The new look San Francisco 49ers took on the Denver Broncos Saturday night in their second preseason game. It was the 49ers Faithful’s first chance to see the revamped roster live at Levi’s Stadium. The team had hopes of making improvements from the multiple errors that occurred in week one, they were able to fix some things but there are still several glaring issues that need to be resolved.
Eric Reid: Reid was all over the field making several impressive tackles (7 in total) and seems like a perfect fit in the team’s new defensive scheme. It will be interesting to see if he can keep progressing because if he does, Reid could potentially be the breakout player on the defense this year.
Jaquiski Tartt: Tartt is another player that has been battling with an injury and has missed time this offseason. He was a menace on Saturday night making 7 tackles and as well ending a Broncos drive with a ferocious 3rd down sack on Paxton Lynch. The 49ers have a bit of a problem as Reid and Tartt play the same position and look like they both need to be seeing the field.
Tartt did make a boneheaded play however as he was credited with a fumble loss when the ball “hit” his leg on a punt return after being waved off by Jeremy Kerley. Even though it didn’t look like the ball actually touched him, he shouldn’t have even been in the area.
Lorenzo Jerome: Lorenzo Jerome is an UDFA that has benefited from the injuries in the secondary to receive playing time, but he has consistently shown that he can be counted on at safety. Even though he doesn’t have elite athletic measurables, he seems to be able to consistently read the play and track the ball down. He has gone from a long shot to make the roster to pretty much a lock.
The 49ers’ former Hawkeyes: Tight end George Kittle has missed multiple practices and the first preseason game so it was just good to see him get on the field. He had 3 receptions for 33 yards including a electrifying 29 yard touchdown on a throw from fellow former Hawkeye CJ Beathard. Even with all of his missed time he has most likely already won the starting tight end gig.
Kittle’s former college quarterback, Beathard, continued his impressive play from week one showcasing a solid arm, poise in the pocket and the ability to go through his progressions to make the right throw. He played with the two’s this week and didn’t seem to flinch; look for him to continue to improve with additional playing time. Beathard went 7/12 for 110 passing yards and a touchdown thanks to the aforementioned Iowa connection. Beathard has had a passer rating of 130.6 through the first two games.
Earl Mitchell: Earl Mitchell was one of the first signings by the new Shanahan and Lynch era. He has been overlooked heavily this offseason but showed off Saturday night. He looked explosive and was able to create consistent pressure on QB Paxton Lynch and disrupt the Broncos’ run game.
Victor Bolden Jr: Victor Bolden Jr didn’t do anything in terms of receiving but showed off his electric speed and quickness as he took back a kickoff return for 104 yards and a touchdown. Special teams will be his way onto the roster and that return could go along way with his chances of making the team.
The reserve running backs: We didn’t get a Matt Breida sighting or much of Joe Williams sighting, and were instead “treated” to the best Tim Hightower and Kapri Bibbs had on offer. Hightower played after sitting out multiple practices and the first preseason game. He carried the ball 3 times for -1 yards and had a fumble on his first attempt. Going into training camp he was viewed as a near lock as the team’s backup running back but after missing time, he needed a strong performance Saturday night to have a chance to not only make a case for that role but actually state his case for a roster spot in general.
Bibbs, acquired by the 49ers where they swapped picks with the Broncos during April’s draft, he has made next to no positive impact. The coaching staff gave him increased playing time vs the Broncos but he was not able to capitalize on it. He ended the game with 4 carries for 6 rushing yards. Unless multiple injuries occur, I don’t see any scenario that Bibbs makes the team.
Daniel Kilgore: Kilgore was routinely beaten in the run game and was a big reason why the 49ers starters struggled to get any momentum going on the ground. Kilgore’s performance certainly had me wondering how bad Jeremy Zuttah must have been. He will need to improve drastically in the run game going forward.
Missed sacks: The 49ers defensive line, particularly the starters, failed to generate much pressure. What was arguably even more frustrating was that when they did, they didn’t finish the play. Both Arik Armstead and Eli Harold missed chances to get sacks and there were several occasions when the edge rushers did a decent job squeezing the pocket laterally but the interior lineman were undisciplined and allowed Paxton Lynch to escape unscathed. The 49ers’ defensive line will need to be more disciplined and finish plays.
Penalties: Penalties just like last week were by far the ugliest portion of the game for the 49ers. After a poor performance vs the Chiefs netting 17 penalties for 131 yards, it continued Saturday as the team had 11 penalties for 86 yards. If the 49ers have any chance on being successful this season they will need to clean this up immediately.
Running Game: I’ve touched on this in the bad section, but it really needs to be addressed again. The 49ers had just 37 yards on the ground against the Broncos from 19 rushes. That’s less than 2 yards a carry. Enough said.
Turnovers: The 49ers turned the ball over five times including four fumbles and a interception. Two of their turnovers came from starting quarterback Brian Hoyer. Turnovers along with the penalties will need to be addressed before the next game as the third preseason game is usually used as the dress rehearsal for the regular season. The defense should probably address turnovers as well, as they failed to come away with one and didn’t really threaten save for a near miss at the start of the game for Lorenzo Jerome.