NFC West: Micheal Spurlock

2011 49ers Week 5: Five observations

October, 11, 2011
10/11/11
8:38
PM ET
Five things I noticed while watching the San Francisco 49ers' 48-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 5:
  • Dashon Goldson appears possessed. The 49ers' safety was among quite a few free agents forced to swallow their pride when the post-lockout market failed to materialize as expected. Goldson's loss has been the 49ers' gain. He's playing angry and ticking off opponents with his aggressive play. Goldson decked Bucs receiver Micheal Spurlock after Spurlock got up to chase down 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver during an interception return. He delivered the biggest hit of the game on Bucs receiver Mike Williams, sticking his shoulder in Williams' chest to force a fumble. Goldson drew a penalty for unnecessary roughness early in the fourth quarter.
  • Watershed game for the secondary. The 49ers appeared to dive deeper into their playbooks while building up their big lead. They went vanilla later, when the game was decided, coach Jim Harbaugh said. The way the defensive play translated to aggressive, decisive coverage in the secondary stood out from the beginning. Sometimes it seemed as though the 49ers' defensive backs knew their opponents' plays as well as the Bucs knew them. The team finished the game with nine passes defensed, three apiece by Culliver and Tarell Brown. Safety Reggie Smith broke up a pass for Kellen Winslow Jr. Carlos Rogers' interception and 31-yard touchdown return provided another example.
  • The run blocking took a step forward. One of the more frustrating plays for the Bucs had to come when the 49ers lined up with two backs and two tight ends on a second-and-15 play. The personnel and I-formation screamed that a running play would likely follow. Tampa Bay put nine defenders in the box (extended beyond the right tackle to account for both tight ends on that side of the formation). Fullback Bruce Miller led into the left side of the offensive line, attracting a crowd. Frank Gore busted up the middle and into the secondary, gaining 18 yards. How frustrating it must be for an opponent when a team lines up in 22 personnel and converts on second-and-15 with a running play up the gut.
  • Smith hurt the Bucs multiple ways. One of the Bucs' defensive players complained to 49ers left tackle Joe Staley that quarterback Alex Smith was getting rid of the ball too quickly, making it tough to get sacks (Tampa Bay had none). Smith's three touchdown passes validated the complaints. On the first one, Smith lined up in the shotgun, faked a handoff and threw quickly on perfect rhythm for tight end Delanie Walker. Smith took a three-step drop on his second scoring pass, throwing quickly for Vernon Davis, who broke a tackle at the 8-yard line. Smith used a three-step drop on his third scoring pass as well, this one a quick lob for Davis in the end zone. Smith's footwork and timing were often excellent. He also appeared more instinctive in avoiding pressure. He ducked pressure on one play, tucked the ball away briefly as he escaped and then threw quickly toward the sideline. He missed Walker after scrambling on another play, but he kept his eyes downfield, giving him a chance.
  • The Bucs' Sean Jones can expect a fine. The 49ers' Kendall Hunter was clearly down when Jones came rushing into the pile and drove his helmet into Hunter's helmet. The play drew a 15-yard penalty and should appear in future officiating videos as an example of dangerous plays. Hunter was fortunate to emerge with no apparent damage.

I also took a closer look at the sacks Aldon Smith and Justin Smith collected. One came after Josh Freeman held the ball too long. Two others came later in the game, after Justin Smith in particular appeared to have worn down Bucs left tackle Donald Penn. Pressure usually sets up a secondary to make plays, but as noted in the second observation, it seemed like the 49ers' secondary took the lead in this game.

Around the NFC West: 49ers' strategy

November, 4, 2009
11/04/09
8:48
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with quarterback Alex Smith regarding the 49ers' offensive tactics against the Colts, followed by a look at every player on the roster. The 49ers abruptly went away from their personnel group featuring Delanie Walker and I am not sure why. More on that from me as the day progresses. Maiocco on Barry Sims: "He entered the game on the 49ers' second offensive play after Joe Staley's injury. He was matched up mostly against Colts DE Dwight Freeney. Sims played very, very well. In fact, I'd go so far as to say he pitched a shutout against Freeney. Sure, Freeney had a sack in the game, but it came on a stunt in which Gore picked him up. Even then, that was more of a coverage sack." The hard part comes now that opponents have time to prepare for an offense without Staley.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at potential options for the 49ers as they deal with significant injuries to Staley and cornerback Nate Clements. Barrows: "Look for Sims and Adam Snyder to be the starting tackles while Staley is out. Newly-signed Chris Patrick also is an option, and the 49ers also could elevate rookie Alex Boone from the practice squad. Boone is strictly a right tackle. Bringing him to the active roster would require the 49ers to release someone on the 53-man squad, likely a receiver." The 49ers did release receiver Micheal Spurlock before adding cornerback Keith Smith. I'd be surprised if Boone made it into a regular-season game. Practice squad tackles generally aren't ready for prime time.

