On the offensive line, it was a good outing for first-round pick Joshua Garnett, who on a third-and-7 play in the first quarter not only had the quick feet to pick up a stunt by the Texans linemen but tossed that opponent, Gerald Rivers, to the ground. That helped quarterback Thaddeus Lewis pick up a first down with his legs. On the next play, Garnett, who was playing left guard, bulldozed his man out of the way on 15-yard run by Shaun Draughn.
Right tackle Trent Brown started the game and played through the second quarter. He and right guard Andrew Tiller played more snaps -- 28 -- than any of the other starting offensive linemen. Brown had a strong second-level block on an inside linebacker to help spring Carlos Hyde on a 22-yard run on the 49ers' second drive. (The gap Hyde ran through was between right guard Andrew Tiller and center Daniel Kilgore, who, along with Zane Beadles, double-teamed massive Texans nose tackle Vince Wilfork). Brown also was trying to block Christian Covington when Covington slammed into Hyde later on the drive, forcing a fumble. Is that Brown's fault? That was a classic zone-blocking play, and it's hard to tell what Brown could have done differently to prevent that outcome. Brown otherwise did well in pass protection during the game.
On the second-team unit, Anthony Davis was not fast enough to pick up a blitzing outside linebacker, who sacked Lewis. Otherwise Davis was solid, especially in run blocking. That was the only sack the 49ers allowed on the evening.
Starting outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks had a nice spin move that led to a sack in the first quarter. Eli Harold, who started the game at right outside linebacker, did not stand out. He may not be 100 percent healthy after getting nicked in Friday's practice. He recorded just one tackle.
Tank Carradine was more prolific than Harold, albeit against the Texans backups. He played right outside linebacker with the second-team unit, at one point taking on two blockers and hitting quarterback Tom Savage just as he was throwing in the third quarter. Carradine had two tackles and a quarterback hit. Of the two OLB contenders -- he and Harold - Carradine is the more talented pass rusher. But he also got caught pinching to the inside on a Texans run when the 49ers defense had Houston pinned against its goal line. That is, he has to be more patient and has to do a better job sealing the edge. ... Aaron Lynch got his hand on the quarterback on two straight plays, also with the second-string unit. Lynch is clearly above his playing weight but is still able to make plays.
Chris Davis "started" at nickel cornerback and played well. He finished with three tackles and a pass break-up against Braxton Miller, who has become a favorite target for the Texans receivers.
"He’s taken advantage of the opportunities he’s had," Chip Kelly said of Davis. "I think he’s really sharp. He’s very sharp as a football player. He’s physical. He’s not the tallest corner we have, but he’s thick and he’s strong and he’s physical. He matches up well and he also does a good job blitzing from that position because he has a little bit of size to him. So he’s done a nice job so far and we’ll continue to see if we can expand his role.”
On the other end of the spectrum -- Kenneth Acker. He was a starting cornerback last season. This year he's with the third-team defense. He had a pass-interference penalty Sunday and also was in the vicinity on both Texans touchdowns.
The team's best blitzer was inside linebacker Nick Bellore, who had one sack, two tackles for loss and three hits on the quarterback. The 49ers like Bellore as a lynchpin on their special teams coverage units. He's also proving to be an asset on defense. It seems as if he has a strong chance to make the 53-man roster despite the 49ers' backlog of inside linebackers.
“Nick’s just such a productive special teams player for us,” Kelly said. “It was really good to see him make some big plays at the linebacker spot for us. You kind of in your mind, your saying, ‘We’ve got Bow and we’ve got a couple other guys,’ but when you have a guy like Nick and you’re saying, ‘Alright now there’s actually some things we can do with him from a linebacker standpoint.’ Really impressed with him, he made a couple plays where you saw him key and diagnose it very quickly and shoot the gap and make a play in the backfield. Those are things we’ve seen, but we haven’t had pads on, especially in the spring-time, so we really couldn’t tackle. But I think he’s one of those guys on defense in the second half that showed up today.”
The 49ers are *still* waiting for a young receiver to step forward. After a lackluster week of practice, DeAndre Smelter did not suit up vs. Houston. Dres Anderson dropped a perfectly thrown sideline pass from Lewis. Bryce Treggs had a strong week of practice but only caught one of the five throws that went his way. Devon Cajuste and Aaron Burbridge weren't targeted.
The strongest performances came from receivers with whom 49ers fans already are familiar. Jerome Simpson had three catches for 29 yards. DeAndrew White had two for 23. You have to wonder if the 49ers are finished adding to this position. That is, hey’ll likely scour the waiver wire when teams start paring their rosters later this month.
Running back Mike Davis ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing. Yes, fourth! That's hard to believe after he showed so little promise as a rookie last season. But Davis seems quicker than last year, and he was especially adept Sunday at the type of cut-back running that is such an essential part of a zone-blocking offense. Suddenly Davis is in the conversation to be one of the 49ers' top 3 runners this season. He's also been doing a nice job catching passes out of the backfield in practice. He had two receptions for 17 yards Sunday.