49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

September 4, 2009
Dominated in San Diego

Three weeks ago, Mike Singletary said, "Thank God for preseason" following a one-point win over the Broncos. Now he might be saying, "Thank God it's over" after being thrashed by the Chargers. I did not fly to San Diego for today's game because, well, the fourth preseason game is generally a colossal waste of time and I traded it for an extra day in Dallas. But what I watched on television was a lot of what I saw in Arlington, Texas:

  • The first-team offense did not look good and the passing game is a question mark heading into the season. Even the screens that were so effective against the Cowboys never seemed to work against the Chargers.
  • Nate Davis engineered another solid two-minute drive that culminated with a 21-yard touchdown to Jason Hill. But Davis came down to earth a bit. He wasn't always in sync with his receivers (though it's hard to say whose fault that was) and he threw his first interception at game's end when a broken-up pass deflected straight into the air off someone's foot.
  • The first-team defense did not get much pressure on the Chargers quarterbacks, and the starters finish the preseason with that one dubious sack that came when JaMarcus Russell fell on his own. Khalif Mitchell did get a sack for the second teamers and Marques Harris added another that was negated by penalty. Diyral Briggs also had a sack and forced fumble.
  • The run defense also was too porous. The Chargers were drive-blocking the 49ers' linemen backward on just about every run. San Diego held the ball for more than 40 minutes. (not a typo). They had 23 first downs to the 49ers' 10.

The starters played only a scant amount, and really the fourth preseason game is an opportunity for bubble players to prove to their team they belong on the 53-man roster and to show their stuff to opposing teams' scouts. So how did those bubble players do?

Micheal Spurlock started the game opposite Josh Morgan at receiver, perhaps a big hint he'll make the final roster. Dominique Zeigler sprained his left ankle fighting for extra yards and did not return. His chances of making the final squad now look pretty dim. Jason Hill had a nice game, including a 21-yard TD. Both Hill and Spurlock could make the final roster with one of them - and it's terrible, but true - holding a spot for the Tardy Texan. Spurlock also had a nice, 32-yard kickoff return in the third quarter. Zeigler appears to be the only injury.

I thought rookie OLB Briggs had a fantastic game. With Ahmad Brooks (knee) out, Briggs played most of the game. He was around the ball all night. On one play he got around the right tackle and tipped the ball from the QB's hand as he was throwing. On the same drive he beat the right tackle for a sack and forced fumble. Briggs might not make the 53-man team, but he seems like an ideal practice-squad candidate. Remember, he weighs only 230 pounds. I wonder how he'd play at 245.

Cornerback Eric Green had a mixed game. Neither he nor Marcus Hudson stood out. Green is the better cover corner; Hudson is much more valuable on special teams. I still think the 49ers could keep both and go with six receivers corners this season. Neither, however, "played" themselves onto the final roster tonight.

I thought rookie Ricky Jean-Francois had an ok game. He entered with the third-team defensive line, which is never a good sign. He got into the backfield a couple of times, but he was part of a unit - along with Mitchell and Pannel Egboh - that was shoved around pretty thoroughly.

Alex Boone looks good when he gets his mitts on a pass rusher. However, he's not very fluid and he struggles against speed. He seems like another guy who could land on the practice squad. J.J. Finley continues to play ahead of rookie Bear Pascoe at tight end. It seems that the coaches feel Finley is the better player right now. What they have to ask themselves is which guy eventually will be the better player.

Nate Clements was beaten on another long pass play, which resulted in the Chargers' first touchdown. SF Gate's Kevin Lynch floated a theory this week that I think deserves attention. Clements is good in tight space, such as the red-zone drill in which he shined in Napa. But when he has a lot of field behind him, he has struggled, at least in the preseason. Perhaps he needs more safety help than he's accustomed.

Andy Lee did not look all that good last week against Dallas but had a very good game in San Diego.

-- Matt Barrows

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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