I was trying to think of the best way to describe the opener and all I can think of is a mix of good and bad. I honestly don't know whether it was more bad than good or vice versa because the bad tends to stick out a little more in the preseason. The first preseason game is likely going to be your ugliest performance. Even though the team has been practicing together for the past couple weeks, the offense is still pretty fresh and I'd imagine it has not been fully implemented.
It's difficult to make any hard conclusions at this point, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. As I've said before, the problem with such an in-depth QB competition is that a single player is not getting the majority of the snaps. One guy is not getting the consistent chemistry with the first team offense. However, J.T. O'Sullivan definitely showed some quality chemistry with Josh Morgan on the four receptions. Of the three QBs, O'Sullivan impressed me the most, even with some his mistakes. I don't think his interception was as bad as the announcers made it seem. Even though it was overthrown pretty strongly, it actually looked like DeShaun Foster cut the route short or gave up on it, depending on how you look at it.
The offensive line definitely had issues in the running game, but in the passing game it's a little harder to assess. They only gave up 1 sack (a second wasn't counted b/c of a 49ers penalty), but there was definitely pressure on the QBs. O'Sullivan's fumble came when he was forced to scramble and try and make something happen. Smith was forced to make some plays on the run, but when he had time in the pocket he connected on some very solid passes, particularly to Arnaz Battle. The same holds true for Shaun Hill. Whenever he (and the rest of the QBs) got good protection, good things usually happened. That's not exactly rocket science, but certainly something to keep in mind. In his comments the next day, Nolan acknowledged Staley and Snyder needed to step up their game on the left side. Hopefully we'll see some improvement next weekend against Green Bay.
My biggest issue in this game was in some of the offensive play-calling. On Alex Smith's first drive, fullback Zak Keasey was actually lined up as the deep running back on back to back plays. The plays resulted in 3rd and 7, an incomplete pass and then the punt returned by Johnnie Lee Higgins for a touchdown. I realize there is a need to establish the run. You certainly don't want your QB getting killed every time he drops back and you need the run to establish the play action. But Zak Keasey? Thomas Clayton rushed the ball 5 times and was thrown to 8 times (resulting in 5 receptions). It's still early, but I'd like to see him getting additional touches to really see what he can do and this was the perfect situation for that.
Keasey factored into several of my problems with the play-calling. Smith had a nice little drive going at the end of the second quarter and on 3rd and 3 at the Raiders 5, the 49ers ran Keasey from the deep spot right up the middle for one yard. In that situation why not run a little play-action? They had Josh Morgan split out wide and Jason Hill in the slot, both to the left side. Why not run Hill on a crossing pattern behind the linebackers. A quality play-action fake and there's a decent chance he's wide open.
It's entirely possible that if the 49ers do pass the ball in these situations the QB gets sacked, the passes are incomplete or their is a turnover. However, since this is the preseason and these games don't count, why not mix it up a little more? Is anybody else also confused by some of the play-calling or do you see some rhyme and/or reason for it?