San Francisco 49ers

Tomsula says o-line will be settled shortly; thoughts on 49ers loss in Denver

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws as San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (90) and Tony Jerod-Eddie (63) rush during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Denver.
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws as San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Darnell Dockett (90) and Tony Jerod-Eddie (63) rush during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Denver. AP

The 49ers played exactly like they practiced against the Broncos in Englewood, Colo. this week, and Thursday's session was especially similar. It was marked by lapses -- mostly on the right side of the line -- false starts and botched snaps. Each of those errors made an appearance Saturday. Rookie Ian Silberman started at right guard and Marcus Martin started at center after Martin had been at right guard and Joe Looney at center in the first two games. Afterward, Jim Tomsula said "things are becoming more clear" on the offensive line and that the answers are on the roster. He intimated that he and his assistants would settle on a starting five in the next few days. (It’s not obvious what their choice will be).

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The good news -- NaVorro Bowman looked even better than he did Sunday against Dallas. He was effective blitzing up the middle, sacking stationary target Peyton Manning twice. He also was quick in coverage, knocking the ball from Demarious Thomas, one of the top receivers in the game, on the opening series. (The play was ruled a completion after a 49ers challenge; it either was incomplete or a fumble). On the second series, a sequence of plays went like this for Bowman: sack, tackle, near sack, sack. He said the plan was for him to play 10 snaps and then assess his knee. That assessment went well --- he ended up playing 40 snaps and he led all players with nine tackles. The next-highest tally came from Michael Wilhoite, who had five.

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There was a real contrast between Colin Kaepernick and backup Blaine Gabbert. The latter looked comfortable and in control. His passes were accurate and he always made the right decision with the ball. Garbbert finished with a 103.0 passer rating. Kaepernick, meanwhile, completed 2-5 passes for 13 yards (47.9 passer rating) and was sacked twice, once for a safety. (Right tackle Erik Pears was the culprit). That's largely because the offensive line was so porous. But Kaepernick generally looked uncomfortable in the pocket, and the throws he was able to get off were from his back foot. The 49ers rolled Gabbert out of the pocket to give him more room to the throw and to make his reads more simple. Why they didn't do that with Kaepernick is curious. Could it be that they want to force him out of his comfort zone? If so -- job well done. He was decidedly uncomfortable.

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The 49ers have a difficult choice to make at right guard because no one has stood out in a positive way. They have a tough choice at cornerback because there are so many worthy candidates. Kenneth Acker looked strong all week in Denver and had an interception in the end zone against Manning. (He must have thought he was still at SMU because he tossed the ball away without getting touched). He also had a pass break-up in the end zone, although the receiver, Cody Latimer, helped him out by not extending his hands for the ball. Acker is very good at man-to-man coverage, which is essential for a heavy-blitzing team like the 49ers. He, Keith Reaser, Dontae Johnson and Shareece Wright are competing to start opposite Tramaine Brock, who missed the game with a minor hamstring injury. Johnson struggled a bit to keep up with quick Broncos receiver Jordan Norwood, who is 180 pounds. He's much better against bigger opponents and knocked away a would-be touchdown pass from Manning in the first half.

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Reggie Bush obviously has fresh legs after being very lightly used to this point. He had one carry for 21 yards. Mike Davis also looked good at times, eking out positive yards on a day when there was very little room. Kendall Hunter, meanwhile, looked like a guy who was just getting back into the action. He didn't have his usual burst and gained 15 yards on seven carries. Jarryd Hayne had no yards on two carries but had an 18-yard reception after putting a strong move on a Broncos linebacker.

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First-round draft pick Arik Armstead had a sizable 36 defensive snaps but was not credited with a single tackle. Lawrence Okoye and Kaleb Ramsey did not play until the third-team unit was on the field and had only four snaps each. ... Eli Harold (ROLB) and Corey Lemonier (LOLB) started the game and Aaron Lynch (LOLB) didn’t play until the second half. Harold looked like the best of that group, though he did whiff on an open-field tackle in the first quarter.

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Receiver Torrey Smith had one catch for five yards, but he probably could have picked up a first down on the play had he run straight ahead instead of toward the sideline. It was his only catch of the preseason to date. Is his preseason over? He wrote this on twitter after the game: “Made it through the preseason! Gotta get ready for the real thing...a lot of work ahead.”

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I like and respect Anquan Boldin but thought his hit on Omar Bolden, for which he was penalized, was cheap. It’s not sportsmanlike if the other guy has no idea you’re going to hit him.

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It’s never good when your offensive MVP is your kicker (see: Nedney, Joe; 2005). But Corey Acosta has yet to miss this preseason and he banged one in from 50 yards in Denver. Phil Dawson is the 49ers’ kicker this year. But he’s also 40 years old and not signed beyond this season. That is, Acosta could be part of the discussion next season.

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In general, the 49ers looked like a tired team. They had 13 penalties for 113 yards. (By contrast they had 92 yards passing). The two days of practices outside of Denver were supposed to acclimate them to the mile-high altitude. Instead, it may have just tuckered them out. The best news of all: no serious injuries.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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