Each week, Jeff Deeney at Pro Football Focus sends along a grade book of the 49ers game. The grade book includes notable grades, and also various stats PFF tracks. I continue to take PFF grades with a certain grain of salt, but I also think it provides one more piece of information when we are considering player and team performance.
No one stat or grade or measurement is the be-all, end-all when analyzing performance. However, each stat can provide a little something extra to figuring out the bigger picture. If you get a minute, I highly recommend reading this 2-part series (Part 1, Part 2) at our Eagles blog, taking a look at their system. Speaking of PFF, Cris Collinsworth recently invested in them. Give this section of MMQB a read to learn more about that.
Blaine Gabbert was 7 of 11 for 66 yards and a touchdown, grading out at +1.6 for the day. Colin Kaepernick was 6 of 12, and his six incompletions included 2 batted down, 1 dropped, and 2 that came as he was hit while throwing the ball. The Gabbert grade is not a surprise considering his scoring drive. His performance was very solid, and is something to build on. Jim Harbaugh said Colin Kaepernick will play in the preseason finale, but I'd imagine Gabbert gets a sizable chunk of snaps.
Vance McDonald finished with three catches on four targets, for 29 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came while he was lined up at fullback in an offset I formation. According to PFF, McDonald lined up at fullback on 6.7 percent of his snaps last season. There was talk last year of McDonald coming in to replace Delanie Walker. In reality, the 49ers are using him and Bruce Miller in a variety of ways, that has them both handling things Walker did last season.
Bruce Ellington had two receptions for 27 yards. He has been targeted 13 times this season, and six have come on slant routes.
It is no surprise that Aaron Lynch earned a huge positive grade (+5.3 overall, +3.8 for pass rush). He had a sack, two hurries, and three batted passes. He's shown so much in limited time, and I'd imagine he'll see plenty of work on Thursday. We have no idea when the Aldon Smith suspension will be handed down, but Lynch has likely earned some regular season playing time when Aldon is out. When the 49ers go to nickel during that time, it would not surprise me if the team occasionally dropped in Aaron Lynch opposite Lemonier or Brooks. Speaking of Lemonier, he had three pressures (one hit, two hurries) on 11 pass rush attempts.
Jimmie Ward and Darryl morris graded out positively. They each had an interception late in the game. Ward allowed one catch for 10 yards, while Morris allowed one catch for six yards. It will be interesting to see what the 49ers do with Perrish Cox. I mention him because he has veteran experience, but Ward and Morris would seem to have more upside. Ward seemingly has claimed the nickel job, and could end up as a primary backup at safety. Does Cox or Morris get dime work, and if Ward ever has to handle safety work, does Cox or Morris get nickel work? Cox is a solid enough cornerback, but his roster spot is under threat at the moment.
Random interesting stat: According to Jeff, the 49ers have used 4-WR personnel 13 times this preseason (6.6 percent). Jeff's grade book referenced 4-WR sets, so I asked if he meant 4 normal wide receivers, or 4 players lined up as wide receivers. I mention the latter because Carlos Hyde, LaMichael James, and Will Tukuafu have all lined up out wide at one point or another. And of course, so do Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald. That 13 number apparently references strictly four traditional wide receivers.