After highlighting the Pre-game matchups to watch and week 2 of the preseason officially in the books, Niners live made it clear that this San Francisco 49ers team still remains a work in progress. Once again, this week we will go inside the game and give you the real deal Holyfield on each unit going in-depth as only we do. So, without further ado, let’s turn our attention once again to the return game/special teams.
Assessment: The night couldn’t have started out any worse for the 49ers punt return unit and Safety Jacquiski Tartt. After a good stand by the defense and a punt by Denver deep into 49ers territory, Tartt was caught sleeping without proper awareness of where the ball was and ruled to have touched the ball while running down to block for a potential return. The lack of communication between return man Jeremy Kerley and Tartt was evident as this costly mistake set the Denver defense up inside the 49ers red zone and led to the first touchdown of the game. These mistakes simply cannot happen, as discussed in our previous Recap of last week’s match up against the Kansas City Chiefs. Special teams coach Richard Hightower must train this unit to be more disciplined to work together and avoid these setbacks at all costs.
Note: Rookie wideout Trent Taylor had an eight-yard punt return on his one attempt of the night. Dekoda Watson (Sam/LB/Special teams ace) set the tone early with a violent tackle on special teams to start the game.
Despite that mishap, the most electrifying highlight of the night also came from the Kickoff return team and UDFA Victor Bolden Jr. who has been coming on strong as he looks to solidify himself a spot on the 53-man roster. Bolden capped his 36-yard per gain average late in the 4th quarter as he caught a kickoff four yards deep in the end zone, and after making a nifty cutback move as shown in the video, showcased his speed and took it to the house for the 49ers second touchdown of the game. He will get more chances to strut his stuff in the upcoming weeks and will put pressure on others such as Aaron Burbridge who was unavailable due to injury to push for the highly competitive sixth receiver spot and kickoff return specialist. Overall, the unit showed some spark, but will still need to build on the areas of opportunity to make themselves formidable this season.
Assessment: This looks to be the most consistent part of this unit thus far, as they have been able to keep return yards to a minimum and not allow any significant return yardage. The coverage continued to be solid, only allowing a total of 36 yards on four returns while displaying solid fundamentals and tackling.
Assessment: Due to a lackluster effort for much of the night from the offense, there weren’t any opportunities to get any valuable game reps in the kicking game. Punter Brad Pinion, however, was kept busy trying to keep the 49ers defense in good field position and did a decent job averaging 44 yards a punt and keeping the Denver return game at bay.
Expectations for Week Three
Week 3 will feature another intriguing matchup against a young and up and coming Minnesota Vikings team. With the opportunities becoming more valuable, look for each 49er player to step up their performance to the next level to secure a roster spot as the regular season draws near. Don’t be surprised to see players out there swiping at balls, looking to force that impact turnover to make themselves stand out from the crowd. Who will step up to the challenge and solidify their spot as a special team shoe-in?
49er updates, interviews and news:
On a Niners Live side note:
Team captains for last Saturday’s game were (all former #Broncos): LB Elvis Dumervil, G Zane Beadles, LD Dekoda Watson, RB Kapri Bibbs (via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle).
Please join us again soon on Niners Live, home of the fan and analyst.
As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.
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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, Irvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live. Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor Sequoia Sims.