I think it’s safe to say the Oakland Raiders did not improve on their 27th ranked rush defense. Even though they led almost the entire game, the Raiders rush defense was a total embarrassment today. Glen Coffee had a bit of a coming out performance tonight while the rest of the running backs ran all over the Raiders. We’ll get to that performance, but let’s get to what we wanted to really find out today….
I mentioned it in the comments and I’ll mention it again, I think tonight was a push in the battle of Shaun Hill versus Alex Smith. Alex Smith probably was a bit better given that his receivers dropped some of his passes, but it wasn’t enough to reclaim the position. In reality, neither QB came close to impressing anybody. That means the 49ers will likely have to alternate quarterbacks with the #1 offense again at Dallas. Hill will retain the lead in the QB competition, but it’d be nice to see him just slam the door shut next week at Dallas. I’m not holding my breath, but let’s hope for it.
The real story at quarterback was Nate Davis. After getting very little playing time last week, he got to play the entire second half. While he was not spectacular, he showed a lot of the skills that had him projected in the early rounds at the beginning of last season. A problem Alex Smith has had is that he rolls out and then can’t get enough zip on the ball to get it to his receivers. Davis does not have that problem. Rather, he has a rifle and several times was able to roll out and hit his man. He certainly has to work on his accuracy and decision-making, but as a potential long-term QB he took a very, very solid first step today.
I started writing this in the fourth quarter just as Kory Sheets ran in his touchdown. I realize the Raiders rushing defense was awful today. I’m willing to take the results with a grain of salt. But, you know what? The 49ers offensive line was making some serious holes. We’ll see how it carries over in the coming weeks, but I thought the offensive line showed some solid improvement from last week. The Raiders did manage a sack, but for the most part I felt like the 49ers quarterbacks had enough time to make their reads. As for the running backs coming in behind the line?
Just an all-star performance today from Coffee, Robinson and Sheets. It’s only the preseason, and it was the Raiders defense, but watching a team dominate in the running game can be just as much fun to watch as a great passing performance (at least in my opinion). When you’re averaging ___ yards a carry, things are going well for you. For now I’m curious how much more will see of Gore next week at Dallas. Of course, it’s always nice to be able to see your backups taking care of business. The 49ers have wanted to find somebody who can lessen the load on Gore and today they certainly got an inkling about that. Now we’ll see if Coffee and company can carry this over at Big D.
Pass rush? Yea….not so much again. The team got pressure at times, but that seemed to happen more in the second half with the backups. The first string defense was not all that stellar in their attempts to get at Russell and Garcia. It certainly wasn’t abysmal, but they’re going to need to show some improvement if the defense wants to take the next step as a unit. The pass defense as a whole was really not all that spectacular in the first half with Roman getting burned in a zone defense (I refuse to blame Clements on that one), and Clements having to resort to pass interference on another play.
At the same time, the defense was quite impressive against the run. The so-called 3-headed rushing attack of Oakland was really nowhere to be seen. The 49ers athleticism on defense could definitely be seen there. Now it’s just a matter of getting more of that athleticism in the pass rush.
2009 Draft Class
Michael who? The 49ers 2009 draft class set off some serious fireworks today. Coffee had a monster day and Nate Davis was quite solid in his first real passing opportunity. On defense, Scott McKillop showed why the team is looking at him as the TED linebacker of the future next to Patrick Willis. He had the fumble recovery that was overturned, he had an interception, and he led the team in tackles. Now I realize it’s only preseason and we’ll see plenty of "DOH!" moments from these youngsters, but every positive step is a good thing.
The best aspect of the preseason is getting to see what your young players can do. Seeing as many of them won’t see significant playing time in the regular season, they know they’re playing for anything they can get. Coffee will see some serious playing time, but McKillop will spend a lot of time on special teams, and Nate Davis is still battling to stay off the practice squad (maybe this performance keeps the 49ers from waiving him to the PS).
The 49ers head to Dallas, most likely without a week 1 starter determined. The 49ers have played two teams that could be pretty bad this year, so we'll see what a dose of the Cowboys, followed by the Chargers, can do for assessing this team. I think the team showed improvement this week, but of course have a lot of areas for improvement. We'll be back with plenty more in the coming days on the just completed game and next week's showdown at Big D. Maybe Andy Lee can knock down that big monstrosity of a scoreboard!