NFL Nation: three things revisited

Looking back on three things discussed here before the San Francisco 49ers closed their 2013 preseason schedule with a 41-6 road victory over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night:

1. Final QB impressions: Starter Colin Kaepernick, backup Colt McCoy and third quarterback B.J. Daniels combined for four touchdown passes without an interception. The group made a positive final impression overall, even though McCoy averaged just 3.7 yards per pass attempt while completing 8 of 15 attempts for 56 yards. Daniels, a seventh-round draft choice, tossed two scoring passes on only nine attempts and added a 36-yard run. He looks like a keeper. Veteran backup Seneca Wallace did not travel to San Diego and doesn't appear to have a future with the team.

2. Injury list: Backup offensive lineman Adam Snyder appeared to suffer a wrist or hand injury. Running back LaMichael James suffered a knee injury. The extent of those injuries was not immediately known.

3. The spectacular: The 49ers' receivers deserve credit for making their quarterbacks look good. Rookie Quinton Patton turned a short pass from Kaepernick into a 43-yard touchdown. Veteran Lavelle Hawkins produced a 45-yard touchdown after breaking a tackle and making defenders miss. He made the grab after the ball bounced off his body high into the air. The 49ers also got spectacular plays from outside linebacker Cam Johnson. Johnson made a strong case for a roster spot. He had two sacks and also blocked a punt and recovered it for a touchdown.
Looking back on three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' final exhibition game of the 2013 preseason, a 32-24 road victory over the Denver Broncos on Thursday night:

1. Williams' performance. The stats for running back Ryan Williams -- nine carries for 25 yards and a touchdown -- will not make a compelling case for him earning a spot on the initial 53-man roster. The third-year running back looked good, though. His per-carry average took several hits, including on a 1-yard scoring run. Williams showed quickness in outrunning defenders around the corner for an 8-yard gain. He spun away from trouble and accelerated on another run. The blocking generally wasn't there for him, notably when he lost 6 yards on a carry. There are no guarantees Williams has done enough to stick around. Future injury risk could lead the Cardinals in another direction. Rashard Mendenhall is clearly established as the starter. Rookies Andre Ellington and Stepfan Taylor figure into the team's plans as well.

2. Speed at wide receiver. Jaron Brown, a rookie free agent with 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash, got deep to catch a 55-yard scoring pass from Ryan Lindley. Mike Thomas, signed recently after Detroit released him, is another receiver with the speed coach Bruce Arians is seeking to stretch defenses. Thomas had a 13-yard scoring reception in the fourth quarter. A couple completed passes in the fourth preseason game aren't going to provide definitive answers, but these were positive signs.

3. Third QB. Lindley had only one scoring pass to show for 280 career pass attempts in preseason and regular-season games over his two NFL seasons. He fared better in this one. Lindley completed 17 of 29 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns against the Broncos. Lindley also completed a two-point conversion throw to take a 25-24 lead with 5:28 remaining. He took one sack, threw no interceptions and finished the game with a 104.7 passer rating. Will the Cardinals keep him around as the third quarterback?

Three things revisited: Vikings-49ers

August, 25, 2013
8/25/13
11:33
PM ET
Looking back on three things discussed here before the San Francisco 49ers' third exhibition game of the 2013 preseason, a 34-14 home victory against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday night:

1. Seneca's debut. Coach Jim Harbaugh had indicated that all five quarterbacks would play in this game. Plans change. Colin Kaepernick, Colt McCoy and rookie B.J. Daniels were the only quarterbacks to play meaningful snaps. Scott Tolzien reportedly had back spasms. He did not play. The newly acquired Seneca Wallace got into the game late and completed both attempts for 27 total yards. McCoy completed 11 of 15 passes for 109 yards with one sack, one interception and a 65.7 passer rating. McCoy struggled at times, but he also played for a bit with 49ers backups against Vikings starters. He was effective leading a nine-play, 91-yard touchdown drive that ended on the first play of the fourth quarter. McCoy reportedly took a pay cut to improve his chances for earning a spot on the 53-man roster. Harbaugh told reporters after the game that he was comfortable with McCoy in the No. 2 role.

