The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: 49ers at Colts, Preseason Game 1

Aug 15, 2010 at 6:56 PM

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.

The Good:

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.

The Bad:

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 he’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.

The Ugly:

Michael Robinson is not an option at tailback. Period.
Thanks for coming out, Mike. You're a heck of a 'teamer…but when you fumble on the first play of the first preseason game of the year…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 there’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 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.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Gary Mialocq
    I can't believe how ridiculous the writers and fans have been in their criticism of Michael Robinson. The guy got virtually no reps at RB during training camp and has been working almost exclusively with the special teams where he is simply the best -- a great coverage man and tackler, and a devastating blocker for the returner. So Coffee quits on Friday and MRob is expected to move in without much preparation. He never complains and just does his job. It was unfortunate that he fumbled his first carry but anytime a helmet makes square contact with the ball that can happen, no matter who is carrying it. Robinson will be ahead of Dixon whom I love as an RB, until Dixon learns to protect the QB, something MRob does very well. Remember Kory Sheets? NOw MRob can return to his full-time duties as special teams captain and he'll always fill in when needed. One question: MRob was an outstanding wide receiver in college and has demonstrated great hands more than once for the Niners. He's also a punishing blocker and tackler. WHY NOT TRY HIM AT SAFETY?
    Aug 18, 2010 at 8:00 AM
    Response: Thanks for writing, Gary. I have no issue with MRob as a teamer...but the guy is just not a viable option at tailback. He's a great player...but like our last RB/Teamer, Terry Jackson, he lacks the vision to be ab effective tailback.
  • Craig
    Agree with all of your points, especially the last. While watching Dixon run, I was impressed with his ability to move for a man his size. But my first thought was, "Number 33, really? That's bold." I realize there are only so many numbers, and they ALL can't be retired, but unless that was the only option, he needs to understand the statement he's making. I will now go back to watching Martha Stewart show me how to macrame a pair of jean shorts.
    Aug 17, 2010 at 8:14 AM
    Response: Bingo. As Niner running backs go, he's an all timer...and his number shouldn't be worn by anyone else. That just is what it is. Oh, and have fun with your macrame.
  • ninertime
    I agree 100% about putting on the 33 jersey. I was watching the game with some friends and I was like who gave him that number.
    Aug 16, 2010 at 8:57 PM
  • chris
    The one thing you did not mention that was down right ugly was Anthony Davis in pass and run blocking. He got manhandled all game and a lot of those bad Alex Smith passes came as a result of being pressured in the pocket because Mathis or whoever else was on Davis's side blew right past him! If he doesnt get better real soon this team is in trouble.
    Aug 16, 2010 at 2:05 PM
    Response: Actually, Chris, Davis looked okay when he was run blocking. He was out of sync with Rachal when it came to pass blocking, though. In particular, he seemed to have problems with stunts and blitzes...but the entire line seemed to suffer in that regard. Truth be told, I expected Davis to do a lot worse than he did. How he fares against the Vikings next Sunday will be telling.
  • john beck
    Did you ever think that the scheme played for the other players like Mays was vanilla?
    Aug 16, 2010 at 12:37 PM
    Response: I think what you're implying is that the Niners shifted to a vanilla defense when players like Mays were in the game. The answer to that is no. On the Colt's second possession of the game, the Niners disguised a cover 2 by showing blitz with Mays...and he was unable to get back into his zone fast enough to shut down a 15 yard reception on a corner route. In short...he was slow out of his break, and the Colts moved the chains. He'll get better, but he really needs to work on technique and become more sure of himself in coverage before he'll start playing the game at the speed he's capable of.

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