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49ers vs. Vikings preseason 2013: Notes and Observations

Things that stood-out to me while re-watching the preseason match-up between the 49ers and Vikings.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Last night I got a chance to go back and watch most of the 49ers-Vikings game for a second time. I was particularly looking at Cam Johnson, because there has been some talk in my Twitter timeline lately about his "emergence" making Parys Haralson easier to trade...but I'll get to that later.

I ended up watching the entire first half, unsure of when Johnson entered the game, and then most of the second half. As I'm sure you guys are the same way, I noticed things here and there, so I'll just pass them along. These are just going to be little observations, no in-depth film breakdown. Just didn't have the time, but that's in the works. Here we go!

Nnamdi Asomugah came on the field in the defense's first nickel package, so he essentially "started" as the third CB. It's semantics, but he was the third CB, who will always play a ton, whereas the fourth corner may hardly see the field vs. some teams.

Asomugah played left CB for what looked like every snap that he was on the field. He had a good jam when in press, something that shouldn't surprise us. Fangio said Nnamdi has played left for a few weeks or so now and that the "transition" has been seamless...something Nnamdi said would be the case, per Vic.

I didn't necessarily like Aldon Smith spiking the ball the way he did after the fumble recovery. Call me a curmudgeon, I guess, but first of all it was Ahmad Brooks who made the play. Even I could have recovered that fumble. I know he's a star, but it just didn't seem right, and he could have gone and given Ahmad a head-butt or high-five for the play. Brooks exited the field without a smile. [flame suit]

On the first Colin Kaepernick pass that was tipped, there was a canyon of a lane to his right-center. I have to think were it a regular season game, he would have taken off. He could have walked for 7 yards if he wanted to. He seemed content to play it safe in the preseason, which I guess we should be thankful that he has the kind of maturity and wits about him to "know when to fold 'em".

Nick Moody continues to impress on special teams. Though it was Craig Dahl who made the tackle on the kickoff that followed the field goal, Moody made his way down the field quickly, kept out of the trash, and shadowed the returner. He was in on the tackle, though I doubt he'd get an assist as Dahl did 99% of the work bringing the guy down. Still nice to see his skills in seeking out the returner and staying clean.

An interesting formation (maybe only to me) during the second series had Vernon Davis at the X (near side) as the WR (because there was no TE to that side) and then Anquan Boldin and Quinton Patton in the slot on the opposite side with Marlon Moore flanking them out wide.

Shortly after the false start penalty, Patton was on the outside with the large CB Chris Cook in press coverage. Patton gave a nice punch and got Cook to turn his hips to the outside, then broke inside on a route. That's nice to see from a young receiver, you know, beating press coverage...

The ball Kap threw in the dirt on the second drive was a designed screen pass to Kendall Hunter, who got caught up in the wash and never made it out into the flat. That play has no other receivers and linemen are down-field, so there is essentially nothing for the QB to do but ground the ball in that situation. In a real game I guess Kap could have tried to run for some yards, maybe.

I think it was Kevin Lynch who mentioned that Kendall Hunter does give it his all in pass-protection, even if it means sacrificing his body. He got blown up by a LB coming on a blitz, but he slowed him down enough to allow Kap to complete a pass. He needs to get lower on those plays. Frank Gore is a master of leverage in pass protection.

Not only does Marlon Moore wear Ted Ginn, Jr's old number, but he looks similar to the former 49er when in uniform. He has thin legs, is around 6' tall, and has some speed to his game. The good news? He can catch the football.

Patton was playing on a coverage unit in special teams, as did Eric Reid, who's done it quite frequently during the preseason. Some teams wouldn't play their high-to-mid draft picks on special teams. Jim Harbaugh wants the best players at every position, though, including special teams, so he'll try you out all over the field.

Now on to the Cam Johnson notes. I believe he didn't enter the game until the 3rd quarter, at least I didn't notice him on defense prior to that. From what I saw, he played a few series, but that was it. Here are a few plays I looked at:

Running play to the defense's left-center. Johnson is the ROLB. He's pushed, then sort of watches the play since it's not to his area.

Next play he get's his shoulder low and dips around the edge. Ponder has to scramble. It was probably a 6/10 in terms of pass-rush, so not bad.

Next play he's completely stoned by the LT. Tries the outside, then counters in, ends up dancing around just a few yards from where he started while the LT kinda mirrors him and watches.

Drops in coverage on the next play vs. the slot receiver (might have been a TE flexed-out). Ball is completed over the middle where two other defenders are. Johnson stops short of the fray and watches them make the tackle.

Next play he's punched good in the chest by the LT and then watches a run go up the middle. He seems to only play hard if he's pass rushing or the ball is to his side. I know he has contain, but the ball isn't bouncing outside once the runner goes into the trash. Get involved.

The next play is a pass and Johnson again dips his shoulder and get's around the edge. I'm starting to think that's his strength. He's like a mediocre pass-rusher who could give guys a breather or play some third-downs if there's an injury, but don't expect a ton of sacks, probably some pressures, though.

The next passing down he's pushed outside on the pass rush. Have to be aware of how far from the QB you are because the LT will let you go outside and deep into the pocket so long as it's far enough from the QB. Work the counter when that happens as the LT may be overextending trying to walk you out of the play.

As of the early 4th quarter I don't see Johnson on the field on defense any more. My overall impression is that I wouldn't take Brooks, Smith, or even Corey Lemonier off the field in favor of Johnson as he's not as effective as a pass rusher, but that does appear to be his strength at this time. If one of the aforementioned guys got hurt, though, Johnson would be next in the rotation, possibly as a third-down breather type of guy.

That's pretty much it. There are some other observations, but they are minor and this post is long as it stands. Tune in to my Twitter feed for constant stuff like this as I try to re-watch every game and tweet out notes and observations.

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