I wasn't feeling great yesterday, so at lunch-time I took the rest of the day off and went home. While resting in bed I decided to cue-up the 49ers-Broncos game from last week and see what stood out to me after watching it a second time. I did notice some things that weren't as evident in the first viewing, at least for me. Here are some notes:
1st Team Offensive Line = Rusty
While the starting unit moved the ball down the field with what looked like relative ease at times, upon further review the first team offensive line seemed to be a little rusty. There was pressure on Colin Kaepernick several times and it wasn't uncommon to see lunging linemen ending up on the ground. It helps to have an athletic QB, especially when he's also uncommonly strong and can shrug off a pass rusher, escape the pocket, and still complete the pass...but it's something I hope the unit gets sorted out.
LaMichael James Runs Well Inside
When James was selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, many pegged him as an outside runner only, viewed as too thin-framed to stand-up to punishment between the tackles. Well, I don't think I'd give him 300 carries a season, but I have to say he was somewhat impressive running inside against the Broncos. Most of his runs were 4-5 yards and he generally kept his legs driving and fell forward at the end of each run. This is a good thing.
Nate Stupar Was...No Bueno
I thought my NFL Preseason Live feed was skipping or something, because I kept seeing what looked like the same thing happening over and over again: Nate Stupar diving for someone's ankles...and failing to make the tackle.
Stupar routinely went low, very low, but also just-as-routinely failed to actually bring the ball-carrier to the ground. There were at least three, maybe four instances of this, including the short yardage play that was almost converted down near the 49ers goal line. I know he's mostly a special teams player, but tackling technique is, well...tackling technique, no matter if it's defense or special teams. It concerns me.
Also, Stupar looks like a safety playing inside linebacker. He looks tiny compared to Michael Wilhoite, and it doesn't help that he's wearing number 45.
There was a long, lean pass-rusher who consistently disrupted the play off the edge in passing situations, although slightly struggled defending the run. Someone who might be a great asset on third-down, putting pressure on the quarterback.
Sound like anyone? Yeah...how about Aldon Smith as a rookie.
Lemonier has great snap-count anticipation, very fast get-off, and is a handful around the outside, yet he struggles a bit with containing the edge in the run game. That (and most-likely some learning curve issues in coverage) pretty much describes Aldon, who was used just in the manner which I suggested...and I hope Lemonier gets some opportunities to do the same.
Glenn Dorsey Looks Like a Good Signing
It looks like Ian Williams should win the starting job at NT right now, which could change, but defensive line depth is key as we all saw last year when Justin Smith was out with the triceps injury. The Glenn Dorsey addition looks like a great move in this department.
Dorsey was playing a lot of DE in base 3-4 and some DT in Nickel and he was rather disruptive as an interior penetrator. I saw him get into the backfield within a few seconds on numerous plays, often forcing the run to bounce outside to his perimeter players or moving the QB off his spot.
You might not have noticed it during the live feed, I know I didn't, because the announcers weren't pointing it out and Dorsey wasn't finishing any plays on his own, but he was problematic for the offensive line. Granted, these were 2nd/3rd stringers, but Dorsey was jumping out among his fellow DLs.
Perrish Cox Has Live Legs
Can you tell that Perrish Cox knows how crowded the CB position is getting? He showed "live legs" vs. Denver, flying around the field making plays on defense and special teams. He's moving well, so if his awareness, his play-diagnosis is there, he could push the starters as well as be a key player in Nickel and Dime situations.
I've been thinking (and saying) a lot lately that the 49ers could decide to play match-ups in the secondary rather than just start the same 2-3 guys every game. Corners who are adept at covering larger, physical receivers would face-off against those guys while those who aren't as physical but are perhaps more quick and shifty players might see themselves playing often vs. similar type receivers.
For this reason, Cox could see his playing time increase significantly if he continues to show he can make plays on defense. You'll recall he was used primarily in Dime last season as the fourth CB to enter the game, and generally did well. The thought at this point is that he may be better-grasping Vic Fangio's system and could improve his game in 2013. That would be a great thing.
Kassim Osgood Doing His Part to Make Team
Osgood was everywhere, much like Cox, on Thursday. He made plays on special teams, caught crucial passes, and was definitely fired-up. The battle for the final WR spots on the 53-man roster is likely to go right down to the wire, and it's anybody's guess who makes it. I know Ricardo Lockette is playing STs now and made a great play on the ball that Trindon Holliday should never have attempted to field...so things will be interesting for sure.
Vance McDonald Looked Good, Despite Drop
I know, everyone's concerned about the drops by McDonald, but not me. Chalk it up to first NFL game jitters. He definitely heard footsteps on the fingertip drop dragging across the middle, but he more than made up for it with the athletic basketball-esque catch later on.
I can envision red-zone throws, just throw it through the uprights. McDonald will go up and get it. Have faith in McDonald, and the Jugs machine.
Anthony Dixon Running Hard
It seems like everyone on the team knows how hard it's going to be to make the roster, Dixon included. He ran very well on Thursday. Despite me not being wowed when I first watched the game, the rewind showed him making decisive cuts, bouncing outside when the hole closed, and driving forward for yards. He had several nice runs called back due to holds, but at least they showed his vision in finding lanes through which to run.
He also had a nice special teams tackle after two other players whiffed. That sort of thing only helps his chances to make the squad, much like last year when nobody thought he could.
There were so many other things to take away from the game, like Ian Williams looking solid at NT, Michael Wilhoite showing good command of the ILB position, heck, even Tony Jerod-Eddie looked good against backups. But alas I can't write all day, and I think we've talked plenty about the 49ers first preseason game.
Until next time...