What caught my eyes in a contest that wasn’t very eye-catching for the Niners against the Denver Broncos on MNF was expect the unexpected. Defensively, the Niners stayed true to what I’ve come to expect: flying around the field, rallying to the ball, play it aggressive up front and conservative in the secondary.
The offense still has weapons on and off the field, but the quarterback position is still nothing to brag about just yet. Yes, I know he hasn’t played live football in almost a year. The offense was quite uninspiring, despite the victory on the scoreboard. Watching the first quarter, I felt if the starting lineups had played a full game, things could have gotten ugly for the Niners. The offensive line has plenty of work to do before Week 1. The line gave up strip sacks, uncontested pressures, and holding penalties that all lead to drives ending. Thankfully, two backups were filling in. That still has to concern you knowing that it could look like this. The offense only attempted 20 passes, but they ran the ball effectively.
It’s possible the abbreviated Shanahan playbook is running low on basic ideas without showing too much, or the game plan was to run the ball against Vic Fangio’s defense.
Causes for concern
Quarterback play was limited in exposure after the start by Jimmy Garoppolo. His play alone was disappointing, even for a preseason game. I’m not big on overreactions, but this outing left many glaring causes for concern. He looked like a rookie first getting on the field in an NFL game. He was facing a lot of pressure in his face and at his heels and coming off another major injury. Understandably, he was timid in the pocket. When he got rid of the ball, it was usually touched by the defense, which is never what you want to see from your franchise quarterback. Jimmy must get comfortable with his knee and being hit. Timing with receivers also looked unrehearsed. These are issues to be worked out in live action. Practices, and inter-squad practices are low pressure situations with no risk involved, touching the QB is not allowed.
Saleh is 2/2
The defensive front seven looked solid again. Key absences allowed more playing time for a lot of guys that are fighting for a roster spot. I noticed there will have to be blending with some of these guys. The team defense will not be much better than last year if there were long term injuries in this department. No one really showed they can be every down guys and create chaos for offenses on a consistent basis. In spot duty, they flashed. In the preseason, that’s what you want to see.
The defensive secondary played motivated and inspired football. I think they have a chip on their shoulders as a unit. You’re not seeing the same conservative play in the secondary. They are keeping the ball in front but them—for the most part—and limiting the big plays. What stood out to me is the aggressiveness as far as tackling. That is the type of play that can take your defense to the next level, when everyone gets involved.