2. Kaepernick's reps. Kaepernick rebounded from a slow start to complete his final six attempts during a drive that ended with his 5-yard scoring pass to rookie Quinton Patton. Kaepernick got into a rhythm during that drive, including when he completed a pass to Vernon Davis on his third read. That drive featured a 19-yard pass to Patton, 10- and 11-yarders to Davis, 15- and 8-yarders to Marlon Moore, plus the scoring pass. Kaepernick moved effectively to buy time and threw accurately. Kaepernick had attempted only six passes during the preseason before Sunday. His final numbers from this game: 7 of 13 for 72 yards, the one score, no sacks and a 95.7 rating.

3. Baldwin's impact. Recently acquired receiver Jon Baldwin had receptions for 19 and 4 yards. These were his first receptions as a 49er and first of the preseason. San Francisco acquired him from Kansas City. Baldwin beat second-year undrafted free agent Bobby Felder off the line before making a leaping catch for the 19-yard gain. Baldwin made a nice catch away from his body on a low pass, gathering the ball and falling forward for a first down on the 4-yard reception. Starting corner Josh Robinson had the coverage on that play. There was nothing spectacular about Baldwin's debut, but it was a start.

 
Looking back on three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' third exhibition game of the 2013 preseason, a 24-7 defeat at home against the San Diego Chargers on Saturday night:

1. Whisenhunt homecoming. Former Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt returned to University of Phoenix Stadium as the Chargers' offensive coordinator. His quarterback, Philip Rivers, averaged only 3.9 yards per attempt and threw one interception with no touchdown passes. However, the Chargers' first-team offense put together a 92-yard touchdown drive and generally outperformed the Cardinals' starting offense on this night. Both teams' running games were effective early. That provided some consolation for the Cardinals until the team lost running back Rashard Mendenhall (knee) and rookie first-round guard Jonathan Cooper (ankle) to injuries of unknown severity. Cooper rode a cart off the field and wasn't putting any weight on his left leg after the injury. Another player flew into his left leg from the side and behind, causing Cooper's left ankle to roll inside out. A serious injury to Cooper would undermine the team's efforts to upgrade the line. That seemed particularly true on this night, when the Chargers' Dwight Freeney dominated against Cardinals left tackle Levi Brown.

2. Williams at running back.Third-year running back Ryan Williams returned to practice late in the week and made his 2013 preseason debut late in the third quarter. Williams, troubled by knee issues lingering from a 2011 injury, gained 5 yards on his first play. He was the fourth running back to get carries in this game, after Mendenhall, Alfonso Smith and Stepfan Taylor. Rookie Andre Ellington was shaken up returning a kick right before Williams went into the game. Ellington then went back into the game on offense, replacing Williams. Williams returned when Ryan Lindley took over at quarterback in the final five minutes. He carried one more time and gained 5 yards. He ran well on his two carries. Time could be running out for Williams. Three other recent high draft choices for Arizona -- Cooper, tight end Rob Housler (ankle) and nose tackle Dan Williams (knee) -- left this game with injuries. Rookie seventh-round tight end D.C. Jefferson also left with an injury. This was a brutal night for Arizona.

3. Red-zone offense. The Cardinals wanted to focus on this area after settling for four field goals and a 12-7 victory in their most recent preseason game. They scored one touchdown in two red-zone possessions against San Diego. Housler dropped an accurate pass from Carson Palmer in the end zone, killing the first opportunity. Receiver Michael Floyd made an impressive leaping grab in the back of the end zone to score on the other red-zone possession. This was progress, in a way, but the shaky pass protection and injuries likely prevented Arizona from enjoying it.
Looking back on three things discussed here before the Seattle Seahawks' second exhibition game of the 2013 preseason, a 40-10 victory at home against the Denver Broncos on Saturday night:

1. The starting QBs. Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson combined to complete 19 of 28 passes for 290 yards with three touchdowns, no interceptions and one sack. Manning took a hard hit from Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner and was slow to rise following the play, but he finished that drive with a touchdown pass to Wes Welker and played extensively thereafter. Wilson's perfectly delivered 33-yard sideline strike to Golden Tate against Champ Bailey was a highlight for Seattle. Both quarterbacks impressed and both played extensively, one reason this game felt more intense than the typical preseason matchup.

