The 49ers wrapped up a 17-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings and had plenty of good and bad performances. It is hard to draw definitive conclusions from the game, but that doesn't mean players didn't gain or lose ground in the game. Furthermore, a player did not necessarily have to perform poorly to lose ground. I think most of you know who I'm talking about, but we'll get down to it a little further below.
It is entirely possible guys in the winners and losers columns could flip spots next week. But for now, they are riding some momentum. I'd imagine I won't have every single winner and loser, so chime in with your thoughts.
One guy I didn't put in either category was A.J. Jenkins. The 49ers rookie receiver had some highlight reel catches, while also making some rookie mistakes. Jenkins finished with two catches for 20 yards, but did get a lot of time on the field. I'd say you could call him both a winner and a loser. That's obviously a cop-out on my part, but I just can't figure out what to think of his performance. Thoughts?
Colin Kaepernick, QB: He has plenty of work to do with his passing skills, but he was able to show off is athleticism. He had the big run, but we also saw the coaching staff put him in a better position to use his athletic abilities. More roll-outs and the like. In showing that athleticism, he has given us a sign of one particular skill that can get him on the field at times this season. Much more on that coming.
Brandon Jacobs, RB: That was one big dude. He reportedly lost 15 pounds in the offseason, but still looks monstrous. He ran the ball four times, and the 49ers picked up a first down all four times. He showed an ability to hit the hole hard (insert your that's what she said joke here) and use his size to his advantage. At the same time, he bounced outside for a big 23-yard run, and really just put together a total effort.
Perrish Cox, CB: Coach Harbaugh sang his praises after the game, and for good reason. After a solid training camp, Cox made his presence felt with an interception, a pass deflection and some solid special teams work.
Eric Bakhtiari, OLB: When you're trying to earn the fourth outside linebacker position, a two sack effort will help. Although Bakhtiari was facing the back end of the roster, a notable performance is always welcome. It will be interesting to see if he gets bumped a little further up in the rotation next week against the Houston Texans.
Chris Owusu, WR: He led the team with three receptions and 35 yards, but it was his moves when he got the ball in his hands that really impressed me. I don't think there's enough roster space for him to make it as a wide receiver, but I think the 49ers will do everything in their power to get him on their practice squad.
Kyle Williams, PR: On an evening where the wind was kicking up as bad as ever, Williams cleanly fielded two punts, grabbing a 22-yard return on one of them. The attempt to leap the defender might not have been the best idea, but the kid seems fearless.
Scott Tolzien, QB: He didn't light up the scoreboard, but he looked sharp in his first playing time with the 49ers ever. The 49ers claimed him off waivers after the preseason finale last year, which means this was his first live game action with the 49ers. He did have the interception, but he took a shot to the arm one that one. This was again backups, so take it with a grain of salt, but he did some solid work yesterday.
Rock Cartwright, RB: Eight rushes for 44 yards? Where did that come from?
Anthony Dixon, RB: While Dixon did lead the running backs in rushing yards, and even had some solid runs, I think he lost some ground in part because of Brandon Jacobs big day, and in part because of Rock Cartwright getting so many touches. My initial thought is the team might want to see if Cartwright can still carry the rock (pun intended) enough so that if they unload Dixon, they still have an emergency, emergency back. Given how well Brandon Jacobs performed, it seems to me that Anthony Dixon is basically battling Rock Cartwright for a roster spot right now. And right now, it's not looking good for Boobie.
Josh Johnson, QB: I was a bit surprised by the decision to slot him into the fourth quarter behind Scott Tolzien. Tre9er will have more on Tolzien's day, but any thoughts on whether this means anything in the grand scheme of things? Could Coach Harbaugh be leaning towards Tolzien as the number three QB? Or is it just one preseason game and we need to wait and see what kind of rotation is in play next week?
49ers Starting Defense: They were in ultimate bend but don't break mode in holding the Vikings out of the end zone, but it seemed at times to be a lackadaisical effort. I figure it won't mean a whole lot of much by the time the season rolls around, and we'll just laugh this off, but it was still a disconcerting performance.
Nathan Palmer, WR: This one might be a bit of an overreaction. The rookie receiver struggled a bit with a tough drop on a great throw from Tolzien. He did bounce back with a few solid catches, but coming off a strong first couple weeks of camp, he is riding a slim line if he wants to shock some folks and claim a 53-man roster spot.