The 49ers begun the ShanaLynch era by grinding out a preseason victory over the Chiefs in a fairly low quality affair at Arrowhead.
At this stage of the preseason and the team’s development curve, we should not be expecting significant cohesiveness, but instead should be looking to see individuals flashing NFL-level traits and performing as effectively as possible within the structures that the 49ers are attempting to put in place.
1. Reuben Foster’s near pick was a tremendous demonstration of his athleticism and awareness in coverage. Playing in man coverage (cover 1) Foster was able to prevent his man getting open down the seam and almost came down with the pick. Whilst Foster did not redirect the opposition receiver, he had the athleticism to stay with him through his route. That kind of coverage ability will be crucial and set him apart from the competition.
2. Foster’s fellow first rounder Solomon Thomas was also effective, as he split time at strong side end and defensive tackle. His first play – a pressure that forced an interception – set the tone for what was a disruptive and encouraging effort. Now, like Foster, he will be looked to to start making the move up to the starters.
3. The 49ers’ young receivers stood up and delivered. Kendrick Bourne’s performance will have opened some eyes amongst fans but, judging by the 49ers play calls, likely didn’t surprise his coaches. His touchdown was fairly simple as he found himself wide open but he was consistently targeted and the two point conversion play was clearly called out of confidence in Bourne’s ability to reel in the fade. He is likely working his way into the roster conversation as a big receiver, especially with Aaron Burbridge injuring his hamstring. Trent Taylor also impressed as a receiver and punt returner, demonstrating his quickness and his toughness as a runner.
4. The 49ers’ young running backs also showed well. Matt Breida showed eye-catching power for his size as well as a very useful pass-catching ability whilst Joe Williams demonstrated the dangers of his speed once he found a hole and went through it. Raheem Mostert also came in and abused the Chiefs’ third and fourth stringers for good measure. The ability of those players to execute in the running game will be a significant positive to take out of the game.
5. If Aaron Lynch was going to force his way back into serious playing time, he would have to show that second and third stringers were simply no match for him. He delivered at Arrowhead and most significantly, showed an explosiveness and agility that was missing last season.
1. By and large, the 49ers’ corners struggled badly, especially against speed. I won’t get into the potential ramifications this has for the possible over-hyping of the likes of Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick Robinson in camp, but it is quite clear that the 49ers’ corners need to do a better job. The most worrying factor was their inability to play with good technique and leverage that allowed receivers to get open where the corners had no support. They need to get much better and fast.
2. The 49ers tight ends did very little of note. This is perhaps unsurprising given the apparent best player at the position (Geoge Kittle) was out injured. That the best player is a fifth round rookie is likely a problem and we saw why Kittle is the best tight end as his competitors at the position were invisible.
3. The 49ers starting offensive line will have to operate better as blockers. The interior particularly is not a position of strength and struggled, which will undoubtedly damage the 49ers’ offensive prospects going forwards.
1. Though he did score a touchdown, backup fullback Tyler McCloskey was very poor. He ranged from ineffective to hopeless as a blocker and is quite clearly a camp body. He might be worth keeping on the roster another week, but the 49ers should start to see if one of the tight ends could potentially be a reserve full back if Kyle Juszczyk if he gets hurt. McCloskey does not look like he could be that guy if he needed to be called up off the practice squad or from free agency.
2. Eric Reid’s off the ball unnecessary roughness penalty was unbelievably stupid. The team need Reid to be a physical presence but above all, they need him to be disciplined. If he is undisciplined, he will find himself out of Santa Clara when his contract expires.