With training camp and the third of four preseason games ended, the 49ers now have a taste of what a game week under Head Coach Kyle Shanahan feels like. Leading up to the game Niners Live brought you a Pre-Game look at the game and backed that up with a complete Post-Game Summary. Now we take a deeper look at the quarterbacks, Running Backs and the Offensive Line and their performance in this dress rehearsal for the 2017 San Francisco 49ers season.
As we know, Brian Hoyer was signed to be the man to lead the charge for the 2017 campaign. And he showed coaches and fans why General Manager John Lynch feels good about that decision. During his five drives, Hoyer was calm and steady, again getting time to look from the pocket and take advantage. He threw for 176 yards on 12 of 17 passing and two touchdowns. One to Goodwin and one on a beautifully designed play to Carlos Hyde. Hoyer continued the dominance he has shown throughout his career on play-action passes, where coming into this season he boasted a 120.7 QB rating.
The biggest question that has developed in this group is; who will be the quarterback to lead this team if Hoyer has to exit the field due to injury or horrible play (as throughout his career one of those has always ended his seasons). That question was answered on Friday when coach Shanahan dialed up C.J. Beathard as the second quarterback to come in behind Hoyer against the Vikings.
Based on last Sunday’s dress rehearsal, Shanahan might just feel like a man who still needs to develop his options behind his starter as Beathard played like a rookie for the first time this pre-season, throwing high and showing he needs more polishing in the pocket for the NFL level while also demonstrating the base skill set that made him the third round pick during this season’s draft. He began the night 1 of 5 passing before finding running back Raheem Mosert for an 87 yard touchdown pass (102 total yard receiving), while being chased down on 3rd and 23 from the crest of his own end zone. While it was a great play, it did not spark Beathard as he continued to miss his targets high, including a pass to college teammate George Kittle for what would have been a drive to continue a 20+ yard gain. Beathard finished the night at a respectable 7 for 12, 159 yards, with one interception, and the one aforementioned touchdown pass.
Important to note: Vance McDonald was recently traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers
Shanahan said he wanted to see Beathard against NFL players, not just backups. Limited reps is also why Beathard has used every available tool to get himself into this position. When at the facility, according to CSN Bay Area 49ers Insider Matt Maiocco, Beathard takes 1,000 simulated snaps per week on the team’s Virtual Reality Simulator. With this tool, he not only simulates through his practice reps, but also those of fellow quarterbacks Hoyer and Barkley. This has helped accelerate his learning curve and put himself in position to battle for the backup quarterback job.
NINERS LIVE KEEPING YOUR EYES WIDE OPEN: With this move, expect Barkley to be released during the cut down to 53. In the event Hoyer is injured, look for the team to re-sign Barkley as Beathard’s backup, although the rookie’s play tonight will increase Barkley’s chance to stick around and the team carry three quarterbacks.
With the first offense finally getting a chance to play for an extended period of time, we finally get a clearer picture of what the running back rotation is going to look like. We already knew Carlos Hyde was going to be the lead runner this season. What we needed to find out was if Hyde would be given a high enough percentage of the carries to be considered a featured back, or if he was going to just lead this committee of running backs. With Hyde taking 90% of the carries while the first team offense was on the field, it’s clear Hyde will be the feature back. And his seven carry, 28-yard performance that included a 24-yard touchdown reception with 3 catches for 45 yards.
After Hyde, Matt Brieda was next up. Just like with all the competitions playing out this pre-season, the first and second game reps were split by game. For the backs, the rookies took the first game with third round pick Joe Williams and undrafted free agent Matt Brieda sharing the workload after Hyde exited. For that game’s effort and production, Brieda was named to the Pro Football Focus (PFF) Team of the Week as the flex player. The second game saw the vets get their turn as Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs split the carries for that game after Hyde. Joe Williams did make what could be considered a cameo in the second game, with Brieda seeing no snaps.
Once again, the rookies showed they want a role in this offense and not just a roster spot. As Brieda and Mosert played to win a job, Bibbs and Hightower saw no snaps in this game.
Quick NINERS LIVE Flashback: During the draft Niners Live opened your eyes when we shared, based on our research, that whenever a back has been featured in the Shanahan Offense, the running back has measured 5”11, 210 pounds. Every back NOT fitting that measurement has always been a part of a committee. Carlos Hyde is listed as 6’0, 235 pounds. What about the running back that kept Shanahan up all night during the draft, Joe Williams, you ask? Well, he is listed as 5’11, 205 pounds. And let’s not forget undrafted free agent Matt Brieda is listed at 5’11, 190 pounds. Nothing a little weight room can’t take care of.
Kyle Juszczuk was limited in practice this week and wearing a blue non-contact jersey, although he was a full participant all three practices, with a minor shoulder injury. Excellent blocking and an excellent reception showed his value to this offense in both the ground and passing games.
Just as we suspected, Daniel Kilgore will be giving the line calls at center. Joe Staley (left the game after the first drive with minor knee injury) and Trent Brown will man left and right tackle, respectively. What we now know is guard Brandon Fusco has seen what Niners Live has been keeping your Eyes open to during this exhibition season –the play of Erik Magnuson over the past few weeks has put Fusco in a position of having to battle to have a spot at right guard on the first team.
Magnuson has been fast rising up the depth chart during camp. Over the first two pre-season games Magnuson has battled his way from third-string center against the Kansas City Chiefs, to second-string right guard and third-string center against the Denver Broncos, including a performance that landed him on the aforementioned PFF Team of the Week for the first week of the pre-season. And an encore that should have earned him a repeat for week 2.
In this game Fusco played well, as did the entire offensive line, and he appears to have blocked down the starting right guard job. They did a good job opening up lanes in the running game and continued to show up well in the pass protection of Hoyer. This is the best game the offense line has played to date. Hoyer stayed clean with plenty of time, and Hyde looked strong running through holes.
Staley took the game off after the second drive due to a minor knee injury. He was replaced by John Thus who played very well in place of Staley and appears to be the swing tackle.
What to Expect against the Chargers:
Backups, backups and more backups. This game was the dress rehearsal and now we know what the starters all look like. While the competition for backup roles will be on-going thoughout the week and the fourth preseason game, only expect to see the briefest of cameo appearances by the starters.
49er updates, interviews and news:
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Edward Erving Staff Writer @NinersLive.net and Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims