of future returns (we're talking to you Ashley Lelie and you Thomas Clayton). On my trips to 49ers training camp, Dilfer and Smith were splitting snaps with first team players and getting a chance to make plays with an assortment of receivers.

Now, Dilfer will get an entire week of first team reps, which should at least clean off some of that rust. Furthermore he knows he's playing as opposed to last week when he probably wouldn't have looked any worse if he'd been sitting on the sideline reading a newspaper. The downside to a rather solid preseason is that he was usually facing second team defenses.

I was looking at Dilfer's Scout's Inc. scouting report over at ESPN and am not sure if part of it wasn't written multiple years ago:

Dilfer is experienced, smart and tough. He has played in numerous systems during his career. He has a three-quarters delivery but can adjust his arm angle for different routes. He is a solid technician with good mechanics. He has a good setup and delivery. He has above-average arm strength and throws with a stiff front leg. He creates enough velocity and zip to connect on deep comebacks and outside speed cuts. He can throw off his back foot when pressured. He throws a very catchable ball, allowing his receivers to realign and get upfield quickly. He has good pocket presence and can buy himself time. He is mobile enough to get outside the pocket and throw on the move. But Dilfer sometimes holds the ball too long and doesn't always make good decisions in the pocket. He doesn't consistently handle pressure well and will force some throws into tight spots. He isn't a scrambling threat. He is more accurate on short and intermediate throws than on vertical routes.
Personally, I thought Dilfer looked like he was playing waste deep in jello last weekend. Maybe the rust extended to his legs, but I'm not expecting much mobility. And considering the offensive line issues, that is certainly not a good thing.

One thing in his favor is that if Hostler and Nolan are ever going to trust a QB it would be Dilfer. His passes were a little errant, but I think that comes with not seeing game action. I'm not expecting a dominate performance this Sunday from Dilfer, but I'd like to hope he could make some things happen. Looking at his career numbers, he's always been the game manager type and not the playmaking type. Even he can move the team down the field in any capacity it will obviously be a huge plus. The question is whether that will actually happen.

What kind of performance do you expect from Dilfer this weekend? As I think up predictions I always come back to the ineptness of the offensive line. It'd be nice to just say, all things being equal, what would Dilfer do for us, but that's not the case. The Browns raked the Ravens over the coals, which certainly gives me hope. Of course the Browns have also worked to improve their offensive line and seem to be showing some decent success at it. So considering the weakness of our line (and even any potential for improvement), what kind of line do you see from Trent Dilfer this weekend?

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