2. No-huddle defense. The Seahawks forced a three-and-out on the Broncos' first possession, but Manning had little trouble directing Denver's offense from that point forward. Ronnie Hillman's fumble near the goal line killed one drive after 14 plays and 79 yards. The Broncos lost two fumbles on their first four possessions. Seattle's defense gets some credit for that, but not for handling the Broncos' fast-paced offense.

3. Winfield factor. The Seahawks sought to upgrade their nickel defense when they signed slot corner Antoine Winfield in free agency. Winfield was the nearest defender when Manning completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Welker, but it wasn't clear to me whether Winfield had the coverage exclusively or if he was passing off Welker to another defender. Either way, Welker scored from the slot on the play. While with New England last season, Welker caught 10 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown against Seattle.

Note: I filed this in the third quarter because there was nothing more to see in relation to these three areas of interest.
Looking back on three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' second exhibition game of the 2013 preseason, a 12-7 victory over the Dallas Cowboys at University of Phoenix Stadium:

1. Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders. Pregame comparisons between Arizona cornerback Patrick Peterson and those two sporting legends could not be fulfilled all in one meaningless game, of course. The Cardinals did work Peterson into their offense as a regular receiver, not as a gimmick player or within a trick-play context. That is the expectation for Peterson this season. Peterson gained 6 yards on a backwards pass (officially a rushing attempt). The Cardinals' failure to produce in the red zone will give them something to focus on beyond whatever role Peterson might play as a receiver.

2. Rookie free safety. Third-round choice Tyrann Mathieu started at free safety and played three quarters without making the obvious impact plays the Cardinals expect him to provide as his career progresses. That doesn't mean much in the bigger picture. Mathieu is just getting started and it's tough to know whether a safety was correct in his assignments. We're left to watch for standout plays. Mathieu did lead the team in tackles with seven, no surprise given how deep into the game he played. Mathieu lost 3 yards on a punt return after making a questionable decision to return the ball.

3. The home crowd. This was Bruce Arians' University of Phoenix Stadium debut as the Cardinals' head coach. His team collected six turnovers and won, but as an offensive-minded head coach, Arians will want his offense to produce better results regardless of venue. The Cardinals are home Aug. 24 against the San Diego Chargers. That game will feature Arians' offense and a Chargers offense coordinated by Arians' predecessor in Arizona, Ken Whisenhunt. That game might be better for monitoring crowd reaction.

Three things revisited: 49ers-Chiefs

August, 16, 2013
8/16/13
10:33
PM ET
Looking back on three things discussed here before the San Francisco 49ers' 15-13 exhibition victory Friday night against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium:

1. QB comparison. There wasn't much to compare because these teams took vastly different approaches to the game. The 49ers removed quarterback Colin Kaepernick after one series. The drive started with Frank Gore breaking a 52-yard run. It ended with a field goal after Kaepernick overshot receiver Chad Hall for what should have been a touchdown. That was it for Kaepernick. Four plays, three points, two pass attempts, one completion and zero basis for meaningful analysis. Former 49ers starter Alex Smith played the full first half for the Chiefs and struggled, even against the 49ers' backups. At least three dropped passes hurt his cause. Smith completed 7-of-16 attempts for 62 yards, or 3.9 yards per attempt. The 49ers sent blitzes after Smith and roughed him up a few times, including when Tony Jerod-Eddie leveled his former teammate with a helmet-to-helmet hit.

