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The Quick Slant: Notes & Observations from 49ers vs. Chargers

Think fast! My brief notes and observations from Preseason Week 4 against the San Diego Chargers.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

The San Francisco 49ers looked good on both sides of the ball in their final game of the preseason.  The Niners soundly defeated the San Diego Chargers by a score of 41-6.  In a game where we saw just one offensive drive by the starters, we were presented with a closer look at some of the impressive rookies.

  • Michael Crabtree was the Niners' go-to target on third downs last season.  On the very first offensive drive for Colin Kaepernick and the first team (their only drive of the night), Kap went to tight end Vernon Davis on third down.  Kap and Davis had a difficult time establishing a rhythm last season, but they look to be in-step so far.   In Crabtree's absence, I completely expect Davis to fill the role of that reliable third-down target.
  • Rookie receiver Quinton Patton was one of the bright spots last week against the Minnesota Vikings, and he looks to continue his hot streak tonight on a receiver screen pass.  The play was designed for Patton go inside, but when he saw nothing, he exhibited some exceptional agility to cut back outside, and he was off to the races for a 43-yard touchdown score.  Patton is taking advantage of every opportunity, and it's paying off.  *cough* A.J.! *cough*
  • Rookie pass-rusher Corey Lemonier, selected in the fourth round this year, continues to dazzle.  Lemonier got an enormous jump on right tackle Mike Harris to blow up Charlie Whitehurst for the sack.  Harris didn't stand a chance.
  • Poor Colt McCoy's been doing more running this preseason than Kaepernick did all of last season, it seems.  McCoy has had the misfortune of playing behind a miserably mediocre group of second and third-string offensive linemen all preseason.  He rarely ever had enough time to settle into the pocket, and more often than not, it seemed like he prematurely tucked the ball to make a run.
  • Both of the Chargers' offensive tackles got pinched on a second-down play with about 9 minutes left in the second quarter.  Cam Johnson and Lemonier both applied great pressure and absolutely collapsed both ends of the pocket leaving Whitehurst with nowhere to go.  Johnson was the one who got to him.
  • More on Killer Cam: right before halftime, he got his second sack of the night working against veteran left tackle Max Starks who struggled to contain him.  Then at the end of the third quarter, Johnson made a fantastic play to block the punt by Mike Scifres and also recover it in the endzone for a score.
  • Craig Dahl gets a pretty bad wrap around these parts, and I'm not sure I completely understand why.  On Thursday night, he made solid wrap-up tackles all game.  Late in the third quarter, Dahl reacted quickly to a tipped ball off the fingertips of linebacker Nate Stupar.  Dahl made the split-second interception of a Brad Sorensen throw - Sorensen's first all preseason.
  • We know the running back pecking order is Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, and LaMichael James - in that order.  Where does that leave Anthony Dixon and Jewel Hampton?  I think Dixon gets the nod as the fourth running back for his value on special teams and the fact that he's a bit of a veteran as he enters his fourth season with the team...

  • With that said, I feel like Hampton is a much more natural runner.  I always see a few hiccups of hesitation from Dixon whereas Hampton immediately locates the hole and hits it.  It should also be noted that Hampton hasn't had many opportunities to play with the starters - certainly not as much as Dixon has - and yet, he's still played very well running behind a line of second and third-stringers.
  • Two seasons ago, it was a rookie quarterback out of Wisconsin that torched the Niners defense in the preseason.  That was Scott Tolzien who signed with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted rookie free agent.  Harbaugh and company were so impressed with Tolzien that they put in a claim and signed him off waivers shortly after.  This year, Tolzien struggled all preseason.  Colt McCoy was named backup, and with the rise of seventh-round rookie B.J. Daniels, Tolzien was the odd man out.  He was waived on August 26.
  • Sorenson, who had not thrown an interception before Thursday night, was clearly flustered by the first one that went to Craig Dahl.  Sorenson throws his second interception of the night - this time, it's cornerback Tramaine Brock.
  • Lavelle Hawkins made the play of the night.  A B.J. Daniels pass bounces right off of his airs and into the air.  Hawkins continues running and follows the airborne ball about five yards down the field, secures the catch, takes a huge shot from safety Jahleel Addae but bounces off of him, cuts left down the sideline and into the endzone.  Hawkins learned his lesson of being overzealous last week.  All he can do is raise his arms in a plea of innocence as his teammates congratulate him.

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