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle takes a look at Mike Singletary's first year as the 49ers' head coach. Ratto: "In the meantime, the real fun here is not in wondering if Alex Smith has suddenly been cured, or if Joe Staley can miraculously heal himself, or if the secondary can grow in the absence of Nate Clements and his cracked scapula, but what comes next in Singletary's development as a coach. Does he become a headset guy? Probably not, because he is who he is and that's all who he is, to quote the one-eyed maritime philosopher. Does he more forcefully encourage Raye to open up the offense to accommodate Smith's skill-set while finding a way to protect Smith from being obliterated? As yet unproven. Does he keep promising the playoffs? Oh, bank on it. But what he's already done in what is essentially one year's time already is remarkable, at least when you compare with his original, rigid plan."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals need to bench Anquan Boldin for the receiver's own good. Somers: "By playing at considerably less than optimal health, Boldin is hurting the team. It's hard to make him a big part of the game plan, because no one is sure how long Boldin's ankle will hold up. It doesn't appear he can accelerate as fast on his pass routes, or move quickly enough to evade tacklers when he does make the catch." I thought Boldin moved better against the Panthers than against the Giants, but his subsequent re-injury will probably diminish his effectiveness.

Also from Somers: The Bengals signed fullback Tufui Vakapuna from the Cardinals' practice squad.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are testing their fans' patience with repeated home defeats. Bickley: "If you haven't noticed, these Cardinals are a strange bunch. In trouble, they're often at their best. At their best, they're often on the brink of trouble. They frequently bemoan a lack of respect. Once they attain it, they do everything possible to give it away. They are in first place, and unbeaten on the road. Yet only a goal-line stand against the Texans prevents them from being winless at home."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says coach Ken Whisenhunt is taking an even-keeled approach despite the team's inconsistencies. Whisenhunt: "I think our team has seen me get upset a few times when I’m with the team [in the locker room]. Maybe they need to see that a little bit more from the standpoint of being able to establish that consistency. [But] I don’t really buy into that. We have enough good football players that … no matter what the temperature of the game, we can play the style of football that can allow us to win."

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 breaks down the Cardinals' defensive effort against the Panthers. There's plenty of blame to go around.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com details nine roster moves made by the Seahawks. Was this what coach Jim Mora meant when he said jobs were on the line? A team generally cannot release valuable players for the sake of making statements. Edgerrin James was the biggest name to go, but he wasn't a factor.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times expects Louis Rankin to get more playing time following James' release. The Seahawks are valuing players with knowledge of their offense. Rankin played for Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Oakland.

John Morgan of Field Gulls points out how Seattle receivers Nate Burleson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh jogged out their routes on a running play, possibly by costly consequences. Morgan: "Seattle runs an inside draw. It gets good push from Chris Spencer and Rob Sims. (Justin) Forsett slips through a seam and streams out the other side behind the pulling Spencer. He has the first. Before he's blindsided and the ball pops from his grasp, let's rewind and look around. It's a shotgun snap and the handoff to Forsett is quick and definitive, so the wide receivers have to hustle to influence the play. They're not going to run off their guys, but they could put a body on them. Burleson inches up towards (Terence) Newman and when it's clear he's beat, stops, stands and spectates. Houshmandzadeh starts quicker but slows and instead of engaging nickelback Orlando Scandrick, he jogs up and behind the referee. Newman forces the fumble and Scandrick recovers for 15 yards."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com quotes Seahawks receiver Deion Branch's explanation for what Branch said following his touchdown reception Sunday. Branch: "When you're 2-5 a lot of stuff is going down. I want to win. I want to play. I'm not sitting on the sideline complaining. I've accepted my role on the football team, I just want to go out and help my team win and I feel I can help my team win by playing."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides an appreciation for Rams running back Steven Jackson. Thomas: "These days, few in the NFL pound the rock as well as Jackson. At the midpoint of the 2009 season, he's tied for the NFC rushing lead with Minnesota's Adrian Peterson with 784 yards. And he's tied for second overall in the NFL, trailing only Tennessee's Chris Johnson, who has 824 yards. Add his 186 receiving yards, and Jackson trails Peterson by a scant 3 yards -- 973 to 970 -- for the NFL lead in yards from scrimmage. There can be no doubting that he's at or near the top of the NFL pecking order at running back."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says rookie K.C. Asiodu made a key contribution to the Rams' first victory of the season.