2. Jenkins and WRs. Second-year receiver A.J. Jenkins was slow to gain traction for a second week in a row. Super-sized Chiefs corner Sean Smith roughed up Jenkins to break up one early pass. Smith also picked off a pass intended for Jenkins. It appeared as though quarterback Colt McCoy might have been expecting Jenkins to break off his route against pressure. Whatever the case, McCoy threw to one spot while Jenkins was continuing up the field. Jenkins did a good job reacting to trip up Smith, preventing a potential touchdown return. Jenkins also provided a block to help McCoy pick up a first down. All in all, however, Smith and the Chiefs' starting secondary smothered Jenkins throughout the first half. Jenkins did make a 21-yard reception against the Chiefs' backups early in the third quarter, but a holding penalty against offensive lineman Daniel Kilgore negated the play.

3. Rookie outside linebacker. Third-round choice Corey Lemonier got to Alex Smith with a strong inside rush against Chiefs rookie tackle Eric Fisher. I went into the game focused on Lemonier, but second-year inside linebacker Michael Wilhoite was the defensive star for San Francisco in the first half. He stopped running back Cyrus Gray for a 1-yard gain. He broke up a pass to Dwayne Bowe in the red zone. Wilhoite also made a tackle for a 4-yard loss on a punt return. The 49ers appear to have found a promising young backup for their all-world inside linebackers.

Note: I'm filing this after the third quarter because we're deep enough into the game for the key analysis to stand. I'll update if necessary.
Looking back on three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' 2013 exhibition opener, which they led 17-0 when I filed this late in the fourth quarter:

1. Palmer's debut: New quarterback Carson Palmer completed four of six passes for 77 yards with one touchdown, zero interceptions and a 149.3 passer rating. He certainly looked like the upgrade Arizona sought from its previous quarterbacks. Both incomplete passes were deeper attempts on third down. Palmer found Andre Roberts for a 38-yard touchdown against the Green Bay Packers' starting defense (Arizona was tied for last in the NFL with three passes of 38-plus yards last season). Palmer also found Larry Fitzgerald for a 21-yard gain and Michael Floyd for an 18-yard gain. When backup Drew Stanton threw a touchdown pass to Jaron Brown, the Cardinals had as many scoring passes as the 2012 team managed through two-plus preseason games. Nearly 12 minutes remained in the second quarter.

2. Mathieu and the DBs: The Cardinals are building their secondary around young defensive backs Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Both made impact plays in this game. Peterson, the fifth player selected in the 2011 draft, picked off Green Bay backup quarterback Graham Harrell. Mathieu, a third-round choice this year, broke up a pass with a hard hit early in the game. He later collected a 12-yard sack on a blitz from the slot. Mathieu also provided a 23-yard punt return in the fourth quarter. He and Peterson could be good together for a long time.

3. Running back picture: Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams and Andre Ellington did not play. Alfonso Smith carried 10 times for 21 yards and didn't appear to have much room for running. Rookie Stepfan Taylor looked good picking up 14 yards on one of his carries. However, the Cardinals did not run the ball well in this game. They did not find out much about their running backs.
Looking back on three things discussed here before the Seattle Seahawks' 2013 exhibition opener, a 31-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium:

1. Return specialists. The Chargers didn't do much to help the Seahawks identify their next kickoff returner. Seattle returned only one kickoff all evening, with cornerback Jeremy Lane gaining 21 yards on that play. Not much to go on there. Cornerback Walter Thurmond nearly scored on a punt return that gained 46 yards. Receiver Perez Ashford had a 27-yard punt return. Corner Will Blackmon had a 19-yarder. Seattle was set in the return game with Leon Washington last season, but the team released him after acquiring Percy Harvin, who subsequently underwent hip surgery and is out indefinitely.

2. Backup QBs and a guy taking their handoffs. Brady Quinn and Tarvaris Jackson both outplayed Chargers backup and former Seahawks starter Charlie Whitehurst. Jackson was especially impressive, completing all but one of his nine attempts for 128 yards and two touchdowns, including a 42-yarder to Stephen Williams. Jackson was accurate on that deep pass and on a separate 41-yarder to Williams. Quinn nearly took a safety early in the game before rebounding to find Jermaine Kearse for an 11-yard touchdown. Quinn completed 6 of 11 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. The No. 2 job behind Russell Wilson is Jackson's to lose, in my view. He only strengthened his position with this performance. In the backfield, rookie second-round choice Christine Michael carried 16 times for 89 yards, breaking free for a 24-yard gain in the fourth quarter. He looked good.

