Three Storylines to Watch in 49ers Preseason Game Three

August 24, 2018

 

Bored of the preseason already?

Here are three compelling reasons to keep watching

 

Heading into Week 3 of the preseason most positions on the roster are set. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some things to take a closer look at and some things to follow as the team inches closer to the regular season. 

 

Penalties

 

On Saturday versus the Texans the 49ers committed 15 penalties for 140 yards, including Raheem Mostert and Jeremiah Attaochu, who were each assessed a personal foul in accordance with the NFL’s new helmet rule. As Rich Madrid and  49ersHub’s own Jay Moore and talked about during their “Schemecast” podcast following the game, the NFL typically has referees throw a flag for anything that looks like it violates a new rule during the preseason. This gives the NFL a collection of plays to take a closer look at that will eventually help them critique and improve the rule. For the sake of argument let’s assume those two plays aren’t called in during the regular season, that still leaves the team with 13 penalties for 110 yards. 

 

This is an issue that plagued the team last year, and it seems to have carried over into this preseason. The 49ers ranked fourth in penalties last year, averaging 7.7 penalties for 61.75 yards per game, and saw multiple drives die in the red zone due to ill-timed holding calls or false starts. This is something the team needs to clean up heading into the regular season if they expect to see sustained success on both sides of the ball.

 

Defensive End Competition

 

“Now serving number 91. Number 91?” Defensive end Arik Armstead has missed the first two games of the preseason due to a hamstring injury he suffered in the first week of training camp. Reports out of camp Monday were that Armstead was taking part in individual drills, but team drills were going to be closed to the public so it’s unsure if he was involved in any 11-on-11 work. 

 

During the preseason opener rookie defensive end Jullian Taylor started in Armstead’s spot as the big end and played 32 defensive snaps. The moment didn’t seem too big for him as he asserted himself, wreaking havoc on the line of scrimmage and recording his first sack towards the end of the game. The defensive line has proved itself to be the deepest position on the team outside of wide receiver, even to the extent that defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has said that the team is looking to move defensive tackle DeForest Buckner around the line with him eventually taking some snaps at end. The front office exercised the fifth-year option of Armstead’s rookie contract, but that $9 million doesn’t become fully guaranteed until March of next year. If Armstead can’t get and stay healthy, he will have played only 30 games over his first three seasons. There’s no reason to think he’ll be around next March to collect his money. 

 

What’s Wrong with Ward?

 

Speaking of guaranteed contracts: Jimmie Ward has not looked good this preseason. If you were asked right now to close your eyes and think of something Ward has done this preseason you would probably think of one of two things, either getting burned by rookie wide receiver Michael Gallup for a 30-yard touchdown, or getting in a fight with DeAndre Hopkins. Neither event speaks highly of Ward, whose  cover skills almost seem to have regressed this preseason after being sold as a solid backup to all four positions in the secondary, however he’s routinely picked on by opposing quarterbacks, and some of the younger players in the secondary seem to be faring better during games. Rookie cornerbacks Tarvarius Moore and Tarvarus McFadden have shown some promise as boundary corners, D.J. Reed has been getting work at both nickel cornerback and free safety and is playing well. Second-year strong safety Chanceller James has looked good at strong safety and had a chance to make the team last year before an ACL injury cost him his rookie season. Once Richard Sherman is healthy Ward will be moved out of the starting lineup and will be fighting these younger players for snaps. Ward’s contract is guaranteed at $8.5 million this season, so I wouldn’t expect him to be cut or traded at that price, but as a high school teammate used to say: “There’s a difference between playing football and being on the team.” If Ward’s play doesn’t improve I expect him to be on the team, but not playing football. 

 

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