The 49ers’ pre-season finale didn’t result in a win for San Francisco, but it did provide plenty of insight into some of the key players on their roster.
They’ve had some good and bad games from players in several buckets. There were some locks on the roster, some players on the bubble, and players unlikely to make it to the club that have all had up and down games against the Chargers.
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Here are the buttons and dos for San Francisco from Friday night at Levi’s Stadium:
The 49ers running backs were loaded with room. Not only are Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell atop the depth chart, but Jordan Mason and Tyrion Davis-Pryce were both stellar in pre-season finals on Friday. Their presence gives San Francisco a great deal of insulation from on-site infection. Mason ran it nine times for 59 yards and ran a sweet road to an opening 13-yard touchdown run from QB Brock Purdy. Davis Price contributed 61 yards on 10 carries and caught 2 passes for 16 yards.
The 49ers special teams have been in shambles throughout the preseason. On Friday, kicker Zane Gonzalez injured his calf and was unable to take any kicks. The penalty returner, Anthony Miller, dropped a kick he wasn’t supposed to play, then ran back. And in a fine D’Shawn Jamison comeback, Willie Snead IV was booed for an illegal tackle. This is a facet of San Francisco He should Clean up by the opening of the season.
Jackson played a lot of snaps on Friday and made a couple of nice plays early in the second half impacting quick throws to the flat. He’s been involved in a few running stops as well, but his height and speed on short throws to his side can be a real asset on the 49ers’ defensive line. Jackson hit one throw in the air and nearly came close to it for an interception. Then he put his hands in the path of another throw to the flat. This time he didn’t touch the ball, but the fact that he can stand in the way of throws designed to be easy for the QB is a big deal.
The newly minted QB2 was fine on his final pre-season outing. Some ups and downs may be what the 49ers have to deal with if/when Darnold plays. He badly missed two third-down throws, but also connected on a deep punt down the sideline and had a good throw to WR Willie Snead IV for a touchdown. Darnold was neither good nor bad, but in the wake of the Trey Lance deal his play will come under increased scrutiny.
Not only did Kinlaw play, he played a great number of catches and showed some effectiveness as a quick pass taker and run stopper. It wasn’t perfect. He played once where he swept the running back into the backfield to open up a cut lane, but for the most part he was good. Had Fred Warner not flown off the rim for a sack, Kinlaw could have gotten one early thanks to a hard drive up the middle. He also had a hand in a sack early in the third quarter when he filled the pocket by carrying offensive linemen to the QB.
Oliver had a stellar play early in the game stopping a stick-less receiver on third down. Beyond that though he missed a few runs and failed to make a decision near the goal line allowing the QB to make an easy TD throw. Oliver hasn’t looked rested in pre-season and the fact that he played a lot on Friday isn’t a great sign. However, defensive coordinator Steve Wilkes believes in Oliver as a player and may benefit from playing alongside the 49ers’ key players in a planned defensive game.
It’s been a relatively uneventful pre-season for Winstead, but he made enough plays on Friday to be interesting. The large-bodied wide receiver showed great body control throwing far behind him as he reached back to catch with his feet, then made a move past the defender for an 18-yard gain. He made another tough stint later that might have cemented him a spot on the practice squad if he cleared waivers. Watch Winstead closely once the final cuts are made. He’s an interesting player.
Allen may have played his part off the list on Friday. He came into the game late and completed two of six throws with his first pass being intercepted after it was thrown behind wide receiver Ty Martin. If he came in and looked clear running offense, that might have forced the team to keep him as the third QB. The outing wasn’t spectacular and probably made the risk of signing him elsewhere after cuts more palatable for the 49ers.
Haider was excellent on Friday. He had multiple pressures, a QB hit, one pass break and four tackles. His third down pressure into the deep red zone set up a Chargers field goal early in the game. The 49ers need depth in defence. Haider is unlikely to reach the level he reached in 2020 when he led the 49ers with 8.5 sacks, but he is versatile and trusted by the coaching staff. His play on Friday could have earned him a spot on the 53-man roster.
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