Saturday, August 22, 2009
What to watch in 49ers' exhibition game
By Mike Sando
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
I'll be trading notes with AFC West blogger Bill Williamson on Saturday night. He lives in California and will be watching the Raiders-49ers game. I live in Washington and will be watching the Broncos-Seahawks game.
NFL Network replays the Raiders-49ers game Sunday night. I'll give that game a close look at that time. A few things I'll want to see:
Anything else you'll be watching for in this game? The local CBS affiliate in San Francisco is carrying the game. NFL Network replays it at 10 p.m. ET Sunday.
- Alex Smith's command. Smith doesn't need to carry himself with Johnny Unitas' swagger. He does need to demonstrate command of the offense and situations in general. Is he the man when he's in the game? Is he decisive? From a technical standpoint, Smith needs to show better touch on short passes. He missed a screen to Glen Coffee last week.
- Hard feelings. The 49ers dominated and taunted the Raiders when the teams practiced together during the week. Can the 49ers sustain their domination, or were they too excited about a routine practice?
- The pass rush. The 49ers didn't win many individual pass-rush matchups in their exhibition opener. A sack or two from Manny Lawson would help dispel fears that the 49ers haven't done enough to upgrade in that area.
- Signs of life at receiver. I was looking to see something from Jason Hill in the opener. There wasn't much to see. With Brandon Jones out, what do the 49ers have beyond Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan and Arnaz Battle? Micheal Spurlock has made an impression.
- The fullbacks. Linebacker-turned-fullback Brit Miller scored two touchdowns against the Broncos last week. That will not be enough for Miller to earn a roster spot. The 49ers need their fullbacks to block in the run game and pick up blitzes in pass protection. Newly signed Bill Rentmeester has the edge in experience. Moran Norris is the starter. Which fullback should the 49ers keep as a backup?
- Dashon Goldson and the secondary. The 49ers picked off three Kyle Orton passes last week despite very little pass rush, a very good start for a group that did not force enough turnovers last season. The decision to replace free safety Mark Roman with Goldson seemed overdue. Let's see if Goldson's athleticism stands out.