After what has seemed an endless week of drama in ranging from Kentwan Balmer's pouting to Glen Coffee's sudden career shift, the 49ers finally got to focus on football this Sunday. While time expired with the 49ers on top 37-17, there were definite highlights and lowlights in a contest that all but the most casual fans would call "pretty frickin' sloppy".
The above noted, what follows are my observations of the good, bad and downright ugly moments of today's contest at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Mike Iupati looks good.
Really good. He's a natural born mauler, and against the Colts' starting defense, he showed just how effective he can be. Once he matures enough to tighten up his pass blocking, Iupati is going to be one heck of a guard at the NFL level.
Anthony Dixon is a gifted runner.
And if he can learn to pass block...he'll be one hell of a #2 option behind Frank Gore. Today against the Colts, he displayed patience, vision, power and quick feet for a man his size. For a guy that wasn't being considered the #2 runner prior to Glen Coffee's abrupt departure, he really showed up today.
Reggie Smith is playing like the heir apparent at SS.
He made a great play in the end zone to force the Colts to settle for a field goal on their first possession today, and made a great break on a tipped pass to score the 49ers' first points of the day. More impressive than his interception of a tipped Curtis Painter pass was his display of breakaway speed on the ensuing 90 yard touchdown return.
Ricky Jean Francois looked pretty good in the middle.
All told, RJF looked very effective at NT today. He did a heck of a job eating up blocks and creating rush lanes in the middle for his linebackers, and made a few eye opening plays in the backfield on his own. His range and quickness were evident enough to impress...even though the Colts were without the services of their starting center, Jeff Saturday.
Will James and Karl Paymah both look like solid additions.
Though James was the more impressive of the two, both were solid in coverage, and looked like solid veteran additions to a defensive backfield that was sorely in need of veteran depth by the end of last season.
Kyle Williams played well today.
In both return duty and as a receiver, Williams really brought it today. He showed solid return ability, shiftiness, good awareness and also some ability as a receiver. He was able to pull down a nifty catch and get out of bounds to stop the clock at the end of the 2nd quarter, helping set up the 49ers' final points of the half.
Diryal Briggs looked very good off the edge.
If he keeps this up for the rest of the preseason, he should make the roster as an option for edge rusher. Though he is marginal at best in coverage, his ability to get up field and put pressure on the passer could be a valuable asset to a defense that likes to apply pressure by committee.
The defense looked good against Peyton Manning when put on the spot early.
For a team that seemed to struggle in the clutch last season, the defense did very well when they were backed up against their own goal line. The secondary was sharp, and the front seven stood their ground. All told, it was an impressive start for a unit that entered the game after a momentum killing offensive miscue.
Taylor Mays looked very tentative in deep coverage.
Though he looked good close to the line of scrimmage, he looked tentative deep; especially during the Colts' second possession...he has some learning to do. Though many 49er fans are chomping at the bit to see Mays crack the starting lineup, it was evident that he is still learning how to play safety at the NFL level. He may start at some point this season, but based on what we saw today, it probably won't be in Week 1.
Alex Smith looked very middle of the road today.
Though Smith seemed able to make his reads, his accuracy was marginal (especially on a miss over the middle to Vernon Davis that would have been an easy touchdown), and he seemed to be skittish under pressure. He needs to find his rhythm, and he needs to find it soon. David Carr looked capable, and Nate Davis showed some flashes as well...but both were playing against guys that are going to be working at Costco in a few weeks, so before anyone starts clamoring for Smith's head, it might not be a bad idea to see what he does next week against the Vikings.
Delanie Walker is not a solid deep receiving option.
Alex Smith's interception came on a pass that hit Walker square in the hands...but he was unable to pull it in. Walker has shown solid ability in space, but seems to struggle making catches when he's asked to fight for the ball. At this point, it seems safe to say that heâ€™s best suited to short and medium range "catch and run" type situations but is unreliable in traffic.
David Baas looked very pedestrian at center.
The team will miss Eric Heitmann early in the season. While protection was adequate when the team faced vanilla defensive fronts, they seemed to struggle against stunt and blitz packages. Whether this was due to Baas' protection calls or the line's lack of chemistry given how radically things have changed recently, it is obvious that protection will need to improve if the 49ers are planning on improving on last season's record. If the Niners plan on making some noise in Seattle in three weeks, Baas and the rest of the line will need to gel in a hurry.
Paging Ted Ginn...donde esta el "lid lifter"?
For all the talk of Ted Ginn being a solid deep option for Alex Smith, he seemed a non factor today. Outside of getting his clock cleaned on a failed smoke route early, he was virtually invisible in Indy.
The defense looked marginal at best against the Colts' no-huddle attack.
Though by the Colts' second drive the team was playing some reserves, coverage was shaky, and at times there were holes in the 49ers' zone coverage big enough to drive a truck through. It seemed as though the defense had a tough time switching gears when pressed.
Michael Robinson is not an option at tailback. Period.
Thanks for coming out, Mike. You're a heck of a 'teamerâ€¦but when you fumble on the first play of the first preseason game of the yearâ€¦odds are you are not going to be leaned on to tote the rock.
KPIX...please stop covering sports...right now.
There were moments during today's coverage when I contemplated tapping a siding nail into each of my ears to shut out what can only be described as the worst game coverage I have ever seen. Ugh. Some hints for next week: When thereâ€™s a penalty, please do your audience the courtesy of mentioning what the call was, who it went against, and maybe down and distance after the officials spot the ball...and even if you can't hear yourself saying "by the way, I can't hear myself", there is a chance your audience can...so don't say anything silly like, "can we maybe take a time out or something?".
Jason Hill...your hands are located at the ends of your arms...
...and if you use them to catch the ball, it won't bonk off of your face mask when your team is trying to move the chains. Based on what we all saw today, it will take a titanic effort from Hill to find a spot on the roster this season...especially with Kyle Williams in the mix to return kicks and coach favorite Dominique Ziegler now ineligible for the practice squad.
Anthony Dixon needs to work on his pass blocking.
This could be a problem if he can't become at least AVERAGE by the time the season starts. Most notable today was his complete whiff on the pickup of a 3rd quarter Colts' blitz that resulted in a sack of David Carr. As tenuous as the 49ers' QB situation is right now, the last thing they need is to run with a #2 runner that cannot pick up the blitz.
No 49er running back should be wearing #33.
Since 1983, there is but one #33 when it comes to 49er running backs, and his name is Roger Craig.