49ers Preseason: What have we learned

Well, besides the value of a small sample size of course.  The 49ers managed to go 1-3 this preseason after their rather uninspiring 16-13 loss at San Diego Thursday.  Records are meaningless in the preseason (2006 Oakland Raiders, 4-1, shows that).  Many statistics are meaningless, but it's nice to see big performances from some of your guys.  All statistical references are from NFL.com's stats pages.

Thomas Clayton
You had to know that my guy would be the first one mentioned here.  Clayton actually led all running backs in rushing yards with 200 yards.  45 carries puts that at a 4.4 per carry clip.  Not quite Frank Gore's 5.4 per carry last year, but solid nonetheless.  A big knock against Clayton coming into the draft was that he danced around a little too long looking for holes.  Early in the preseason that was definitely the case.  However, against San Diego, I felt like he hit the holes with a little more authority, and when he had to jump outside the tackle box he shed tackles and showed some solid burst.  I really wish he had gotten a chance with the first team, as I think talent-wise, he may be our best backup.  Hicks has peaked in terms of any value and Michael Robinson is still learning how to be a running back.  Thankfully we have Frank Gore, but it'd be nice to know we have options is he ever got hurt in the regular season.

Delanie Walker
People have been talking about the talent of Delanie Walker here at Niners Nation since Day 1.  While he could use some work on his blocking, Walker definitely showed his receiving skills throughout the preseason.  Walker finished 13th in  receiving yards and tied 7th in receptions.  He showed some impressive moves after the catch and was probably our biggest impact guy in August.  Again, he's clearly behind Vernon Davis on the depth chart, but I'm really liking the idea of 2-tight end sets creating some disgusting mismatches.  Hopefully we get to see him on the field a lot more.

Alex Smith
After two solid performances at home, Alex Smith struggled at Chicago and San Diego.  He definitely showed what we can expect this year.  Some very good performances and some not so good performances.  I would expect to see more good than bad as the bad performances this preseason had some mitigating circumstances.  I have no problem cherry-picking the good stuff!

Defense
Considering the injury issues and the full time switch to the 3-4, I'm going to give this defense an incomplete.  It's very clear that this defense will require some time to gel and that could be a determining factor on if this team makes the playoffs.  Assuming Gore is healthy, the offense is on track and looking solid.  The defense will take some time to get up to speed.  While unfortunate, it's just the growing pains that have to be expected.  Hopefully getting Franklin starting will help them get it together.  I'm more concerned than worried, but we'll see what happens.

Ashley Lelie
Lelie is another guy, like Clayton, who put up very solid numbers in the preseason against lesser competition.  Taylor Jacobs maneuvered ahead of him on the depth chart thanks to some great practice sessions, but Lelie was the one who put up the numbers on the field.  I still think Lelie can put in a solid performance for this team on a week-to-week basis, but we really won't know until a week from Monday.  This team has a lot of receiving options, so we'll see what kind of numbers he produces sharing Alex Smith with D-Jack, Battle, Davis, Gore and even Delanie Walker.

Brandon Williams
Not quite what you like to see from a guy who should be trying to prove himself as more than a punt-returner.

The team also made some cuts yesterday as they approach the league-mandated 53-man roster.  The team waived CB Markus Curry, DE Zack Anderson, OL Sean Estrada, QB Luke Getsy, S Jake Patten, DE Darius Sanders and RB Arkee Whitlock.  Final cuts will happen today.

I'm off to the Cal-Tennessee game, so if you see the final cuts today, feel free to post them here.

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