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4 Winners and 5 losers from the 49ers preseason loss: L is for Latu and Lance

Andrew is drinking the D’Shawn Jamison and Ambry Thomas Kool-Aid

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers dropped their preseason opener in Las Vegas 34-7 to the Raiders in a game that surely will be remembered when the 49ers begin their annual late October win streak.

The attention was on starting quarterback Trey Lance, who was given the entire first half and led the way to the 49ers’ lone scoring drive. Sam Darnold took over in the third quarter before handing it over to Brandon Allen in the fourth.

It’s mid-August, so it’s too early to be concerned. Here are the five losers and four winners from Sunday’s loss:

Loser: TE Cameron Latu

It already felt like the rookie tight end had some heat because of the handful of drops throughout training camp. After his performance on Sunday, that heat might have become nuclear.

Latu’s first mistake came when he was called for a holding on the kickoff that forced the 49ers’ opening drive of the second half to start inside its own 10-yard-line. The drive turned out to be one of the better drives of the day, ending on a failed fourth-down attempt in Raider territory. Special teams are a crucial point on this 49ers team, and penalties on special teams only hurt the offense.

On the 49ers’ next drive, Sam Darnold found Latu over the middle - where Latu made a nice catch on a throw that was behind him - but as the rookie was trying to get extra yardage, Curtis Bolden knocked the ball free and the Raiders were able to recover. Four plays later, Las Vegas scored to take a three-score lead and that was that.

The drops in camp are one thing, but special teams penalties and turnovers aren’t going to make Kyle Shanahan happy. And with Troy Fumagalli having a solid game, the second tight end spot should be considered wide-open.

Winner: KR D’Shawn Jamison

Jamison couldn’t catch a break. His first return only went for 12 yards, but the Latu penalty negated the return. He followed up with a 38-yard return to set the 49er up with good field position, but again, Taylor Hawkins and Brayden Willis were called for holding, negating the big return.

What stood out most on the returns was how quickly Jamison picked a spot and went. Ronnie Bell took the returns in the first half and failed to reach the 20-yard-line twice on three returns, opting to try and reverse field his two poor returns but being stopped by tacklers. Jamison wasted no time and used his swift feet - the same quick feet he used to make an excellent tackle in coverage in the flat - to identify and try to get to the space.

Ray-Ray McCloud’s injury gave him an opportunity, and Jamison was the first to take it.

Loser: QB Trey Lance

Lance looked timid. There’s no other way to look at it. Some of that blame could be put on his offensive line - we’ll talk about them later - but there were plays where Lance had a clean pocket and looked unsure of himself.

Looking at the stats, Lance had a good day completing 10-of-15 passes for 112 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions, finishing with a 111.0 passer rating. But that doesn’t tell the whole story, as his lone touchdown was a throw that was delivered late to Chris Conley that should have been intercepted by Duke Shelley but fell harmlessly into the arms of Ross Dwelley for the touchdown. A couple of drives later, Lance failed to see Amari Burney underneath and threw a second near-interception that was dropped.

Lance did have some good moments, like a third-down completion to Chris Conley for 17 yards and another to Conley with a clean pocket for a gain of 24. There was more bad than good from Lance on Sunday, but this performance is not what will decide the backup quarterback spot. The third-year quarterback will get another chance next week to show an improvement, but another performance like Sunday should be cause for concern.

Winner: WR Ronnie Bell

Kick return issues aside; Bell made a strong case on Sunday to be WR4 on the depth chart. He led the team with six targets and 58 yards while finishing tied with Chris Conley with a team-high three receptions, his 37-yard reception on a Sam Darnold well-placed ball was the 49ers’ longest play from scrimmage, and his 15-yard run was the 49ers’ longest of the day.

He did have one blemish, a ball that was slightly high but very much catchable from Brandon Allen was dropped and intercepted, but other than that, Bell passed the eye test. Bell had plenty of space around him all game and wasn’t having issues getting open. Bell definitely passed the eye test in his professional debut.

Loser: the offensive line

If Sunday was any indication, the 49ers starting offensive line will have tremendous pressure this season to stay healthy.

Within the 49ers’ first three offensive plays, Lance had been sacked twice, once on the opening play of the game when Nick Zakelj was pushed straight back by John Jenkins and the second on a third down, again allowed by Zakelj. Jason Poe then allowed a free runner at Lance on a missed assignment, forcing the quarterback to scramble for only a gain of two. Zakelj was then called for a holding penalty but still allowed a pressure that forced Lance to move but was then caught from behind by Adam Butler for a third down sack.

Since the line was entirely of second-team linemen, there is no concern, at least for the starting offensive line, but Sunday’s depth play raised more questions than answered.

Winner: LB Jalen Graham

A solid performance from the rookie linebacker, finishing tied for the team lead in tackles with second - tied with Marcelino McCrary-Ball, who also played well. But it seemed that wherever the ball was, No. 50 was around the ball, making some play, a trait familiar with numbers 54 and 57 on the defense.

Graham did have one Dre Greenlaw-like unnecessary roughness penalty called against him but an otherwise solid game from the linebacker.

Loser: CB Isaiah Oliver

There may be some cause for concern at nickel cornerback as Oliver, believed to be the first option for the nickel, struggled on Sunday. The first-year 49er was beaten on several occasions, including a touchdown where he gave Keelan Cole plentiful space in the flat to give the Raiders a seven-point lead heading into the half.

Oliver and Clelin Ferrell were the only ones presumed to start playing on the defense on Sunday, and Oliver struggled.

Loser: K Jake Moody

Moody missed his first from 40 yards out wide left and then followed by missing a 58-yard attempt wide left. Neither was necessarily close. Sunday was not the debut the kicker from Michigan wanted to put together, especially as a third-round kicker.

Winner: CB Ambry Thomas

Thomas was the biggest standout on the defense. He was tight in coverage all game, having a near pass break up in tight coverage on a third down and later followed up with his lone pass break up of the game on a short pass over the middle intended for Kristian Wilkerson. However, Thomas’ standout play of the game came on a fourth-and-1 in 49ers territory when Kerry Hyder and the cornerback stopped Zamir White for a loss of a yard and a turnover on downs.