Different coaching staffs deal with the fourth week of the preseason differently. For example the Cleveland Browns kept the future face of the franchise on the field for a majority of the game yesterday, while Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers played two quarterbacks who probably won’t be a member of the organization come Monday, unless its on the practice squad. With the majority of the 49er starters in street clothes, here are the takeaways from the 49ers final preseason loss against the Chargers.
Depth on Offense is a problem
The 49ers let Nick Mullens play the majority of the game after C.J. Beathard took a big hit on their third offensive play of the game. He played middling well, rushing for one touchdown and throwing for 106 yards on 10-of-17 passing. What is more telling is that the 49ers first three possessions involved ten plays: negative-18 yards, two punts, and a fumble. Their fourth drive (Mullens’ third) finally resulted in real offense, going 75 yards on 12 plays, capped by Mullens’ 4-yard touchdown run.
After the touchdown though the Niners offense had another fumble, a three and out, and a turnover on downs that wasn’t as amazing of a drive as 13 plays for 66 yards sounds. Jack Heneghan drove the team for two touchdowns to close out the preseason, but that was mostly with practice squad or soon to be unemployed football players. The second string players, the guys who a squad really needs to excel, just didn’t show enough to prove this offense can survive an injury or two.
Shanahan stated Mike Person had earned the starting right guard position, and then Person did not suit up. With Joshua Garnett at RG and Jonathan Cooper at LG, the offensive line was not impressive. Neither of these two guards did a whole lot to steal the starting spot away from Person, but it feels like Garnett has done enough to make the squad as the team’s swing guard. It also wouldn’t be shocking for all three guards making the roster.
Richie James is for real
James went off again. He had 7 catches for 80 yards, a 23 yard kickoff return and was his usual energetic and dynamic self. Compared to the rest of the players Shanahan was giving a tryout to for other rosters, James seems too good to let go at this point. His value as a seventh-rounder with athleticism and a very strong skill set makes him someone who probably doesn’t pass waivers.
What about the rest of the WR?
What is going on with Aaron Burbridge? No passes thrown his way for the past two games has some wondering if he has a chance to make the roster at this point. Is Shanahan holding his hand extremely close to his chest? Is he a lock so Shanahan didn’t need to see what he had? The WR group did not become any clearer after the fourth game.
They sacked the quarterback
After getting only three sacks in the first three preseason games, the 49ers defense produced three last night. It was against backup linemen, but Jullian Taylor seems to have made a very strong case to make this roster, and his sack against the Chargers definitely helped his case. Ronald Blair also brought down the quarterback, and had probably the strongest performance of the defensive lineman, aside from Solomon Thomas’s strong one-series performance. Will Sutton, a player who is probably not making the roster, made the third sack for the 49ers. Although this wasn’t the first string, it does show that the scheme can work if the players work it.
What does it all mean?
It means the same thing it meant before the game, only Shanahan and John Lynch probably know exactly what the game plan was for, whether they were giving players they knew weren’t going to make it auditions, or trying to find out who their roster squad guys were going to be. The storyline for the 49ers organization continues to be growth and patience from coaches, fans, and players alike.
One thing is for sure, there wasn’t any surprises in this watered down final preseason game.
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