49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan began his post-game press conference by saying Thursday night’s loss to the Texas was “pretty rough”. He’s not wrong, and that will be the theme of this version of Winners and Losers.
Shanahan, however, summed up the pre-season with a perfect quote:
“Pre-season is important, but I compare it to practice: whatever happens doesn’t matter, but you have to train to improve.
Winners – Samson Ebukam
Ebukam made the most of his playing time. He had a sack on the first drive and beat his man several times. Ebukam’s effort is not going unnoticed and will be one of the main reasons he will be in contention for second in team sacks this year.
This season is a contract year for Ebukam. He’s in a fantastic position to make big money next offseason. Remember, this is only Ebukam’s second full year as a top rusher. He got strong at the end of 2021 and seems to have picked up where he left off.
It looks like a transition to the regular season, with several defensive linemen listed as winners. Omenihu often found himself in the backfield. He finished the game with three tackles, all for loss, including a sack. Everyone knows how deep the defensive line is, but seven tackles for a loss as a unit is impressive, preseason or not.
Teams will sell out to stop Nick Bosa this season. Therefore, the 49ers need to get production from their non-starters. I refuse to call them backups because Omenihu and Drake Jackson are starters for most teams.
After the match, Shanahan applauded Womack for not giving up on the times he was targeted. It’s refreshing and new to see a 49-inch cornerback making plays on the ball. Yes, Womack had pass interference. He also took points off the board by deflecting an airborne pass into the end zone for an interception.
Womack showed veteran savvy on a split deep pass as he battled hand to hand with the wide receiver. This helps to break the offshore’s stride and, therefore, its concentration.
We’ll see how Womack holds up on the run during the regular season, but the Niners have a cornerback who can cover vertical routes. This is the biggest weakness in the DeMeco Ryans defense. Limiting these plays gives opponents next to nothing to attack. Womack looks like the real deal.
Losers – The Offensive Line
Summarizing the performance of the offensive line in one word: Yikes. The quarterbacks have been sacked three times. The Texans had six more tackles for the loss as well as a quarterback hit. And if not for the athleticism of Trey Lance and Brock Purdy, we’re looking at at least four more sacks.
Jaylon Moore just got back to training this week, so I want to give him some slack. However, Moore didn’t make it easy. There have been plays where the quarterback has backed off and several linemen have been beaten.
The struggles up front were not limited to the passing game. San Francisco ran the ball 24 times for 2.1 yards per carry. And in that 51 yards, there were gains of 12, 8, 7, and 8. So 35 of those 51 yards came on four carries. Double yuck.
Spencer Burford struggled. Jordan Mills wasn’t much better. Keaton Sutherland had a false start and he was the center. Everyone’s favorite rookie Jason Poe was also disappointed. Hopefully the Niners don’t suffer catastrophic injuries down the line as their issues were on full display.
You don’t expect your 2s and 3s to perform at the same level as your beginners. That goes without saying. But it would have been difficult for the 49ers to play on a more sloppy Thursday night. They went 0-for-3 on fourth down, threw two interceptions you can’t do, dropped a (meaningless) touchdown late in the game, and took 11 penalties on the night. There were also two fumbles, but the team recovered both.
Shanahan confirmed that security Jimmie Ward will start the season on injured reserve. Dontae Johnson did not play, which gave George Odum, Tarvarius Moore and Tashaun Gipson a chance to prove themselves worthy to start. Odum missed an early tackle which caused the receiver to run for a first down. It was Odum’s second missed tackle in just four attempts this pre-season.
One of Ward and Jaquiski Tartt’s greatest strengths was knocking down players in the open field. Moore briefly left the game as he had to be checked by team doctors during the game before returning. Moore gets credit for the interception, but that play was all Womack.
Gipson was responsible for a touchdown. He looked like a guy who hadn’t played in a while and seemed to be a little slow.
With Ward missing the first four games, the Niners could be in trouble – especially in Weeks 3 and 4, when they face Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford.
As painful as Thursday’s loss was, I don’t know if we learned anything new. You can go with Banks because he will have Trent Williams lined up next to him. The same goes for Burford and Mike McGlinchey. Quarterbacks spent most of the night under duress, while running backs had to deal with defenders in the backfield more often than not.
The offense won’t face a heavy passing rush the first two weeks of the season, which will benefit Kyle Shanahan and serve as the perfect warm-up for the rookies. If anything, we could see more runs designed for Lance early in the season as Shanahan figures out what plays he can run while the offensive line gels.
The constant pressure that the defensive line showed without its starters during the preseason was encouraging. Again, 15 key players haven’t played against the Texans. So any analysis omitting this should be taken with a grain of salt. It’s pre-season. None of that will matter if the 49ers are winning double-digit games.