A little more than 25,000 fans poured into Levi’s Stadium on August 5th but if you closed your eyes at any time during the 49ers open practice, you’d swear that place was filled to it’s 68,500 capacity. Hope was in the air and it was palpable. The energy running through the crowd was something that was more fitting for a huge rivalry game than it was for a single practice but the players felt it and rewarded the fans for bringing it with them.
Here are some takeaways from the practice. First we have the good…
- Brian Hoyer – Maybe it’s because I’m highly optimistic or maybe because I’ve been so starved to see good quarterback play for the last couple of years that even an adequate QB qualifies as a franchise guy in my book, but on Saturday I wasn’t alone in my perception of Hoyer. The fans there loved him! Remove all emotion from the equation and you’re left with what you see…the guy is really good! At least he is in Shanahan’s system which validates why Kyle went after him in the off season as soon as free agency started.
Hoyer was making accurate throws to every level of the field, placing the ball where only the wide receiver could reach it, stepping up in the pocket whenever there was pressure around him and controlling the team like a quarterback should. There’s no doubt he’s the leader of this offense.
However, his best quality to date has been his consistency. He doesn’t make throws you would consider “wow” type throws. He’s no Aaron Rodgers by any stretch of the imagination. In this system, he doesn’t have to be. Time and time again though, Hoyer made the RIGHT play whether it was to the wide receiver that found a gap in the zone, the slant in the middle or the deep throw with enough touch on it to give his receiver a chance to adjust if needed. Best of all, and I know this especially got our section of fans excited, he threw balls before the receivers were making their breaks on the route. The highlight was a connection with Goodwin. The routes started from the slant, and then broke to the outside. Hoyer threw it to the middle of the field BEFORE the break to the outside just to have Goodwin break back inside to catch a wide open pass. It was GORGEOUS.
- Matt Breida – The fans were out, the pressure was on and Breida was up for it. He had the best day out of all the running backs. This guy runs with a purpose and determination. His best run was up the middle where he broke through the secondary all the way to the end zone as he finished the play. Even if the defense was allowed to tackle him, they would have had a tough time bringing him down because he shot through Ray-Ray Armstrong and Lorenzo Jerome’s arm tackle.
However, that wasn’t his highlight. Breida showed amazing concentration on a deep pass down the left side of the field from CJ Beathard. CJ lofted the ball to a spot on the field and Breida ran under it keeping his eyes on the ball and pulling it in despite surprisingly good coverage from Pita Taumoepenu
- Marquise Goodwin – 49ers fans should send the Buffalo Bills front office some flowers or candies to thank them for letting this guy go. He’s going to be a game changer for us in this offense. One one one drills for him are a waste of time. Even Rashard Robinson, who’s considered the 49ers’ undisputed number one corner, has no real chance against him in these drills.
11 on 11 isn’t much better for the defense because Goodwin can pretty much get open whenever he wants. The great thing about him though, is he doesn’t need to be wide open to make tough catches. He showed the excited Faithful what he’s capable of when a deep pass was thrown down the sideline. The ball hung in the air giving Goodwin enough time to locate it and adjust his body to make a diving catch. Sure, it was slightly out of bounds so it wouldn’t have counted but the point is traffic isn’t going to stand in the way of him making a play on the ball.
His speed gets associated with him only being a deep threat but if that’s how defenses are going to play him, then they will be sorely mistaken because Goodwin will make them pay with his underrated route running ability. Garcon may be looked at as the #1 receiver but at the end of the season, Goodwin will be the player with the higher production.
Now it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the team. When some players succeed, they usually do it at the expense of others. Here’s the bad from Saturday’s open practice….
- Vance McDonald – Vance is gonna Vance! Honestly, I could just write that and EVERY 49ers fan who’s followed his career would know EXACTLY what I mean. I’ll go ahead and explain anyways. Old brick hands dropped not one, but TWO goal line passes that would have been touchdowns had he reeled them in. He cost the team a minimum of 14 points. This is no longer unacceptable. It hasn’t been for a long time to the fans yet for some reason he’s still on the team.
That time seems to be coming to an end because I don’t see how Kyle can justify having him on the team with new players like Kittle, Paulsen and Hikutini there to replace him. Even if they aren’t overall better tight ends than Vance, at the very least they could catch the ball when it’s thrown their way. I wouldn’t feel so strongly about Vance if the passes he dropped were difficult ones. However, they weren’t. They weren’t remotely close to being “uncatchable.” One was slightly behind him, the other could have stuck in his face mask.
- Matt Barkley – I’ll put it this way…If you removed all the numbers from the QB jerseys and just watched them play then you would rank them in this order. Hoyer would be first, CJ Beathard would be second and Barkley would be third with a HUGE gap between the first and third quarterbacks.
The most glaring deficiency Barkley has is his confidence – it’s non-existent. Beathard on the other hand is making mistakes but he’s playing with a confidence that puts him firmly ahead of Barkley. Beathard had the best throw of the day with his bomb to Breida on the side while Barkley was looking like the second coming of Gabbert with his refusal to make tough throws. Let me be fair, he did have a nice touchdown pass to Robinson who smoked Witherspoon in the process but Gabbert also made the occasional play. The rest of the time, just like Gabbert, his play makes you feel….”bleh,” if that makes sense. Beathard is pulling away from him already so I find it hard to believe they will keep Barkley on the roster.
- The Entire Secondary – I know a lot of us have anointed Rashard Robinson a “shut down corner” but even if he is, I don’t think he’ll look like one in this defense. The secondary is going to rise and fall with the play of the front 8(Reid included) and there is no way around it. If the defensive line doesn’t put pressure on opposing quarterbacks then they are going to feast on our secondary.
The wide receivers were getting open almost at will, especially in the middle of the field. We don’t have that Earl Thomas like center fielder patrolling the middle and it shows. Maybe Ward can come back from his injury and be that guy but until then, it doesn’t look good. No matter how this season goes, we’ll be able to look back and see the glaring weakness of this team was the secondary. It’s early in preseason so maybe the team can grow in this scheme as they become familiar with each other and the system but I see us giving up a lot of yards in the air.
THIS AND THAT, HERE AND THERE
- I was shocked to see Pita Taumoepenu dropped into coverage. It was even more surprising to see how good his coverage was given that he’s such a raw player.
- The 49ers run defense is really good. Other than the Breida run, they didn’t give up anything big. This defense is moving really fast up front. The new scheme suits them well. Which leads me to ask…how does someone like Jim O’Neil get an NFL job?
- This offensive line is going to need some time to gel. On one play, had this been a real game, Barkley would have been killed. Literally. He would have got blasted with a 1980’s type of Ronnie Lott hit. I believe the player was Tank Carradine (I was on the other end of the field) but this player came at Barkley so quickly after the ball was hiked and with such velocity that it seemed like he started the play already in the back field. He was moving so fast that he tried to pull back but ended up hitting bodies with the quarterback anyways. Before they collided, which was only a split second after the play started, Barkley saw him and just stood still as if the play was dead with a body language that basically said “Come on guys. Give me a break”
- Reid is going to get some sacks in this new defense. On the deep pass to Marquise Goodwin down the side line, Reid pretended to cover Vance McDonald and then blitzed once the play started. The running back picked up the blitz but Reid still rocked him off his cleats into the quarterback.
- Might be tough for Jeremy Kerley to make this team. He’s got some young talent nipping at his heels in Victor Bolden and Kendrick Bourne
- You can see what Kyle liked about Beathard. He doesn’t act like a rookie and he doesn’t play like one. He’s confident and takes shots other rookies would be too scared to attempt because they might fail.