San Francisco 49ers

Hayne soars in 49ers’ debut; who else stood out Saturday?

San Francisco 49ers' Jarryd Hayne (38) is stopped during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Houston.
San Francisco 49ers' Jarryd Hayne (38) is stopped during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015, in Houston. AP

The 49ers' fierce goal-line stand in which the defense thwarted seven straight plays from its 3-yard line and closer was impressive. Mike Purcell, Eric Reid, Shayne Skov and others deserve praise for the grit they showed in that area. But the stand also masked how easily the Texans' starting offense sliced through the 49ers' starting defense to get down there.

The Texans did most of their damage, both running and throwing, up the middle of the 49ers' defense where Skov and Nick Moody were starting at inside linebacker. It underscores the difference at the position from a just a few years ago and also shows the risk of heavy blitzing from the inside linebackers. Yes, it may result in a nice stop behind the line of scrimmage, which Skov delivered more than once. But if that linebacker gets caught too far ahead of the play, it can result in a big gain, as was the case when Alfred Blue ran for 14 yards.

On Blue's longest run -- 32 runs to the left side -- right outside linebacker Eli Harold came too far inside and wasn't in position to contain the play. Meanwhile, Skov was blasted by an offensive lineman and Antoine Bethea overran the play. Savvy veteran that he is, Bethea did not seem to want to do too much tackling in Preseason Game No. 1. (see: Cecil Shorts' touchdown).


The Hayne Plane has taken off in America. Jarryd Hayne had the longest run (53 yards), kick return (33 yards) and punt return (13) yards of the evening for San Francisco. He's obviously an instinctual runner, setting up would-be tacklers and then cutting back to escape them. Also impressive: When Hayne entered the game.

Carlos Hyde started at tailback and made a fast exit, which was expected. Then came Kendall Gaskins. But he left after one carry with 1:01 remaining in the first quarter. From that point until halftime, Hayne was the only running back in the game for the 49ers. That underscores how much Hayne has learned in a short amount of time and how much faith the coaches have in him.


Others who stood out included: 1.) Purcell, who was credited with six tackles, which is a huge number for a nose tackle who played only a small portion of the game. He also drew a holding call in the second quarter. 2.) Safety L.J. McCray, who either made or was in on the first three special teams tackles of the game. He also had a big hit at safety in the second half. 3.) Quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who was efficient in engineering the only touchdown drive of the evening for San Francisco. Gabbert's passer rating in Preseason Game 1 last year was 1.7. On Saturday it was 125.6.

What's the difference in Gabbert this year? He's more comfortable. Also there's a notion that when his velocity is turned down, his accuracy goes up. For more on that, click here.


What's the pecking order with the 49ers' deep tight end group? Vernon Davis is so valuable he was held out of the game, which makes him No. 1. After that, here's their order of appearance on offense: Vance McDonald, Blake Bell, Garrett Celek, Derek Carrier, Asante Cleveland, Xavier Grimble and Busta Anderson.

McDonald and Bell started the game. Bell, in fact, was the only rookie who started. McDonald and Carrier both were on the initial kickoff and kick-return squads. Celek also was on the kick-return team.

Bell was on the field for 17 offensive snaps, McDonald 15, Celek 13, Carrier 11, Cleveland 11, Grimble 4 and Anderson 1.


I thought it was interesting that Skov had the green dot on his helmet that identifies him as the player receiving the call from the sideline. That job will go to NaVorro Bowman during the season. But Nick Moody is vying to be a starter this year. He's been in the league a year longer than Skov and has started two regular season games. Shouldn't he be the guy running the defensive huddle?

First-round pick Arik Armstead entered the game in the first half just before the two-minute warning and played the rest of the contest at left defensive end. He logged 46 snaps, more than any other defensive lineman. Armstead was credited with two tackles and was called for holding. The penalty was interesting. He obviously held the Texans running back coming out of the backfield. But it also showed that he realized Houston was going to try a screen to his side. That is, the recognition was excellent, especially for a rookie who didn't play as much in college as other players. The execution, of course, needs tweaking.

Second-round pick Jaquiski Tartt had a nice play in which he shot the B gap and popped the running back in the backfield. That's where the 49ers see his value -- as a safety who plays around the line of scrimmage. Tartt was credited with five tackles. Tartt played 39 snaps, McCray 36 snaps and Craig Dahl 34. The three are competing for perhaps two roster spots.

Cornerback Kenneth Acker had a solid game. He was aggressive in run support and used his body well on a deep incompletion along the sideline. Keith Reaser played the most snaps of the cornerbacks (39) followed by Dontae Johnson (35).


The 49ers were flagged for eight penalties (Houston had six). But none were the delay-of-game variety Jim Tomsula is trying to root out this season.

The only injured 49er was inside linebacker Desmond Bishop, who suffered a calf injury. Bowman was held out of the game while Philip Wheeler didn't play due to a leg strain suffered in practice. That meant that Skov and Moody played most of the contest.

* Note: I was not in Houston for the game. I watched on TV along with everyone else.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at

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