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Breaking down Pro Football Focus grades for 49ers-Cowboys

Every week, Pro Football Focus reviews games and posts their grades for every player on the field. We take a look at the notable grades and notes. This week it’s the 49ers versus the Cowboys.

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Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Football Focus released their second round of grades for the preseason, following the close of Week 2. The San Francisco 49ers faced the Dallas Cowboys, 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

For the second game of the preseason, the defense ended up with more highly rated players than the offense. Dontae Johnson ended up as the highest rated player, with a +4.3 grade. This was entirely due to his pass coverage rating (+4.2). He had 2 passes defensed, including the interception in the fourth quarter, and a couple tackles.

His defensed passes were against similar routes - the wide receiver ran about a 10-yard hitch and Johnson tucked right in the hip of the receiver, putting himself in a position to make a play. Johnson’s recognition skills were especially evident on his first tackle.

Note how he sinks to his spot, notices the linemen leak out, breaks towards the running back as soon as the ball is in the air, avoids the blocker, breaks down and wraps up the legs. Put a starting-caliber player against second and third string players and they should dominate. That’s exactly what Dontae Johnson did against Dallas.

On offense, Quinton Patton graded out a forgettable -1.9 on offense. While he did have an impressive punt block, he simply tried to do too much on one reception, turning a 2 or 3-yard gain into a 12-yard loss.

Developing Talent

Arik Armstead played much better than his first game, earning a +3.1 rating. He continued to be a run stopping force, but this game he added more quarterback pressures. On 26 pass snaps, Armstead had three hurries and a batted pass. This is the kind of performance one would expect from a high draft pick, considering his competition.

Jaquiski Tartt (+1.6) simply keeps jumping off the screen whenever I watch the games. He exhibits versatility, playing close to the line of scrimmage in that hybrid safety-linebacker role my co-host and I have been talking about on the Better Rivals podcast. On this play, he's responsible for an underneath zone, just as a linebacker would.

Then, he plays more of the traditional free safety role and breaks on a pass intended for AJ Jenkins. While the pass is complete, Tartt shows he can cover the deep half of the field and break on a pass.

Tartt is simply all over the field. I’m incredibly excited about his prospects on the Mangini-led 49ers defense.

Surprise of the evening

Trenton Brown was the highest-rated 49ers lineman (+1.8) for the game, after a ho-hum first game. Of course, everyone will remember the play where he fell down, but he was clearly tripped by Mike Davis.

What they won't remember is Brown taking Greg Hardy right out of the screen and neutralizing one of the Cowboys prized pass rushers.

Brown definitely bounced back and showed the skills that had beat writers buzzing in early camp practices. With performances like tonight, especially his improved run blocking, Brown is showing potential along the offensive line.

Items of note

  • Erik Pears is not making 49ers feel good about the right tackle spot for the second year in a row. He was the lowest rated lineman with a -1.4 grade, allowing two hurries in six pass snaps.
  • Blaine Gabbert continued his short-passing extravaganza, with a 3.1 average depth of target.
  • Jarryd Hayne has 108 punt return yards on 5 returns, good for 21.6 yards per return. During the entire 2014 regular season the 49ers amassed 227 punt return yards on 35 returns, for an average of 6.49 yards per return.
  • Desmond Bishop had a sack, a quarterback hit, and a team-high three stops. He earned a +2.2 grade overall, but his hand injury likely means this performance was for naught.
  • Over their first four offensive series (all punts), the Dallas Cowboys managed to go backwards (-4 total yards).