We finally got some 49ers football on Thursday night, and it came with a thrilling ending in which 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens threw a game winning touchdown to rookie wide receiver Richie James to seal the game for San Francisco 24-21.
A rookie drafted in the seventh round out of Middle Tennessee State, Richie James caught four of his five targets for 46 yards and the game winning touchdown. You don't expect a lot out of seventh-rounders, but James is pushing his case to make the 49ers' 53-man roster.
James wasted no time making his impact in the first quarter. Kyle Shanahan called for a mesh concept on this play, spreading the defenders and allowing James to get open on the slant route. Jimmy Garoppolo's throw, however, is inaccurate, as it's placed behind James.
Incredibly, James not only adjusts, but is able to cradle the ball and secure the catch to prevent it from being broken up. This is one of those plays where it's all on the receiver, and James makes a great catch.
Here, James is motioned as the weak-side slot receiver. Naturally, because this is an article on James, the play is a screen to him. His speed lets him break into the open field, where he makes an impressive one-cut move on a Cowboys defensive back, faking outside before cutting in, allowing him to get a crazy amount of yards after the catch.
Finally, we have the play of honor. This time, Shanahan calls for a pick play on the strong side between the Y receiver and James in the slot. James looks like Doug Baldwin on this route, using his hesitant footwork to allow the pick routes to work, drawing the defensive back (in zone) to the Y receiver.
James uses his strong hands to pull the ball in for the clutch touchdown, wrapping up an impressive preseason debut for the rookie.
Not much has been made clear of his ability down the field, but as an underneath receiver Richie James impressed last night. He showed impressive ball skills, route running ability, agility for yards after the catch, and looks enticing as a possible check mark for the 49ers' 53-man roster.
Time will tell how this phases out, but so far so good for the Middle Tennessee State prospect.
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