3. Rookie TE Willson. The Seahawks are looking for rookie fifth-round pick Luke Willson to develop into a solid second tight end to pair with starter Zach Miller. Willson could not come down with an early third-down pass from Wilson. He did catch another pass for a 15-yard gain and third-down conversion, this one from Quinn. Cooper Helfet made the most impressive reception by a Seattle tight end, diving to make a 23-yard reception.

Three things revisited: Broncos-49ers

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
12:28
AM ET

Looking back on three things discussed here before the San Francisco 49ers' 2013 exhibition opener, a 10-6 defeat to the Denver Broncos at Candlestick Park:

1. Young receivers. The 49ers would like 2012 first-round pick A.J. Jenkins to seize the starting job opposite Anquan Boldin. But Jenkins did not make a strong positive statement in this game. "Uh, could have been better," said coach Jim Harbaugh afterward. Overall, the 49ers targeted Jenkins three times and got two turnovers on those plays: Jenkins lost a fumble following his lone reception, and Colt McCoy overthrew him on a deep route, resulting in an interception. Marlon Moore adjusted to the ball nicely and made a low grab on an across-the-body throw from starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The Broncos tackled Moore short of the first down, but this was still an impressive reception. Ricardo Lockette drew a penalty on the perimeter. He also contributed with a special-teams tackle deep in Denver territory. Rookie second-round choice Vance McDonald is a tight end, but he factored in the receiving game and certainly looked the part while catching four passes for 66 yards.

2. Secondary dynamics. Tramaine Brock, in the lead for the No. 3 corner role over Nnamdi Asomugha while the team prepares to welcome newly-signed Eric Wright, had tight coverage on an incomplete sideline pass from Peyton Manning to Demaryius Thomas. Asomugha made a sure tackle in zone coverage to stop the Broncos on third down. At safety, C.J. Spillman made a tackle for loss. First-round pick Eric Reid delivered a couple of forceful hits. It will be helpful to get an update from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio as the 49ers look to identify their third corner and starting free safety for Week 1.

3. Backup QBs. Grading backup quarterbacks behind backup offensive lines can be tricky. McCoy looked good infinding McDonald in stride for a 19-yard gain early, but he attempted only seven passes overall and was picked off once. McCoy apparently suffered a shoulder stinger, Harbaugh told reporters after the game. Scott Tolzien completed 15 of 26 passes for 158 yards and a pick. His quick strike to Austin Collie on a late fourth-down play sustained a drive. To be continued.
Looking back on three things discussed here before the San Francisco 49ers' fourth and final exhibition game, this one a 35-3 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Candlestick Park:

1. Tolzien's time. Scott Tolzien had recently appeared on his way to becoming the third quarterback at Josh Johnson's expense. This game was a tough one for him. Tolzien completed 3 of 8 passes for 42 yards with one sack and one interception. His stats suffered from at least one drop, but that was small consolation. Johnson completed 9 of 14 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He scrambled effectively, picking up 50 yards on five carries. Johnson rose to the occasion. Tolzien did not. This game might make it easier to get Tolzien onto the practice squad, should the 49ers decide to go with Johnson. But there's always a risk when a team exposes a player to waivers.

2. Aldon Smith's return. This one won't take long. Smith, who hasn't played in a game since injuring a hip against Minnesota on Aug. 10, did not play in this game either. Coach Jim Harbaugh had indicated Smith would be available. Instead, Harbaugh rested all his defensive starters. Nothing to see here.

