The three things we knew about the 49ers before the third preseason game haven’t changed. More significantly these problem areas have haunted this team for years and years. Yes, it’s just preseason and yes, preseason is all about getting ready for the real season but beyond Harbs unorthodox preseason game planning glaring deficiencies remain.
Special Teams Are Not Special
This preseason has been no exception. We’ve brought in a new kicker this season and had to temporarily replace our probowl punter due to injuries. I am thankful for the new kick-off rule as the Niners need all the help they can get with covering kick-offs. Punt coverage remains sketchy and has only been acceptable due to Lee’s thunder-foot kicking.
The Pass Rush
There is none and there has not been a pass rush for years. Moreover, the Niners know it and tried to address it with a first round ‘project’ pass rusher in Aldon Smith. The jury is out on Smith as it’s going to take a while (maybe years) to see if there is any sustainable talent there. The blitz has been largely ineffective and hasn’t paid the kind of dividends other teams like the Saints and Texans are enjoying.
The Offensive Line
Alex Smith can only dream what it would be like to stand back in the pocket unchallenged like Schaub did all afternoon. Most of the times opposing defensives are in the backfield wrapping up Alex Smith before he can even finish his drop. I can’t think of an area the Niners have paid more attention to through the years than the offensive line. Despite all the high draft picks, different coaches and efforts to get it on track this group has got to be the worst pass protecting line I have ever seen play. More troublesome is that I don’t see any improvement from last year when they line up against a team with a decent defense. Understandably the system is new along with the guys playing center, but the breakdowns are happening everywhere and almost on every play. Other teams have new coaches, players and systems and they can pass protect.
On the bright side of things, there are arenas of improvement and like everyone, I am confident Harbaugh will get it fixed but I think it’s going to take some new players and years of effort. I’ll be impressed if we go eight and eight this year. What do you think?