Amidst the chaos that was Thursday's game, the niner hopeful should be able to take away a few positives from the team's overall performance. Considering the circumstances, Thursday's game was an excellent barometer of where we are as a team and what improvements need to be made in order to be competitive during the regular season.
Gauging from the comments on our message boards during the game (mine included), the overall feel of the game was a negative one. While there were times in which we looked downright abysmal, cooler heads will eventually prevail and help bring our expectations back down to earth.
One of our biggest concerns coming into the preseason was our secondary. Our FO was able to bring in Carlos Rogers to take the departing Nate Clements' spot as our number 1 corner. Behind Rogers, we have the same players from last year with a few promising rookies to round out the position. Due to injury, Shawntae Spencer, Tarell Brown, and Curtis Holcomb did not make the trip down to New Orleans. Their absence afforded the coaching staff and us fans the opportunity to evaluate the younger guys competing for the third, fourth, and fifth cornerback spots.
The starters for the game were Tramaine Brock and Carlos Rogers with Brock getting the most playing time out of all the corners who played. Our most inexperienced corner, Chris Culliver also got ample playing time throughout the game. Phillip Adams saw the field in limited action while coners Phillip Davis and Corey Nelms were relegated to garbage duty towards the end of the game.
Follow the jump for an individual evaluation of each player's contribution on the night.
Carlos Rogers: In very limited action, Rogers displayed the veteran patience and composure expected when he was brought in to start. In the few plays I was able to effectively evaluate, Rogers showed a great understanding of cover 2. On two separate plays, he was able to sink and eliminate the area between the flat and the over top safety (Gray Area), effectively making a difficult throw over his head. He also did a good job when he was asked to press at the line of scrimmage.
Plays on the ball: 0 Times Beat: 0
Tramaine Brock: Brock also did well at the line of scrimmage in press man. He showed that he could be physical while being patient enough to allow the wide receiver's route to develop. In cover 2, he struggled in taking away the gray area allowing an easy throw over his head for a 10 yard gain. Throughout the game, he consistently struggled getting off of blocks. A few times he created a lane for the ball carrier by being too aggressive and choosing a side when engaging the receiver. A major slip up occurred early on, when Robert Meachum ran by him on a skinny post route and dropped a would be 35 yard catch. On that play, it seemed as if Brock underestimated Meachum's speed. Toward the end of the 3rd quarter, Brock displayed a lack of focus when he was sucked in on a play action fake. Luckily, the ball went elsewhere.
Plays on the ball: 0 Times Beat: 2
Chris Culliver: Cully also performed well at the line of scrimmage in press man. His safety background manifested itself in his willingness to tackle and physical play throughout the game. As with Brock, Cully did not do too well in cover 2 by giving up another gray area completion. He also struggled with getting off of blocks by allowing the receiver to keep their hands on him until the whistle. At one point in the game, he showed his inexperience as he didn't anticipate a crossing pattern from a stacked receiver alignment. On that play, he was slow in getting through the traffic to cover the crosser. A few times, he wasn't able to get set after a motion by his man which hurt his technique. Instead of a fluid peddle, he was high and hopping while trying to guess where his receiver would go. His biggest error occurred very early in the game as Meachum beat his jam and "smoked" him on a go route. Luckily, Williams was there to contest the pass. Meachum looked significantly faster than him on this play.
Plays on the ball: 0 Times Beat: 3
Phillip Adams: Phillip played most of his snaps in the slot during the game with a few reps coming on the outside opposite of Cully. As with the other corners, he showed well at the line of scrimmage in press coverage and played physically throughout the game. He also came away with one or two decent tackles. Adams picked up from last year where he stood out as far as making plays on the ball. He ended Thursday's game with two pass breakups and was the only corner to garner a stat in that category. On two occasions, Adams was observed peddling high and uncontrolled. He also slipped covering a deep comeback route that was dropped by the receiver. On the goaline, Adams gave up an easy inside release on a run play which allowed the receiver to get a clean crackback on the edge defender.
Plays on the ball: 2 Times Beat: 2
As a unit, the secondary played pretty well considering the lack of practice time. Our corners showed they were all relatively decent at playing press coverage and competing athletically. Our ability to communicate and stay on the same page was surprisingly adequate evidenced by the lack of any noticeably blown coverages. Watching the game, I believe we need work on getting off of blocks and concentrating on our focus and technique. As the game went on, I noticed that most of our mental errors occurred in the second half which would signify a decrease in focus and discipline. We also need to fine tune the nuances of playing cover 2 to become an effective unit.
Bright Side: Cully showed why we drafted him. He surely has the ability to become a successful corner and his major issues were directly related to experience and repetition. Hopefully this unit can take some more steps forward in the coming weeks and become one of the stronger units on our team.