Observations from the 49ers' exhibition opener

August, 14, 2009
8/14/09
11:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

A few thoughts and observations through the first half of the 49ers' exhibition opener against the Broncos at Candlestick Park:

  • Alex Smith has not seized the moment. Mike Singletary has given Smith most of the reps through the first half. Smith held the ball far too long in taking a sack on his first possession. He could have thrown to Arnaz Battle, but instead he froze. Smith did make a few good throws, but I thought his numbers were better than his performance through the first half. He threw into the ground when he had Glen Coffee open short against pressure.
  • Shaun Hill was sharp early. Hill appeared more confident and decisive than Smith. Yes, he also held the ball too long in taking a sack, but most of his problems stemmed from fullback Zak Keasey's troubles in pass protection (admittedly when he found himself overmatched against linemen).
  • Vernon Davis did not disappoint. The fastest tight end in the league caught two passes from Hill early in the game. He showed he can get downfield and catch the ball. The 49ers did not need him in protection all the time.
  • Adam Snyder was competent at right tackle. The offensive line generally kept the 49ers' quarterbacks clean. The sacks weren't the fault of the line, generally. Snyer cleared out his man to spring Coffee for a nice run up the middle, with Tony Wragge's trap block also playing a role in the gain.
  • Manny Lawson did not stand out. The 49ers' pass rush had problems, in part because the Broncos threw the ball quickly. Manny Lawson never seemed close to getting pressure on Kyle Orton. Ahmad Brooks came closer. He was bearing down on Orton on the pass Dre Bly picked off. Not sure if the pressure affected Orton, but this play seemed to validate what we've seen from Brooks in camp so far. Lawson did make a tackle 13 yards downfield -- after he bit on a play fake near the line of scrimmage.
  • Kentwan Balmer was in there. But the Broncos' Chris Kuper pushed Balmer aside in clearing the way for Knowshon Moreno to convert on third-and-1.
  • The 49ers' secondary is ball hawking. And that is something I haven't had to type in a long while. Nate Clements baited Orton into an end-zone interception by leaning outside, then darting back to play the ball. Bly and safety Reggie Smith also picked off passes. Exactly what the 49ers need from their secondary.
Those were some of the things I noticed. The 49ers' offensive line seemed to play well for the most part. Joe Staley (of all people) did have a problem at one point, with the Broncos' Kenny Peterson coming off Staley's block to drop Coffee for a loss. The bottom line right now is that Smith needs to show more to win this quarterback competition.

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