49ers win their first pre-season game with 31-24 victory over Denver

Observations: 

Offense:

1.) The tight ends will be crucial in the success of the Niner offense. Whether it’s Garrett Celek or Vance McDonald, they will be important not only in the red zone, but throughout all situations. They may not possess the athleticism that Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker did, but they are still matchup nightmares that will also play a pivotal role in the run blocking scheme. This may take some pressure off of the young wide receiver corps and give whoever turns out to be the quarterback an option other than Torrey Smith.

2.) Carlos Hyde’s prediction of 1,500 yards on the year may not be that far fetched. After running into a wall his first couple of touches, he began to find lanes for big pick ups and even found his way into the end zone in the second quarter. Behind the clear starter, Mike Davis was electrifying for the second week in a row as he was patient and made quick decisions with his cuts. His ability to fight for extra yards in a similar fashion to Hyde was very encouraging, but his multiple fumbles is without a doubt concerning. Furthermore, Dujuan Harris had a couple runs that were impressive as well (despite a fumble of his own) which tells me that the offensive line is picking up the scheme well and executing it regardless of the back behind them.

3.) Blaine Gabbert still hasn’t solidified his position as the starting quarterback. He didn’t see much playing time Saturday, but wasn’t very effective in the snaps he did take. He completed a couple short passes to his tight ends and running backs, but missed McDonald on a seam down the middle and honestly was reminiscent of Alex Smith. In fact, Christian Ponder showed more ability who was literally painting his house just days ago. Ponder scampered for a 22-yard score and threw a 30 yard touchdown to DeAndre Campbell. Obviously Ponder doesn’t have a legitimate shot at the starting role, though if even he can outplay Gabbert, there must still be a chance for Kaepernick. Chip Kelly’s has told the media that he expects Kaepernick to play next week and I think if he plays well, he’s right back in position to reclaim the starting role.

Defense:

1.) The front seven struggled not only to disrupt the passer early, but was also uncharacteristic when it came to stopping the run. A couple plays the D-Line showed success attacking from a three technique; however, when attempting to run the ball inside consistently, the Broncos running backs kept finding their way into the secondary forcing Eric Reid to make open field tackles. Toward the end of the second quarter and into the third, the big men upfront began to pressure the quarterback and pick up some sacks. Marcus Rush emerged as the most impressive racking up three sacks and certainly making an impression on the coaches. His play was highlighted by his strip sack during the back and forth turnover party at the end of the second quarter where the teams combined for three fumbles in less than a minute.

2.) The secondary played soft early as they allowed the young Siemian to complete multiple passes in front of them to allow him to get into a rhythm. Eventually, Eric Reid made a terrific read and jumped a route to catch an interception and hurtle his way into the end zone. This was great to watch as I expect Reid to return to Pro-Bowl fashion this year and lead a young secondary. This changed the pace of the game as after this interception, the secondary became much more aggressive for the better. Especially when Denver attempted medium to long passes, the cornerbacks held their ground and even helped force a couple coverage sacks in the process. Perhaps the most impressive portion of this development on the defensive side was the competitiveness the guys showed when the Broncos tried to throw the ball into the end zone by breaking up multiple passes. Kenneth Acker shined as he broke up multiple passes and nearly came away with a couple of interceptions.

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