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The San Francisco 49ers finished their preseason slate Thursday night with a 40-13 victory over the Houston Texans. Let's take a look at the bad and the good.
Jack Hammer – I need to start with an apology for not being able to host the live blog as advertised. We had a minor family emergency that needed tending to and caused me to miss watching the majority of the first half live. I'm glad to say it all turned out fine and we will be back with live blogs for all but the season opening contest.
Chase Thomas – The Stanford product has come on through the last couple games and was extremely good with the pass rush on Thursday night. He is still likely to be a long shot to make the final 53-man roster, but with the pending suspension of Aldon Smith and the injury to Glenn Dorsey he may slip in there.
Aaron Lynch – The rookie outside linebacker continued to perform very well. Lynch has been strong rushing the passer. The one area that he needs to get a little more consistent with is defending the run, but he is looking like the day three steal of the 2014 draft.
Corey Lemonier – The second year outside linebacker has been dynamic rushing the passer throughout the preseason and put in another very strong effort on Thursday night. Look for him to be the primary replacement for Aldon Smith.
Tank Carradine – Carradine has been solid throughout the preseason, and turned in another strong effort. His primary role will be to keep Justin Smith fresh, and Carradine looks ready to take on that role.
LaMichael James – With Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde sitting for the most part James was given the lions share of the snaps early in the game and made the most of his opportunities. James ran hard and finished with 39 yards on 6 carries, doing most of his damage between the tackles.
Bruce Ellington – The rookie wideout finished the night with a receiving touchdown on a throw from Josh Johnson and also with a nice 44 yard punt return in the second half when he was able to show off his speed and elusiveness.
Alfonso Smith – Smith has made a strong case to be on the final 53-man roster as the fourth running back. Smith had a strong night with a nice tackle on punt coverage, and a decent performance as the tailback. Smith further helped his cause by showing the ability to also play fullback which he did on Thursday night due to Will Tukuafu being out with a concussion.
The biggest takeaway from this preseason may be perspective. During the first two weeks of the preseason the 49ers rested many of their starters and as a result their backups were forced to play against the oppositions starters. This had a trickle down effect as the third team then went up against the backups and so on. As a result the play looked very ragged. Once the starters returned against San Diego there was a noticeable jump in the level of play, especially on the defensive side of the ball. We saw this again tonight as most teams sat their starters and the 49ers dominated from the middle of the second quarter on.
This should have a positive effect once the regular season starts. The young backups will go into those contests having experience playing against players with a starting calibre skill level which will help them be more effective when given an opportunity.