It was a tale of two halves for the 49ers when it came to pass protection. I asked Kyle Shanahan how he felt the offense fared, specifically his running backs. He did not seem too pleased:
“And yeah, I was disappointed in the pass protections. They’re bringing it to the back and the man coverage with the hug ups coming. And we got to do much better going forward than we did in that game because we struggled in that area.”
When he says, “hug ups,” that means when the running back stays in and blocks, the linebackers “hug” the line of scrimmage, and either get in the throwing lane or insert as an extra rusher.
One play comes to mind where Ty Davis-Price cut the linebacker and did a fantastic job of getting him on the ground. Unfortunately, TDP allowed a pressure on another rep, and received a true pass blocking grade of 8.4 from PFF, which is well below-average.
As a unit, the 49ers offense surrendered 12 pressures and four sacks. Shanahan said Trey Lance should have gotten rid of the ball on two of those, but on the other two he didn’t have much of a chance.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the offensive line. Five players, Jaylon Moore, Leroy Watson, Nick Zaeklj, Corey Luciano, and TDP, all graded below average. But nine other linemen combined to allow two total pressures.
We’ll see if it was enough to earn more reps or move up from the third-team to the second-string. Players like Keith Ismael played 29 passing snaps at center, and didn’t allow any pressure. While undrafted free agent Ilm Manning had 17 snaps in pass pro and had a clean sheet.
Nowhere to run
Shanahan wasn’t too pleased with the Niners inability to run the ball against the Raiders, either. So, we may have to hold off on the praise for the line temporarily. The longest carry of the game came from a wide receiver, Ronnie Bell, on a jet sweep. If you take that carry out, the 49ers had 21 carries for an average of 2.5 yards per carry. That includes failing to convert multiple third and fourth down situations where the team only needed a yard.
Davis-Price had 29 yards, with 22 of those coming after contact. He also forced two missed tackles and showed good vision in the process of getting up the field.
A contrast in pressure
The Raiders defensive line lived in the Niners backfield. But only Clelin Ferrell and Kerry Hyder Jr. had pressure during the game. Two. Total. That’s it.
Of course, there weren’t any starters on the field, but the backups play quite a bit as that’s how you keep your first team fresh throughout the season. Re-watching Javon Kinlaw, he pushes the pocket against the run, but offers little as a pass rusher.
Ferrell had one sack in five attempts, which is a tremendous ratio. But players like Taco Charlton or Austin Bryant didn’t come close to the quarterback. We’ll see if that changes in Week 2 against Denver.
Out on Oliver?
It’s a prisoner of the moment statement to say Isaiah Oliver lost his job after a half of preseason football. But Shanahan made it clear that the nickel position has yet to be decided:
“Just because he isn’t a guaranteed starter. He has been doing that spot a lot, but there’s a lot of competition there. We sat out our outside corners, but we didn’t want to sit out any nickels and needed some guys to play because there’s a lot of things we’re still deciding.
Kind of like everybody. Some good, some bad. There were a couple things where he stood out that weren’t always his fault and I think he needs a little bit more help on the goal line. The touchdown they gave up, our corner playing with vision and understanding he’s got to come off on that for our quarters-type coverage there. But it was a good first game for him, and hopefully, he’ll keep getting better for us.”
Oliver got caught peeking in the backfield near the goal-line on the touchdown, so he never really had a chance to make a play on the pass. He ended up allowing all four of his targets to be caught, including 23 yards after the catch. Furthermore, he only had one tackle and struggled to get off blocks.
It’s one game, but Oliver opened the door for players like Ambry Thomas or Samuel Womack to get a look inside. We also could see three safeties if the team isn’t satisfied with Oliver. But it’s early, and they invested in Oliver for a reason. Let’s see how he bounces back next week.
Stop right there
Probably the most promising part about the defense was how many players made plays at or near the line of scrimmage. The defense totaled 25 “stops,” which constitutes as a loss for the offense. Seven different players had at least two:
Ferrell, Graham, and Womack all stood out in a positive way.
Don’t worry, we’ll talk about the quarterback(s). That’s coming soon.