The Jim Harbaugh/Brad Seely era has been incredibly up and down when it comes to special teams. Aside from the general consistency of Andy Lee, the coverage, return and field goal units went from the highs of a dominant 2011, to the lows of last season. There can be a ton of variance when it comes to special teamers, and have seen it over the last two seasons.
The 49ers invested a lot of time this offseason in acquiring potential special teams players, with guys like Dan Skuta, Raymond Ventrone, Kassim Osgood and Nick Moody, among others. While they did not invest a ton of money in these players, it became abundantly clear that they were looking to shore up the special teams.
Through two games, it's been a mixed bag. Special teams opened with a generally strong performance against the Broncos. Phil Dawson missed a 44-yard field goal, and Trindon Holliday ran a kick back 44 yards, but otherwise, it wasn't so bad.
However, the team's second preseason performance saw more bad than good. Phil Dawson deserves credit for a strong performance, hitting three field goals, two of which were from 55 yards. Perrish Cox and LaMichael James each had a 30-yard kick return, which is also a positive. Unfortunately, that was about it for the positives.
The 49ers kick coverage unit gave up a 104-yard kickoff return to Quinton Demps. Later in the game, Devon Wylie broke off a 52-yard punt return, a play after the 49ers had a penalty for someone not getting back in bounds on the initial punt.
It was also a rare poor day for Andy Lee, who had that big return on his punt, as well as a 21-yard shanked punt, and a 40-yard gross on one. Thankfully we know Lee generally brings his A-game, so we can get over that one.
There was also the blocked extra point, which did not come back to bite the 49ers.
It was a generally poor performance by the coverage units, but hopefully they are getting these ugly performances out of the way early. Given that the unit did fairly well against the Broncos, I am just going to hope that this is an anomaly, and we'll see solid coverage when the season gets here. The 49ers can overcome poor special teams, but it makes life that much more difficult for the offense and defense.