3. Dixon's opportunity. Running back/fullback Anthony Dixon continued his resurgence with what appeared to a solid performance. Dixon carried 12 times for 55 yards and a touchdown. He ran hard in the open field, breaking a 17-yarder early. He ran tough around the goal line, including on a 1-yard scoring run. Dixon also had a 6-yard run on first-and-goal from the 9. Dixon was still battling late in the game, including when he threw his body into the path of a charging pass-rusher to protect his quarterback. Dixon has improved his chances for earning a roster spot.
Looking back on three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' fifth and final exhibition game, this one at home against the Denver Broncos:

1. Lindley's opportunity. Third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley started the game and played extensively. He completed 9 of 13 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in two-plus quarters. He missed a couple throws, including including on a short third-down pass to William Powell in the right flat. But he stood calmly in the pocket with bodies crashing around him. He got rid of the ball quickly. Lindley passed his first test. Update: An injury to Rich Bartel has led Arizona to put Lindley back into the game late in the third quarter. I'll update this item as warranted.

2. Pass protection. Left tackle D'Anthony Batiste gave up immediate pressure on Lindley's first pass attempt. Batiste set to the outside and whiffed against Broncos defensive end Robert Ayers, who beat Batiste to the inside and was untouched. Lindley got the ball out to Andre Roberts from a three-step drop, but by then Ayers was hitting Lindley in the back. Overall, the protection was better than it has been. The Broncos held out nearly all their starters, including top pass-rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. That makes it tough to project how Batiste and right tackle Bobby Massie might fare in Week 1, should they remain the starters. We'll find out Friday whether the Cardinals think Levi Brown has a chance to return from triceps surgery this season.

3. Floyd watch. First-round draft choice Michael Floyd came alive following a sleepy preseason. His 22-yard touchdown reception from Lindley would have made Larry Fitzgerald proud. Floyd was falling backward in the end zone as a defender hooked him. He reached out with his left hand, tipping the ball to keep it from descending. Floyd then cradled the ball with his left hand, finishing the play.

Three things revisited: Ravens-Rams

August, 30, 2012
8/30/12
9:08
PM ET
Looking back on three things discussed here before the St. Louis Rams’ preseason game against Baltimore at the Edward Jones Dome on Thursday night:

1. The score. The Rams' starters were playing against the Ravens' backups, so it would have been troubling had Baltimore dominated. St. Louis took control early and built a 21-0 halftime lead. That was what the Rams wanted to see.

Playing starters in the final preseason game does carry injury risks. The first quarter was winding down when first-round pick Michael Brockers suffered an injured right ankle. The Rams said his return was questionable. Brockers did not return, of course. Coach Jeff Fisher told the Rams' preseason TV network he thought Brockers' injury was "not too serious" pending a more definitive diagnosis.

As I posted this, the Rams led 28-0 in the third quarter following Janoris Jenkins' interception return for a touchdown.

2. Bradford's comfort level. Quarterback Sam Bradford was generally on point against the Ravens' backups. Despite a few apparent miscommunications with receivers, Bradford connect on short and long throws alike. His 46-yard strike to Steve Smith traveled about 60 yards in the air from where Bradford released it in the Rams' end zone. That play sustained a nine-play, 94-yard touchdown drive.

Bradford completed 11 of 16 passes for 175 yards and three scores. Austin Pettis, Danny Amendola and Mike Hoomanawanui caught scoring passes.

The Ravens got little pressure on Bradford, a significant difference from last week, when St. Louis struggled to protect against Dallas' starting defense. Bradford did absorb a huge hit from the Ravens' Sergio Kindle. Kindle tagged Bradford well after the play. Another time, a Ravens defender landed hard on Bradford when the quarterback retreated to fall on a bad snap from center Scott Wells. The hits did not appear to affect Bradford. This game marked a step forward for him.

3. Pead vs. Richardson. Seventh-round choice Daryl Richardson played extensively with the starters and looked like he belonged. Richardson had nine touches for 46 yards in the first half. Second-rounder Isaiah Pead made a brief appearance with the starters, losing yardage on Wildcat play. He nearly matched Richardson's numbers by halftime, but Richardson lost no ground to Pead in this game. He had the stronger preseason, too. The Rams have more than one option behind starter Steven Jackson.

Update: Pead ran hard and blasted safety Cyhl Quarles following a 28-yard gain in the second half. He finished the preseason on the upswing.

