The San Francisco dropped their preseason opener to the Houston Texans by a final score of 23-10. The final score really holds no bearing on anything when it comes to the preseason. After all, it is about roster competition, and getting players comfortable. We see a lot of vanilla concepts, and Jim Tomsula himself said the team did no game-planning for the week.
The 49ers had some ups and downs in the opener. The defense got off to a slow start, giving up a 58-yard touchdown to Cecil Shorts. However, a goal line stand seemed to energize the unit. They slowed late when Tom Savage came on, but there are some good things to build on.
We'll be back with plenty more about the 49ers Week 1 performance. In the meantime, I wanted to pull out a few things we learned following that first game.
1. Jarryd Hayne can play some football!
We talked about it already, but Hayne's performance against the Texans is worth another mention. He showed good vision on his returns, while also showing he can break tackles. He had the big 53-yard run, and showed some physicality on some shorter runs. I was not concerned about Hayne's "contact courage" given his time in Rugby League, but it was something we had to see once the pads went on. And we did.
2. Second string offensive line
We've seen the same group over and over again starting along the 49ers offensive line. It has been Joe Staley, Alex Boone, Joe Looney, Marcus Martin and Erik Pears. We got a look at them to start the game, but we also got to look at the 49ers second string offensive line. That group was as follows:
LT Patrick Miller
LG Andrew Tiller
C Marcus Martin
RG Brandon Thomas
RT Trent Brown
3. Shayne Skov is going to get a lot of opportunities this month
NaVorro Bowman did not play, which left the 49ers with only four linebackers. We'll have the snap count on Sunday, but Skov was busy. He started next to Nick Moody, and did some solid work. He had some downs to go with his ups, but his work as part of that nice goal line stand was solid. My guess is Bowman gets into some action next week, but until Philip Wheeler gets over his muscle strain, Skov is looking like the first inside linebacker off the bench.
Moody got the start next to Skov. He had some problems on the Texans early touchdown drive. He could not keep up with Garrett Graham on a short crossing pattern. On Shorts's long touchdown, he slipped behind Moody to get open in the middle of the field. I don't know if Moody was in the wrong zone, or if the secondary should have been on that. Whatever the case, he rebounded in a big way on the 49ers goal line stop a series later. On that drive, the Texans had six plays of goal to go at the 49ers 1-yard line. They were stopped all six times, and Nick Moody had two big tackles in that stretch.
4. 49ers did not have play clock issues
I need to go back and double-check, but I never noticed issues with the play-clock. Normally when a team is getting down close to delay of game, the clock shows up on the screen. I don't recall seeing that once. It is just one game, but hopefully this means the "Tempo! Tempo! Tempo!" work is paying off.
5. Tight ends show off early
Colin Kaepernick had a fairly inauspicious debut, but when Blaine Gabbert came on for the second drive, he looked at the tight ends quite a bit. On his touchdown drive, Gabbert connected with Garrett Celek for a 19-yard catch-and-run, Vance McDonald for 8-yards, and then after Jarryd Hayne's 53-yard run, Gabbert connected with Celek for a ten-yard touchdown.
Celek ended the day with two receptions for 29 yards, Blake Bell had two for 15 yards, Vance McDonald had one for eight yards, Derek Carrier had one for five yards, and Asante Cleveland had two for seven yards. Washington had a scout on hand for the game, and while I don't think it was specific to their new tight end need, the 49ers have some tight ends to trade.
6. Arik Armstead has some work to do
There was nothing particularly great about his debut against the Houston Texans reserves. He did not show much in the way of strength, and generally just did not seem to have a good sense of what he was doing. It's the preseason, and he comes in as a raw prospect. Football games are a lot different than practice, and this serves as a significant learning experience for Armstead. Even if he shows improvement, he is likely ticketed for a decent amount of time as an inactive this season.
This is far from everything that we learned from the game, so feel free to drop in your own thoughts. We'll have plenty more, including a look at some winners and losers, and breaking down the numerous position units.