WR Brandon Jones inactive for 49ers

October, 25, 2009
10/25/09
11:41
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

HOUSTON -- Top 49ers free-agent acquisition Brandon Jones is among the players inactive for San Francisco against the Texans in Week 7.

Fellow receivers Jason Hill and Micheal Spurlock are also on the inactive list.

It is Michael Crabtree's time, in other words. Crabtree, Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan and Arnaz Battle are the receivers for the 49ers.

Also inactive for the 49ers: offensive lineman Cody Wallace, defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois, safety Reggie Smith, safety Michael Lewis and quarterback Nate Davis, who did not make the trip.

Inactive for the Texans: safety Nick Ferguson, receiver Glenn Martinez, cornerback Fred Bennett, linebacker Jamie Winborn, guard Tutan Reyes, tight end Anthony Hill and defensive tackle Frank Okam. Dan Orlovsky is the third quarterback.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune explains how the Seahawks plan to adjust their communication on defense to help combat Peyton Manning. Every defensive player will wear a wristband featuring tactical information, the better to facilitate stealth communications.

Also from Boling: Seahawks coach Jim Mora is optimistic about the season after looking at where the team ranks in several statistical categories. Mora: "I feel like we’re starting to get some of our best players back, and I feel like … while they were gone, young guys stepped in and played admirably. I like the direction this team’s headed in; I don’t necessarily like our record, but I love our mind-set, our attitude, our work ethic, and I think there are real positives on the horizon for this team."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says questions about Seneca Wallace linger following his performance against the Bears in Week 4.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Lofa Tatupu's return is key for the Seahawks as they try to match wits with Manning.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times wonders which Seahawks defense will show up against the Colts. Answer: The one without No. 1 cornerback Marcus Trufant, No. 3 cornerback Josh Wilson and rangy linebacker Leroy Hill. It's a tough matchup.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Brian Billick in profiling Rams quarterback Kyle Boller, whose high school exploits in California drew comparisons to John Elway. Billick: "It's just the way Kyle carries himself. I don't know that you wouldn't want that. He wasn't arrogant by any stretch of the imagination. But he acted the way a good-looking Cal grad, who was about to lot of have of money, with great athletic talent would. Great grounded values. Great parents."

Also from Thomas: He gives the Rams' run defense an edge against the 49ers' run offense.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says fans should be patient with the Rams' new leadership. He checks in with former NFL general manager Bobby Beathard, who draws comparisons to the 1981 Redskins.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Keith Null, who is one step closer to the field while Marc Bulger recovers from injuries.

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says a 49ers defeat to the Rams would expose the team as less than a contender in the NFC.

Sam Whiting of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' new uniforms very nearly match the ones worn 15 years ago.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says it's time for Manny Lawson to step up and collect his first sack of the season.

Also from Crumpacker: The 49ers' scheme -- and the times -- have turned Moran Norris into a glorified guard. He could do more if asked.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider thinks the 49ers need to give Jason Hill a chance to play at Micheal Spurlock's expense. Coach Mike Singletary's recent comments about Hill suggested a certain level of impatience with the receiver's injuries.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers will take a measured approach to the passing game even without Frank Gore. The staff thinks a conservative approach is one key to Shaun Hill's efficiency.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' Adam Snyder has the edge on Tony Pashos for the job at right tackle.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Isaac Bruce is more than happy to contribute as a blocker, particularly with the 49ers winning.

49ers WR Brandon Jones inactive again

September, 27, 2009
9/27/09
11:43
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


MINNEAPOLIS -- The 49ers and Vikings submitted their list of inactive players for their Week 3 game in the Metrodome.
No big surprises for the 49ers. They have four receivers active (Josh Morgan, Isaac Bruce, Arnaz Battle and Micheal Spurlock). Linebacker Ahmad Brooks is active, as coach Mike Singletary suggested the case would be.

Jones has returned to practice following a shoulder injury, but the 49ers did not find a spot for him on the 45-man roster. They have not used more than three wide receivers at a time through two games this season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Anquan Boldin, slowed by a hamstring injury, warmed up for the Cardinals and is active against the 49ers.

Teammate and fellow receiver Steve Breaston, who suffered a knee injury during preseason, was among the inactive players for Arizona. That leaves Larry Fitzgerald, Boldin, Jerheme Urban, Sean Morey and Lance Long as active receivers for the Cardinals.

