Jim Harbaugh knew in advance that the Kansas City Chiefs would be playing their offensive starters for the entirety of Friday evening’s first half.
The 49ers coach saw this as an opportunity to test his second-team defense against a first-rate NFL offense.
So did Corey Lemonier.
San Francisco’s rookie linebacker recorded three tackles, including his first pro sack, in the team’s 15-13 come-from-behind victory at Arrowhead Stadium.
Lemonier, the 49ers’ third-round draft pick in April, entered the game on the first series of the second quarter, giving him game action against ex-49ers and current Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith along with the rest of Kansas City’s weaponized offense.
The Auburn product got after it.
Wearing No. 96 on his road-white jersey, Lemonier – pronounced lemon-YAY – caught Smith out of his shotgun position for a four-yard loss on the second play of the Chiefs' second drive. It was one of three 49ers sacks on their former teammate.
“I was excited to see how he played against starting-caliber players,” said Harbaugh, who said he’d like to review Lemonier on film before giving a more specific assessment. “His effort was outstanding… From my eye, he was in good shape and knew what he was doing.”
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Lining up from his left outside linebacker position, where he is competing to be a situational reserve, Lemonier had been close to recording a sack of Smith earlier. Giving Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, a run for his money, Lemonier had been within inches of another sack on Kansas City’s first drive of the second quarter, when his pressure on the pocket turned into a 17-yard screen pass to Chiefs running back Knile Davis.
Only two of the 49ers first seven draftees in April, Lemonier and Eric Reid, were healthy enough to play on Friday night, but others contributed in big ways to the team’s first preseason victory.
Eric Reid: The 49ers first-round pick entered the game in the second quarter and played alongside C.J. Spillman. Reid and Spillman remain in a battle with Craig Dahl for playing time at the position. Dahl started with veteran Donte Whitner. Reid’s imposing presence was felt on a few plays. Most notably: his perfectly-timed blitz through the gap between the Chiefs left guard and left tackle, when he disrupted Smith’s third-down, red-zone pass with less than three minutes before halftime.
Nick Moody: Subbing in for Pro Bowler NaVorro Bowman and joining Michael Wilhoite in the middle of the 49ers defense, the sixth-round draft pick appeared in a handful of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s blitz packages. He also seemed quick to the ball carrier. His 10 total tackles, all of the solo variety, led both teams. It was a welcomed performance from the Florida State product, who left the preseason opener early with an apparent injury.
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B.J. Daniels: In his NFL debut under center, the seventh-round draftee appeared first with 2:45 left in third quarter. He got off to a shaky start, with his first pass sailing wide of Chuck Jacobs on a 3rd-and-13 play from his own 1-yard line. When the fourth quarter began, Daniels was a different player. He completed all six of his pass attempts on the team’s 14-play, 90-yard and game-winning drive. His 14-yard touchdown toss to Jacobs, an undrafted rookie acquired via free agency, was the highlight of the night.
Also: Seventh-round pick and offensive tackle Carter Bykowski was blocking for Daniels on the last drive. … Harbaugh said he was impressed with undrafted rookie tight end Marqueis Gray, who caught a 13-yard pass. … Undrafted running back D.J. Harper saw his carries cut to one due to the return of reserve Jewel Hampton from injury. … Among other first-year pros, cornerback Marcus Cooper, a seventh-round pick, and discus thrower-turned defensive tackle Lawrence Okoye saw action for the second straight week.