Although the 49ers front office was able to return their entire starting defense intact, the team still managed to have a busy offseason of transactions that will hopefully have a big impact on the 2012 season. The first preseason game saw most of the new players get some playing time, although Mario Manningham, Cam Johnson and Darius Fleming all sat out the game.
For the purposes of this post, I thought we'd focus on some of the more impact newcomers. First off, courtesy of Matt Maiocco, we've got a snap count for all of the 49ers:
Josh Johnson, QB - 18
Randy Moss, WR - 4
A.J. Jenkins, WR - 31
Brandon Jacobs, RB - 7
LaMichael James, RB - 11
Rock Cartwright, RB - 26
Leonard Davis, OG - 20
Joe Looney, OG - 28 at LG, 18 at RG (might be a mistake there)
Eric Bakhtiari, OLB - 20
Perrish Cox, DB - 11 LCB, 6 RCB, 4 Nickel
Trenton Robinson, S - 33
It was a mixed bag of performances with the newcomers. Brandon Jacobs, Rock Cartwright and Eric Bakhtiari had the most notable performances, with Perrish Cox also putting together a solid effort.
Jacobs rushed four times for 31 yards, with two big conversions on third and fourth down. Even though we've seen him plenty with the Giants, it was still a little bit of a surprise just how big he looks on the field. He had little trouble ramming through the Vikings defensive line. If he can continue this kind of brute force play, the 49ers could be in a good position on those third and shorts that have tripped them up at times.
When the 49ers signed Rock Cartwright, I was under the impression that he would simply work special teams and basically replace Blake Costanzo in the special teams role. For his first 49ers game, that was not the case. He finished with the second most carries on the team, rushing eight times for 44 yards, putting together some effective runs. I still think he is booked for a primarily special teams role, but I suppose it is not surprising the team would at least want to see what he brings to the table otherwise. At this point, Anthony Dixon would seem to be battling Rock Cartwright for a roster position, which does not bode well for Boobie in my opinion. Cartwright was a highly respected special teams leader in Oakland, and if he can provide a deep emergency running back option, that bodes well for his roster chances over Dixon.
Eric Bakhtiari put together a very solid performance, netting two sacks in the fourth quarter. While fourth quarter performances in the first preseason game should be taken with a certain grain of salt, this kind of performance should still be a boost for Bakhtiari in his attempt to earn a spot as the team's fourth outside linebacker.
The 49ers only kept three last year, and then drafted Darius Fleming and Cam Johnson this year. Fleming is likely out for the season with a torn ACL, while Johnson sat out the preseason opener following an offseason clean-up procedure for his knee. Johnson will likely get some snaps at some point, but it's also possible the 49ers may try and sneak him onto their practice squad if they want to work with him and develop him off the 53-man roster. Whatever the case, I'd imagine Bakhtiari might get some more opportunities higher on the depth chart, particularly if the team decides to rest Aldon Smith next week. Bakhtiari and Kourtnei Brown would likely be the primary backups behind Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson.
Perrish Cox also appeared to impress. He snagged the late interception, but he also provided solid, physical coverage. He is getting work all across the board, which gives the 49ers that much more flexibility and depth with their cornerbacks. Given that the 49ers could be looking at Cox and Tramaine Brock as their fourth and fifth cornerbacks, that likely leaves one of them potentially inactive on game days. That's some very solid depth. Brock isn't going to be starting anytime soon, but he has quietly moved up the depth chart since signing as an undrafted free agent. If he continues to improve, you're looking at five very quality cornerbacks on the roster. In a heavy passing league, I'd say that's not too shabby.
One player I didn't pay close attention to was Trenton Robinson. The box score indicates he had a pass deflection. I'm going to take a look back at his work to see what I can make out. In releasing the All-22 Film this year, I don't think that will include preseason film, but I'll keep an eye out. That would help in assessing Robinson's performance.