In 2008 the NFL had one team go undefeated in the preseason, the Detroit Lions. In 2016, the Cleveland Browns went undefeated in the preseason. The 2008 Lions and 2016 Browns are the only two teams in NFL history to go winless during the regular season. The Lions and Browns will always serve as a reminder to not read too much into team results in the preseason, but it is difficult not to look at some individual performances and be left wanting more.
Beathard showed some promise last year in limited action, particularly against Washington and in leading the team to the only victory in 2017 B.G. (before Garoppolo), against the Giants. Having one full season under his belt in Shanahan’s offense and getting meaningful snaps in game action, Beathard’s performance against the Cowboys was underwhelming to say the least. Beathard completed ten of twenty passes and had one pass intercepted. Particularly noteworthy were the five passes he had that were tipped at or near the line of scrimmage (one of those was negated by a penalty on the defense). Beathard also appeared to be slow in recognizing opportunities; he was slow in delivering a deep pass to a wide-open Dante Pettis that went for 53 yards but should have been a touchdown. Beathard was also late to spot an open Raheem Mostert near the goal line and instead of being able to turn up field and score Mostert was tackled short of the end zone on third down. Beathard was not without his moments in this game like a piercing throw to Cole Hikutini for a first down, but Beathard will need to show improvement in preseason Week 2. A week’s worth of joint practices and a game against a good defensive unit like the Texans should provide Beathard with plenty of opportunities to work on his game.
Jimmie Ward was given the chance to start at left cornerback in place of Richard Sherman and the first time he was targeted he gave a touchdown to Cowboys rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup. On the thirty-yard score Ward had good coverage up until it came time to look back for the ball at that time he lost contact with Gallup and gave up an easy touchdown. Ward also gave up a catch on third down to allow the Cowboys to continue their drive. Ward’s versatility and status as a former first-round pick has given him a longer leash than he might otherwise have enjoyed given his injury history and performance. Jimmie Ward was, at one time, seen as the first man off the bench at all of the defensive back positions, but that may not be the case anymore. Rookie D.J. Reed has been working in as both the second-team free safety, and at the nickel-cornerback position in place of the injured K’Waun Williams. The team has some intriguing, but raw prospects at the outside cornerback positions as well. The 49ers have enough salary cap flexibility to eat the $8.5 million guaranteed that remains on Ward’s contract so money should not be a determining factor on whether he makes the final roster; he is going to have to outplay a group of young players who the team might see as better long-term fits at the position. Ward should have plenty of opportunities to show what he has this week against Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
The Offensive Line:
Yes, I am aware that the offensive line is more than one person but more so than any other position group they must function as a single unit. The 49ers are turning over sixty percent of their starting offensive line from 2017 to 2018, and the lack of cohesion really showed up against the Cowboys, particularly in run blocking. Jerick McKinnon had defenders in his face as soon as he got the ball and rushed for negative four yards on three carries and Matt Breida managed just three yards on his lone carry of the night. The offensive line faces a stiff test against the Texans this week, and perhaps a week’s worth of joint practices against a quality defensive line will help forge them into a solid group. Mike Person continues to work with the first team, but Jonathan Cooper and Joshua Garnett returned from injuries to work with the second and third teams respectively. Time is running out for the 49ers to get some clarity as to who will be starting at right guard.
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