Preseason Week 3 Open Thread - 49ers @ Chicago Bears

 vs.  

August 25, 2007, 5pm PST/8pm EST
Soldier Field, Chicago
CBS - Channel 5 in San Francisco
Reaired Sunday night at 8pm PT on NFL NETWORK.


[EDITOR'S UPDATE 5:45PM] - Well that was not a pretty quarter for the defense. When they did stop the Bears, it was more due to Rex Grossman's general crappiness. The defense looked good against the run at times, but definitely needs to improve in this second quarter.

And so the 49ers reach the third game of the preseason and what I considerably arguably the most important game of the preseason.  The importance up to now was getting rid of rust and building up.  The important of week 4 is in simply avoiding injuries.  This is the week where the team has to put together a complete first half of the game, starters versus starters.  As humorous and entertaining as it is to see Shaun Hill lead the team back, we need to see both sides of the ball step up this week in the FIRST HALF (and some of the second depending on how long they play).  In fact, a San Francisco Chronicle column by John Crumpacker makes that point exactly.  Even the players realize it:

The Bears are expected to play their starters about the same amount, so for a half at least, the 49ers will get a gauge not only on progress made in training camp but on their ability to match up to a team that whipped them 41-10 in October and went on to play in the Super Bowl.

"It's a little more of a realistic look as we get closer to the regular season," said running back Michael Robinson, who will play with the first unit in Frank Gore's absence. "It's going to be a good test for us"...

"Look what they did to us in the regular season," said quarterback Alex Smith, who reviewed tape this week of that Oct. 29 debacle at Soldier Field. "It'll be a test to see how far we've come. This is a team that prides themselves on turnovers, forcing fumbles, wearing teams down mentally and physically. I'm glad it's the Bears in August and not November, with the wind blowing 40 miles an hour."

So on the one hand we have to hope for a fine performance, on the other hand it remains the preseason.  It's a balancing act of getting ready for the season.  Considering Rex Grossman is stinking up the joint, the Bears defense, completely healthy for the first time since early last season, will be looking to put a hurtin on the 49ers offense.

Several questions remain for the 49ers, but little answers are quietly developing.  

Running Back
While Thomas Clayton is not going to win the primary backup job, I'm of the opinion that he's earned more playing time at the very least.  Michael Robinson and Maurice Hicks will continue to battle for that primary spot and I don't think either one has blown people away yet.  The plus for Robinson in this battle is that he's the younger project and so all things being equal, I think he would end up in that position.  Or it becomes a rotation between him and Hicks whenever Gore comes off the field (or if we go two HBs and no FB).

Wide Receiver
I think it's safe to say that Darrell Jackson and Arnaz Battle are our 1-2 punch at receiver right now.  Ashley Lelie had a very solid performance last weekend and hopefully he can follow it up with another fine performance.  Taylor Jacobs struggled a bit last week, but considering the circumstances, he can definitely be cut some slack.  We'll see how he bounces back this week.  It will be big in deciding that 3-4 receiver battle.

Defense
We're simply looking for a complete performance from the defense.  While the pass rush continues to struggle, I really want to see an improved performance by the run defense.  Travis Henry and Lamont Jordan were both able to slice up the defense with surgical precision.  Cedric Benson is a solid running back so it will be an important test.

Injuries
For this game, BY, Gore, Brewer, Franklin and Goldson are all out.  Brewer hasn't been put on the IR yet, although I'd expect it to happen before final cuts probably.  Also, good news on the Aubrayo Franklin front from Coach Nolan's August 23 notebook:

RE: Is Franklin doing well?
"He's doing very well. They say he is ahead of schedule, but they say we're still not going to do anything until the season begins. I don't think we would put him in. If he were to be ready by the San Diego game, which I don't anticipate he would, we still wouldn't play him. There have been no setbacks, no infections; they wouldn't need surgery anyway so there have been no setbacks."

Overview
So I think it's pretty straight forward this week.  The team will have a chance to send a clear message in the first half.  I'd like to hope they don't send a muddled message.  Alex Smith will be facing an outstanding secondary and a great pass rush, so I think we'll see how far he's really come tonight.  I'm a little nervous of potential letdown, but I'm also excited.  If he provides a solid performance, the last couple of years will appear to be finally paying off at the quarterback position.

I'm heading out for a little bit, but will be back before game time.  I know everyone here is ready for some football.

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