Three things revisited: 49ers-Broncos

August, 26, 2012
8/26/12
7:51
PM ET
Looking back on three things discussed here before the San Francisco 49ers' 29-24 preseason victory Sunday at Denver:

1. Starting QBs. Peyton Manning played his best game of the preseason, completing 10 of 12 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers, playing without top pass-rusher Aldon Smith, did not pressure Manning much. When they did, Manning showed he could deliver the ball downfield before withstanding a big hit that snapped his head back, putting to the test his surgically repaired neck.

Alex Smith's day for the 49ers wasn't quite as good. A short snap from center Jonathan Goodwin wound up on the ground, where the Broncos recovered it. Smith took a huge hit while delivering a short third-down pass for a conversion. Smith hung in, eventually finding Vernon Davis for a 44-yard touchdown. He completed 5 of 7 passes for 69 yards and did not throw an interception. Smith was pretty good. Manning was ... Manning.

2. Two-way threat. I'm guessing Demarcus Dobbs will emerge as the third tight end and part of the rotation on the defensive line, saving a roster spot for the 49ers. Konrad Reuland, also competing as the third tight end, did get into the game with the first-team offense, ahead of Dobbs. That doesn't necessarily tell us anything. Reuland had a 16-yard reception. But with the 49ers using defensive linemen as extra blockers, they appear in position to keep Dobbs as the third and final tight end on the 53-man roster.

3. Perrish's push. The 49ers' secondary struggled against Manning, but when backup Caleb Hanie came into the game, 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox stood out right away. Cox picked off a pass, his second interception of the preseason. Cox wasn't perfect as a tackler, but he appears to have created a role for himself within the 49ers' sub packages.

Three things revisited: Rams-Cowboys

August, 25, 2012
8/25/12
11:16
PM ET
Looking back on three things discussed here before the St. Louis Rams’ preseason game Saturday night, a 20-19 defeat at Dallas:

1. Center of attention. Veteran Scott Wells, sidelined by knee surgery for much of the offseason, made his preseason debut after signing with the Rams in free agency. He called out line adjustments, pointing about the field as centers typically do.

Wells played Jay Ratliff to a stalemate on an early third-and-7 (left guard Quinn Ojinnaka gave up a sack on the play). The Cowboys’ Kenyon Coleman got past Wells with a quick first step, but Wells held on. Coleman did not disrupt the play.

Wells played a couple series and seemed to do fine. There were no botched center exchanges when he was in the game.

2. Offensive draft choices. Rookie running backs Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson got into the game early. Pead had a 47-yard kickoff return. He didn’t find much room to run while working with the first-team offense. Richardson fared better. The blocking for Richardson might have been better, but he also impressed with powerful strides. Richardson ran with determination through the play. He carried 10 times for 51 yards.

Pead bobbled a pass and couldn’t get away from defenders in the open field. But he did run hard in the red zone during a fourth-quarter drive ending with a touchdown pass from Kellen Clemens to Austin Pettis. Pead finished with nine carries for 22 yards.

The Rams did not get their young receivers involved early. Rookie second-round choice Brian Quick left the game in the second half after taking a crushing hit to the midsection, but he returned and contributed with a 39-yard reception. Fourth-round choice Chris Givens did not catch a pass.

3. Roster battles. Undrafted rookie safety Rodney McLeod seemed to improve his case for a roster spot, although evaluating secondary play can be tricky. McLeod made a positive first impression with an early tackle on special teams. He made a diving pass breakup on a risky third-down pass thrown over the middle in the fourth quarter.

At tight end, Mike Hoomanawanui made two receptions for 23 yards. One of his potential competitors for a roster spot, rookie Mike McNeill, threw the key downfield block on one of those receptions.

Clemens, the No. 2 quarterback, played deep into the fourth quarter. He completed 6 of 9 passes for 68 yards and the one score. Austin Davis finished up and led a quick touchdown drive, completing 4 of 5 passes for 53 yards. Davis showed pocket awareness. The offense perked up when he entered the game.

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