- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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1. Progress on offense. I was among those cutting the 49ers some slack offensively following their rough outing against New Orleans in the preseason opener. They were one week into practicing with newly signed players, including quarterback Alex Smith. The Saints threw quite a few blitzes at them to make life more difficult, especially for an offense so reliant upon timing. It's reasonable to expect at least some progress against the Raiders. The 49ers should have quick passes built into their offense to beat pressure. Smith hasn't been the most accurate passer over the years, though. I'll be watching to see how accurately he delivers some of the quick-slant throws that will be a staple of the offense under coach Jim Harbaugh. Let's also watch to see whether Smith can get the ball to Braylon Edwards downfield.
2. More Aldon Smith. The 49ers' rookie outside linebacker was the most impressive NFC West first-round draft choice during preseason openers. That won't necessarily mean much for the long term, but those casting Smith as a developmental player have seen preliminary indications Smith will provide immediate contributions as well. The Raiders gave up only two sacks in their opener against Arizona, none on starting quarterback Jason Campbell. Smith had five tackles, one sack and a forced fumble against the Saints, a good start.
3. Right guard Chilo Rachal. I know, I know. Few things in life generate as much excitement and fulfillment as watching an offensive guard slog through a preseason game. But with Harbaugh recently singling out Rachal as one of the players enjoying a strong camp, I wondered to what degree there was a self-fulfilling element to the coach's comments. There is some evidence Rachal has made progress. He reported to camp about 20-25 pounds lighter than his playing weight last season, significant given the lack of player oversight during the lockout. I was among those last season who thought the 49ers would have benefited from a more experienced, steadier player lined up next to rookie right tackle Anthony Davis. Can Rachal help stabilize his side of the line?
4hEric D. Williams