Also inactive for the Cardinals: cornerback Greg Toler, linebacker Reggie Walker, tackle Herman Johnson, guard Brandon Keith, receiver Early Doucet and tight end Dominique Byrd. Brian St. Pierre is the third quarterback.

The 49ers' inactive players include safety Curtis Taylor, safety Reggie Smith, center Cody Wallace, linebacker Ahmad Brooks, receiver Jason Hill, receiver Brandon Jones and defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois. Nate Davis is the third quarterback. The 49ers have four receivers active: Josh Morgan, Isaac Bruce, Arnaz Battle and Micheal Spurlock.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals want more consistency this season. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "For us to become a respected team that can make a run at the playoffs every year, we have to have that consistency week in and week out. We can't have those games where we give up so many points and lose by so many points. You know, where we get blown out. That's the big thing."

Also from Somers: the front office is key in the Cardinals becoming successful.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic relates anecdotes involving Whisenhunt and Kurt Warner while saying both are leading the Cardinals franchise.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com doesn't expect Walter Jones or Chris Spencer to be available for "at least several more weeks" as both recover from injuries. Jones would seem to have a chance to beat that timetable, although the Seahawks haven't updated his status following arthroscopic knee surgery.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times ranks the Seahawks' roster surprises, putting D.D. Lewis' release ahead of Brian Russell's release. Will Herring's strong play apparently made him more than just a special-teams linebacker in the Seahawks' eyes. O'Neil: "When Seattle re-signed Lewis last year, he was considered Seattle's top reserve linebacker, someone capable of playing all three spots among the linebackers. He started for Lofa Tatupu at middle linebacker for a game and later replaced Leroy Hill at the weakside linebacker after Hill was injured. The decision to let Lewis go reflects on the development of Will Herring and David Hawthorne, but Herring specifically."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers comments for each position on the Seahawks' roster. Williams on the situation at running back: "Overall playmaking ability might be a concern here, but I think the team has enough depth to get them through the year, and I expect Julius Jones to rush for 1,000 yards this season if he stays healthy."

John Morgan of Field Gulls thinks Derek Walker could become a Cory Redding type for the Seahawks.

Rod Mar of seahawks.com updates his photo blog with shots from the team's final game of the 2009 exhibition season.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com goes over the team's roster moves while acknowledging the team isn't done yet.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams rookie Jason Smith appears ready to break into the starting lineup in time for the regular season. Thomas: "Smith might not be totally ready for the right tackle position in the NFL, but it's not like he embarrassed himself in the preseason, either. Sure he's had a few rough plays, including one early in the Kansas City game when Tamba Hali beat him around the edge for a pressure on quarterback Kyle Boller. But he hasn't given up a sack this preseason and has steadily improved over the course of exhibition play." I thought Smith improved after a rough outing against the Falcons. The transition from Baylor requires significant technique adjustments.

Also from Thomas: Youth prevailed for the Rams in the No. 3 quarterback spot and at receiver.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says first-year Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has made a positive impression to this point.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams offensive lineman John Greco will miss time following wrist surgery.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat sizes up the Rams' situation at running back after the team released Antonio Pittman.



Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers wanted to run the ball 60 percent of the time when Mike Nolan took over in 2005. I'm guessing the 49ers' new offensive coordinator, Jimmy Raye, will come closer to hitting that mark.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle looks into the cult of personality -- Mike Singletary's personality -- as it pervades the 49ers. Crumpacker: "Singletary doesn't necessarily like the attention but he understands that at least for now, he is the face and voice of the 49ers franchise."

Matt Maiocco of the San Francisco Chronicle runs a transcript with Singletary's comments following the 49ers' roster cuts. Singletary on Micheal Spurlock winning a spot (for now): "All offseason, I think Spurlock continued to show up. He's a versatile guy. He can help you in special teams areas and continue to better as a receiver and run better routes. And he works at it. It's important for us. Felt it was a good opportunity and a good fit."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers kept linebacker Diyral Briggs on their roster because they like his "raw" talent and want to work with him.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers cut tight end Bear Pascoe because he didn't catch up to the speed of the NFL game.

