It’s the third preseason game and competitive football is right around the corner. The San Francisco 49ers take on the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil stadium in a game head coach Kyle Shanahan described as a trial run for the team. Shanahan explained that the team would be treating this week similarly to what they would do in the regular season to help new personnel acclimatize. He also indicated that this game should bring about a few extra snaps for the first team offense and defense who are probably going to play the entire first half. The fourth preseason game will probably be a rest day for anticipated starters on either side of the ball and the last chance for fringe players to make an impact.
49ers’ Defense vs Colts’ Offense:
Robert Saleh’s defense will be going up against a healthy Andrew Luck and a sputtering Colts offense. Frank Reich the new Head Coach of the Colts is offensive minded and he will be expecting dramatic improvements on that side of the ball, but those are yet to materialize, as the Colts come off a narrow loss versus the Baltimore Ravens in which they were penalized 13 times for 129 yards.
Our first team defense has to come out aggressively in this game after the loss against Houston Texans. The Colts have a young, developing offensive line with two rookies Braden Smith,Quenton Nelson combining with slightly longer tenured players in Anthony Costanzo, Joe Haeg and Ryan Kelly. The 49ers’ defensive line lead by DeForest Buckner has to believe they can dominate this line and get much needed sacks and improvements in the pass rush column. A failure to do so would amount to a serious red flag.
TY Hilton, a four time Pro Bowler, is Andrew Luck’s main weapon and his speed and route running ability should provide a nice test for our young secondary – though he can struggle against aggressive press coverage if he isn’t schemed to avoid it. The 49ers’ approach to dealing with Hilton will be interesting. We noticed a few miscommunications and a few penalties in the secondary so far in preseason, which I expect to be cleaned up this week.
We could also see some turnovers for our defense. Indianapolis turned the ball over three times in their last game as well as making only four trips to the red zone, coming away with points on two occasions. Reich will want to see improvements in execution and concentration from his players. Rookie Nyheim Hines has struggled holding onto the football so far, he will be hoping to erase concerns about his ball security in this game in particular.
For the 49ers’ defense, Shanahan spoke about interest in signing free agent safety/linebacker Eric Reid on a veteran minimum deal to be a backup to Jaquiski Tartt. This could indicate Chanceller James or Marcell Harris are not ready for that role or the 49ers would like more experience in the secondary before the big kickoff. James is certainly a player to keep an eye on once the starters do go out.
Also, it would be remiss not to give a quick shout out to 45 year old Adam Vinatieri, who’s still out there hitting 50 yard field goals, aging like a fine bottle of wine.
49ers Offense vs Colts Defense:
Jimmy Garoppolo, the leader of the 49ers’ offense, will look to continue building chemistry with his weapons and offensive line. Garoppolo has looked sharp so far in preseason, going 10/12 for 136 yards against the Texans with a touchdown and one interception that went through the hands of rookie Dante Pettis. His continued ability to execute Kyle Shanahan’s offense has been a major positive this offseason, and he goes up against a vulnerable defense this week.
With their additional snaps, the first team offense will want to end preseason on good note with execution and a more efficient display. Running backs Matt Breida and Jerrick McKinnon will continue to be absent with injuries, now joined by Joe Williams. This provides adequate opportunities for Jeremy McNichols, veteran Alfred Morris and Raheem Mostert to show they can be the third back. With better execution up front, the backs will have no excuse not to perform.
There is also a battle at right guard between Josh Garnett, Mike Person and Jonathan Cooper. It will be interesting to see if Garnett finally moves into the starting line up, this could be the game which decides the battle. His performance against the Texans was hit and miss, but it was an improvement on his performances as a rookie and he looks to be moving well.
The Colts’ defense will continue to adjust to their new 4-3 base alignment under first year defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, a former Cowboys’ linebackers coach and Tony Dungy pupil. The 49ers’ offense will likely target this defense’s second level, where two rookie linebackers, Darius Leonard and Skai Moore, are expected to start. Both are playmakers but their aggression could lead to growing pains early on against a brilliant play caller with a good quarterback.
Overall the Colts’ defense is improving at every level with Jabaal Sheard a standout finally playing in a system that suits him. He’s paired with Margus Hunt and Tarrell Basham along the Defensive line which should provide a test for 49ers’ offensive line.
In the secondary the Colts have building blocks in Malik Hooker at safety and Quincy Wilson at corner -both players are dangerous weapons which should be respected. Overall this unit is all effort but not the production as yet which should bode well for Jimmy Garoppolo and company.
National Football league tackling/Penalty issues:
Both these teams have had issues with the leagues new helmet contact rules like many other teams around the league. In my view some legitimate tackles have been flagged which could cause outlandish number of penalties and in some instances serious injury through out the season. This will only increased pressure on referees and the league office because fans will not be pleased with the product on view.
I believe the NFL should take a closer look at the tackling technique used in Rugby as a guideline to help ease those problems. Penalize contact above the nipples in an attempt to limit the tackle target area to below the line of the pectorals. The key component however, is training/encouraging players to tackle with their shoulder whilst attempting to keep your head away from the point of contact as much as possible. By following this approach, high tackles would be reduced which in turn lowers the percentage of head injuries and make it much easier to officiate.
I think it’s time the persons in charge, fans and players put aside their machismo and thirst for violent hits. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the physicality but it needs to be done in a more controlled manner. Player health and safety is paramount, if there is to be an NFL thirty years from now it’s time to adapt or risk more lawsuits and or more parents keeping their children away from the game.
I have added a link displaying advised rugby tackle technique which matches my idea for tackling moving forward.