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Observations from the 49ers' exhibition game

8/24/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Thoughts and observations from the 49ers' exhibition game Saturday night against the Raiders:

  • How to evaluate Alex Smith. Yes, he was a bit high with the throw that bounced off Josh Morgan for an interception, but Morgan also short-armed the ball as if to protect himself from a looming collision with Raiders cornerback Chris Johnson. Some of Smith's passes appeared difficult to catch, though, and this was one of them. When plays break down, Shaun Hill is more effective at moving and finding a receiver, even though Smith is more athletic.

  • Morgan still made an impact. The second-year receiver caught only one pass for 7 yards, but did you see him sealing Raiders linebacker Jon Alston to help spring Glen Coffee for 16 yards on the 49ers' second possession? Bet the 49ers' coaches saw it.

  • Coffee does more than run the ball. He picked up blitzing Raiders linebacker Ricky Brown early in the game. Brown recovered and eventually hit Smith, but Coffee's willingness and ability to pick up the blitz makes it easier for coaches to trust him in game situations. I think the 49ers could win with Coffee.

  • The 49ers love to run block. Tight end Vernon Davis and left tackle Joe Staley form a powerful combination. Davis can often block defensive ends one-on-one. Case in point: the last play of the first quarter. It was second-and-10 from the San Francisco 16. Coffee was alone in the backfield. The 49ers had three wide receivers on the field. Davis drove defensive end Trevor Scott across the formation. Staley did the same with defensive tackle Gerard Warren, finishing the 330-pounder with a violent blow that twisted Warren's upper body. Coffee shot through behind Davis and Staley for an 18-yard gain.

  • They really love to run block. Davis and Staley sealed the left edge on Coffee's 35-yard run midway through the second quarter. Left guard Tony Wragge and center Eric Heitmann pulled left and delivered decisive blocks. It's refreshing to watch the 49ers play to their strengths.

  • Pass rush, anyone? The 49ers are not winning one-on-one pass rush battles on the outside. They rushed four and got no pressure on the Raiders' third-and-21 touchdown pass. Manny Lawson rushed against the left tackle, got nowhere, then peeled off into coverage when tight end Zach Miller released from the other side.

  • Jimmy Raye found a rhythm. The successful run call on third-and-7 was a nice touch. Play calling becomes easier when the run game is working.

  • Adam Snyder could have been hurt worse. The 49ers' right tackle was about to get up after making a block when Coffee was tackled hard on the back of Snyder's right leg. Snyder was kneeling and had his back to Coffee. His right foot was turned outward and pressed into the grass. Snyder walked off the field, but he was obviously hurting. The 49ers hope to know more about the injury Monday.

Those are among the things I saw during the first half. About to watch the second half.