Around the NFC West: Rams' Smith shows

September, 4, 2009
9/04/09
9:02
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando




Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch liked what he saw from Rams rookie tackle Jason Smith. Burwell: "What I liked the most about what Smith did against the Chiefs was how quickly he learned from his mistakes. When he was over on the right side in the first quarter, the Chiefs stacked the linebacker and defensive end together and ran a looping stunt, with the end swooping around the blitzing linebacker to the inside. A few games ago, Smith had issues with these types of games that the defensive rushers played against the inexperienced rookie. Thursday night, it wasn't Smith who got fooled on the stunt. He stuffed his man at the line of scrimmage, but his tag-team partner, Adam Goldberg, reacted a hair late to the delayed inside rush."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says both teams were "offensively challenged" when the Rams and Chiefs played Thursday night. Thomas: "Bubble defensive ends Eric Moore and C.J. Ah You both had their moments rushing the passer. At running back, none of the backups made a definitive statement. In the battle for the No. 3 quarterback job, Brock Berlin got the better of it over Keith Null, although Berlin did throw a costly second-quarter interception and their final numbers Thursday ended up being very similar."

Also from Thomas: Donnie Avery got some work for the Rams, suggesting he'll be ready for the regular-season opener after recovering from a broken foot.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the race between quarterbacks Berlin and Null for the No. 3 job in St. Louis is too close to call.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat points to turnovers as a key for the Rams during the exhibition season. They forced 12 of them.

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams' cornerbacks stood out against the Rams. Stull: "Jonathan Wade had sack, Justin King had an interception and Bradley Fletcher was in on several plays."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says some Cardinals players are concerned after the team failed to impress -- again -- in finishing the exhibition season with an 0-4 record. Also: "The Cardinals could well make most of their cuts on Friday, a day ahead of the deadline for teams to get to the 53-man maximum. After Thursday's game, I'd say cornerback Michael Adams is going to stick. He's competitive and plays well on special teams. I don't like the chances of tight end Leonard Pope or receiver Lance Long. Pope was the last tight end used on Thursday, I believe. I think the Cardinals will take their chances at releasing Long and re-signing him to the practice squad."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals' first-team offense scored one touchdown during the exhibition season.

More from Somers: Coach Ken Whisenhunt says the Cardinals' rookie defensive backs have a ways to go before they're ready. I thought Greg Toler showed promise.

Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com liked what he saw from the Rams' Victor Adeyanju. Klutsarits: "Adeyanju was all over the field against the Chiefs and while his production is going to be mostly against the run it looks like he might be a contributor rushing the quarterback this year as well."



Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers rookie Michael Crabtree wouldn't be able to contribute much in Week 1 even if he signed in the near future. Maiocco: "The 49ers have just three more significant practices before the start of the regular season. That's not a lot of time for a rookie wide receiver to get up to speed on what he missed while absent from training camp."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee makes the tough calls in projecting the 49ers' initial 53-man roster. He keeps Micheal Spurlock over Jason Hill and Bear Pascoe over J.J. Finley.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says cornerback Eric Green and others are fighting for roster spots with the 49ers.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com recaps the Seahawks' performance against Oakland.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes Seahawks coach Jim Mora as saying Ben Obomanu "showed up" on special teams against the Raiders. Obomanu also caught two passes for 58 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown grab.

Also from O'Neil: Olindo Mare might have won the kicking battle against Brandon Coutu. Also, Max Unger will open the regular season at right guard.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says Seahawks rookie Aaron Curry was on his game Thursday night.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune lists Seahawks injuries this way: "Receivers Jordan Kent (ankle) and Courtney Taylor (eye), safety Courtney Greene (knee), tackle Andre Ramsey (leg) and defensive end Derek Walker (hamstring) suffered injuries during the game."

John Morgan of Field Gulls credits Seahawks defensive line coach Dan Quinn for developing and using young talent.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Rookie quarterback Nate Davis, rookie running back Kory Sheets, and backup receiver Micheal Spurlock likely are not going to help the 49ers in meaningful ways this season. They did help the 49ers during their exhibition game Saturday night.

Davis rallied the 49ers in the second half. He completed 10 of 15 passes for 132 yards. He found Spurlock for a 35-yard gain, setting up Sheets' winning touchdown run.

The game was not televised in my area and I will not offer observations until I watch the NFL Network replay Sunday. But I do think we can say this: The first-team offense was not productive, starting with quarterback Shaun Hill.

As Hill said during the game, according to the 49ers: "I would have liked for it to have gone a bit smoother than it did. I don't know. You can't tell a whole lot right now. I just wish we could have put a few more points on the board."

Hill completed 9 of 17 passes for 79 yards, or 4.6 yards per attempt. I know offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye has said running back Frank Gore is the most important member of the offense, but teams generally must throw the ball efficiently to win meaningful games. Hill did miss practice time during the week after experiencing back soreness. That did not help.

More broadly, how much evidence have we seen suggesting the 49ers are developing momentum in their passing game this summer?

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:

  • 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.
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.

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