We finally have San Francisco 49ers games to watch again. The preseason sure can get pretty boring, especially with the Niners sitting out most of their starters on Friday night against the Green Bay Packers. However, with Trey Lance making his first start as the Niners’ primary signal-caller, many eyes were on San Francisco. They put in a solid performance overall, showing the depth of their roster in a 28-21 victory.
Here’s a breakdown of how each group of positions performed:
More importantly, Lance’s looser shots didn’t have a high risk of turnovers or expose his receivers to big hits. Some of Lance’s shorter throws were slightly off the mark and probably cost his receivers a few yards after the catch. However, his incomplete pass from him to Danny Gray on a deep out on the first drive was a much better pitch than it is credited for. The pitch probably should have come out a little earlier, but if Gray had better body control, he should have been able to get both feet down. Even if his shot led to the incomplete shot, he was also in a place where only his catcher could catch him.
Then, of course, there were the big positives. Lance deftly dodged pressure while keeping his eyes downfield, sliding to avoid a punch in a fight and delivering a beautiful 76-yard touchdown pass to Gray. Despite pressure hitting his side as he threw, he threw a downfield pass from the left hash to the near sideline 42 yards downfield for Gray’s first NFL road trip.
However, Lance wasn’t the only Niners quarterback to perform well. Nate Sudfeld looked comfortable in the pocket and showed more arm strength than he expected from the former sixth-round pick. Many were scratching their heads when the 49ers guaranteed Sudfeld $3 million this offseason, but his performance on Sunday was easily the best preseason performance of his career. He seemed like a much more viable backup than his resume suggested.
Rookie seventh-round pick Brock Purdy was the least impressive of the three quarterbacks, but he showed decent decision-making as he led a game-winning touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. Obviously, the 49ers’ season will be in disarray if Purdy sees regular-season action this year, but he showed solid backup potential.
While Lance lived up to the hype, most of the other members of the 2021 Niners draft class were less impressive. Trey Sermon looked like a different player in training camp and got the initial nod at running back with Elijah Mitchell out, but rushed for only 11 yards on six carries. Still, he looked good in pass protection and caught his only target for a 5-yard reception.
Rookie Ty Davis-Price was next and had a little more statistical success, but he also seemed to have bigger holes than Sermon from the offensive line and still averaged just 3.6 yards per carry.
JaMycal Hasty and Jordan Mason were the more productive options, but they didn’t get consistent reps until later in the game against bottom-of-the-depth Green Bay.
Wide Receivers: B+
With George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings on the sidelines, 49ers speedsters Danny Gray and Ray-Ray McCloud seized their opportunities. Gray did a great job cornering Lance’s deep pass and staying in bounds on the 76-yard touchdown, but he also had another 20-plus yard reception down the middle and probably would have had another if not for Lance’s takedown. in the first series.
McCloud broke a defensive back’s ankles (metaphorically) on a 39-yard touchdown reception and caught all four of his targets for 63 yards. Although fumbles have been a problem throughout McCloud’s career, he grounded the ball for the 49ers’ only turnover.
No other 49ers receiver had more than one reception. No one stood out, but considering the fact that Gray and McCloud are currently the fourth and fifth wide receivers on the depth chart, that’s nothing to worry about.
Tight Ends: B
Tanner Hudson was the star of the tight end group. He caught both of his targets for 27 receiving yards, including Purdy’s game-winning touchdown. He also received the second-highest run blocking rating on the PFF 49ers (85.8). The 49ers’ other backups, Tyler Kroft and Ross Dwelley, were not exceptional in their performances.
Offensive line: B
Mike McGlinchey was good on his one run. Just seeing him healthy on the field is a victory for the 49ers. The 49ers’ presumptive starters at guard (Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford) along with Colton McKivitz (who replaced Trent Williams in the starting lineup) held up well. However, Burford was clearly the star of the night along the line. The rookie produced several impressive highlights and looked like a quality starter on Day 1. He looks like a great find late in the fourth round.
Jake Brendel had a well-rounded performance at center and, for now at least, looks like a viable starter. Jason Poe and Jordan Mills were the best players of the non-starting linemen group, while Justin Skule had a horrible performance at tackle.
Defensive line: B
The Niners basically started their C-level defensive line. He didn’t dominate, but more than held his own. Kemoko Turay, Jordan Willis and rookie Drake Jackson all had excellent reps from the rim, while Kevin Givens and Robert Nkemdiche were the best on the inside.
If there’s anything to worry about Friday’s performance, Javon Kinlaw was pretty much invisible in his 14 snaps. Kinlaw will have a much stronger supporting cast around him in the regular season, but he didn’t have any standout moments this week.
How deep is this 49ers defense? Well, the 49ers didn’t play their first, second or third-best linebacker and still had three solid-performing linebackers. Veterans Oren Burks and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles displayed fantastic tackling skills in the second level. Neither performed well in coverage, but they seemed capable of rotating reps (although you won’t see them without injuries to Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw and/or Azeez Al-Shaair).
Undrafted rookie free agent Marcelino McCrary-Ball was one of the defensive standouts of the night. McCray-Ball showed solid ball skills, intercepting a deflected pass, and also recorded another pass defensed and four tackles in his 18 defensive snaps.
Samuel Womack deserves an A+ for his two-interception performance. Womack was exceptional in 17 coverage snaps, intercepting the only passes that targeted him. Deommodore Lenoir was easily San Francisco’s second-best corner on Friday. Otherwise, the rest of the position group had problems.
Packers rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs made everyone but Womack look silly in coverage. He embarrassed Ka’Dar Hollman with multiple throws down the field, which would have resulted in two touchdowns if not for an errant pass from Jordan Love.
Ambry Thomas got away with committing pass interference after he was hit on the field, but otherwise it looked a lot like last year. Usually he was in a strong position, but he too had trouble taking advantage. The most obvious of which came on a pass that went up in the air, missed an attempt to throw it to the ground, and landed in the arms of a Packers receiver.
It was a tough day for Tarvarius Moore, who missed an inning and was beaten by Doubs in the slot on 4 and 3 for an easy touchdown. Talanoa Hufanga was solid, including a big noteworthy shot on his 19th move.
George Odum had the best overall performance from a 49esr safety, though he did so against weaker competition. He made a couple of good stops in the open and was solid in coverage, but even he missed a bad tackle.
Special Teams: C-
It was not an exceptional day for a special teams unit. They struggled on kickoff coverage, forcing Robbie Gould to take a hit trying to make a tackle. Punter Mitch Wishnowsky also had a sub-40-yard punt that didn’t pin the Packers inside his own 15-yard line. Hasty also misplayed a kickoff return that should have given the 49ers starting field position in his own 40-yard line, but instead pinned them at his own 5-yard line. On the plus side, Gould did hit a 50-yard field goal and never missed a kick.