And just like that the 2017 Pre-Season has ended and the 49ers closed out with a 23-13 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at Levi’s Stadium Thursday night. Niners Live has kept your eyes wide open during every step starting with a pregame matchup, now we give you a breakdown of the performances of the quarterbacks, running backs, and the offensive line as well as the defensive highlights.
The Faithful got an extended look, and in many cases a final one, at those players fighting for their roster lives. The starters did not play. Brian Hoyer is locked in at quarterback and Carlos Hyde at running back. The offensive line is set. Game four is an extended look at those fighting for back up jobs. Coach may as well have been speaking about the entire team when he said earlier this week when asked about the running back competition, “We definitely need this game on Thursday to see the other guys, too. They’ve all made it real tough on us.” The only question is, how did they do?
C.J. Beathard started the game and played into the first half before giving way to Nick Mullens. Beathard was 5-9 passing, 31 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions, but he did have a Kaepernickess touchdown run of 62 yards, showing he will take yards in the passing game with his feet when the read dictates it. Mullens added 58 yards on 7-10 passing and no touchdowns and one pick six. Matt Barkley did not get any reps in this game. At this point, it would be a surprise if he makes this team.
To open the game, the offense looked prepared, but like they were trying too hard to be perfect. This was especially true with Beathard’s passing. Instead of simply playing within himself, he looked like he was trying too hard to be perfect. Many of his passes looked like he was aiming instead of just letting it rip. He needs reps just to relax and play the game. But, the scamper had to help. The more he gets game reps, the more natural he will play.
Following Beathard, Mullens got his first snaps of the pre-season. And on his first play, he took the first blindside sack of his career. He also had two missed handoffs that resulted in turnovers. Mullens played like a rookie developmental quarterback. Stashing him on the practice squad would be well worth it.
This is where the most talked about battle of the week was. Would Tim Hightower hold off the charge from the undrafted free agent Matt Breida? Would Raheem Mosert continue his strong camp and fight his way into the roster? Would Joe Williams show he was truly the rookie back we should be talking about? And what about Kapri Bibbs?
Hightower was the first to get a crack to make his case. He put up 21 yards on 8 carries and a touchdown. Slow and steady would best describe his game. Hightower does show a veteran calm and trustworthiness. He lacks the explosion of the younger backs.
Joe Williams shared carries with Hightower during the first half, in almost a head-to-head battle. If Williams was anything, he was decisive. On runs to the outside, he used his speed to get to the outside and pick up yards. On runs inside, he attacked the hole. Williams and his stable mates, like the quarterbacks, were victim to blocking mistakes and missed assignments. But old habits die hard. In the fourth, Williams got hesitant in the hole and that allowed the defensive lineman to strip the ball for Williams only fumble, despite the hard hits he took.
Kapri Bibbs was given some run at the end of the game. While he looked good, he is not going to make this team. There’s been too many strong performances by younger backs this pre-season.
The undercover battle of the week. We know who the starters are. But what happens when injuries hit? For the offensive line, that’s what this game was about. By now we have heard of Erik Magnuson and John Theus, and apparently, so have the coaching staff because they were part of the first lineman taken out of the game. Magnuson played just over a quarter. There were others also looking to make a statement this game, but the opening group made them hard to spot.
Blitz pickup was almost non-existent. Beathard was under pressure on most pass plays and was killed by an overload blitz from the blindside (left). While the glaring mistakes cleaned themselves up as the game went on, quarterbacks and running backs were still forced to fight for every opportunity. While that helps them get effort on tape, it doesn’t speak well for those looking to make their case on the offensive line.
- Adrian Colbert made the highlight hit of the game with a forced fumble, he also added 4 tackles, all of them solo
- Pita Taumoepenu remained active with 3 tackles and a quarterback hit
- Asa Jackson tried to make a case for himself, while out playing Keith Reaser with 2 Interceptions to go along with his four tackles
- Rookie Ahkello Witherspoon showed he is willing to make a tackle, having three on the evening
- Austin Calitro was again active, tying for the team lead in tackles with 5, along with Ray-Ray Armstrong (and a fumble recovery) and Dakota Watson
- Once again Legar Douzable had another Tackle for Loss to go along with his 4 tackles and 2 Batted Passes, and a fumble recovery
- Aaron Lynch finished with 2 tackles
- Quinton Dial finished with 1 tackle
- Sen’Derrick Marks had his best game with ½ half a sack, one hit on the quarterback, and one tackle
- Shane Skov attempted to make his case with 4 tackles
What to Expect against the Panthers:
This will be the first game of Shanahan’s career, and all eyes will be on the offense. Yes, the defense has looked good and will be counted on this season, but this is a Shanahan Coached Team and that means look for him to start making his point known, and that means resurrecting Carlos Hyde. What we will need from this group is the offensive line to keep pass blocking like they have all pre-season. What we need even more is for this offensive line to get their run blocking on par with that excellent pass blocking. Hoyer’s year-long audition to stake his claim as the 49ers long term starter begins. John Lynch has already told us as much.
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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