Pro Football Focus released their first round of grades for the preseason, following the close of Week 1. The San Francisco 49ers faced the Houston Texans, and there was some good and bad to come from the game. We will be taking a look at PFF grades throughout the preseason to add to the context of what we know. We cannot post their entire set of grades, but can take a look at notable aspects of the game. Click here to learn more about PFF grading.
Grades of the game
It’s no secret at this point that Mike Purcell graded out as the best player of the evening. He finished with a +6.2 grade, including a +5.0 grade against the run. He was a disruptive force in various ways against Houston’s starting offensive line. On the goal line stand alone he crashed down the line for a tackle, stayed strong at the point of attack, and penetrated the gap.
On this play, Texans right guard Brandon Brooks cannot wall off Purcell and Purcell takes advantage, shooting through the gap and getting right to the running back.
On the offensive side of the ball, Brandon Thomas (+2.2) had the second best grade, behind Andrew Tiller (+2.2). Run blocking was definitely Thomas’ specialty as he consistently pushed defensive lineman off the ball. He played with a nasty streak reminiscent of a good ol’ Jim Harbaugh/Greg Roman lineman. Based on this ridiculously small sample size of a game, I would put Joe Looney and Brandon Thomas as the leaders to play center and right guard respectively. Yes, I realize drawing conclusions from this small a sample is dangerous. But hey - it's the preseason!
Look at the tape
Shane Skov is getting some positive buzz after the game. He earned a +3.1 grade and played a game-high 66 snaps. Skov definitely got stronger as the game went on and in the pre-season it means that Skov got better as the competition’s skill got worse.
Skov was key to Alfred Blue’s two long runs early in the game, in all the wrong ways. On the run below, Skov reads his run key a little late, take a false step, then messes up a fundamental linebacker technique - the stack and shed.
Shove attacks pulling left guard Jeff Adams just beyond the hole, which isn’t perfect but isn’t a huge deal. The big problem comes when Skov makes contact with Johnson with his right shoulder, but has his left foot planted. A proper stack and shed has the ‘backer plant the foot on the same side he makes contact. This allows the defender to, at the very least, stand his ground and fill the hole. By planting his left foot he makes it easy to be turned, and that’s exactly what happens.
Overall, I would say that Skov played well. You want players to excel when they play inferior competition and he did just that. Always remember, though, that in the preseason the level of competition matters.
Surprise of the evening
I was really interested to see how rookie Arik Amstead performed in his first NFL action. Suffice it to say, after 49 snaps, I saw a mixed bag. Armstead looked tired, often putting his hands on his hips, and sometimes let the offensive lineman get into his chest during his pass rush. He then showed great punch on the backside of a run, using his arms as leverage, and crashed down the line for the tackle. This play early in the 4th quarter, was one of his best.
In a few instances Lawrence Okoye looked like the better prospect, especially in the passing game. Okoye played fewer than half as many snaps as Armstead. Okoye used his long arms better, and was able to use a bull rush to get pressure on the quarterback. Overall, PFF graded Okoye +1.2 overall, with a +1.1 pass rush grade. Armstead? -0.3 overall, with a +1.1 run grade.
It’s still very early. Armstead will continue to develop, improve his conditioning, and start to show more flashes as the pre-season goes on. Remember, too, that he missed the 49ers entire offseason program.
Items of note
- Marcus Martin played 8 snaps at center and 12 at right guard, earning a -2.0 grade on the evening. Joe Looney, on the other hand, earned a +0.8 grade playing center.
- Blaine Gabbert’s average depth of target was 3.3 yards, putting him firmly in Alex Smith territory.
- Jaquiski Tartt had a +2.0 grade on special teams. Even if he doesn’t start or play a big role immediately, he clearly looked comfortable on coverage units.