Former 49ers linebacker and KNBR color commentator Gary Plummer previews the 49ers opponents every week of the 2009 season on 49ers.com. For his fourth installment of his "Points of the Game" column, Plummer breaks down the 49ers fourth preseason opponent – the San Diego Chargers.**
In this final preseason game, it would be nice if the first-team offense could put points on the board. But really, the first thing they have to do is play well. The first-team offense has not even scored a touchdown yet. I think they just need to get a feel for the end zone.
I'd like to see better pass protection. And I'd like to see more guys getting up and down the field. The drive blocking has been great. The running game has been fantastic but not from the passing game. Neither Shaun Hill or Alex Smith has thrown a touchdown pass to a wideout this preseason.
Obviously everybody is talking about Nate Davis and it's a feel good story.
But there are a lot of guys on the roster who have been playing great football throughout training camp the preseason. There are a lot examples of players who are taking advantage of their opportunities.
Kory Sheets, he too has been very dynamic when he's been in there. Another guy is Brit Miller. He has done a great job with limited opportunities. I like the tight end Joe Jon Finley. He's been pretty impressive with his blocking. Center Eric Heitmann has just dominated. His entire preseason has been really fun to watch. Then wide receiver Arnaz Battle is just one of those guys who doesn't have the great numbers in terms of height, weight, speed and all that stuff, but he just gets it done.
Defensively, Aubrayo Franklin spends as much time in the backfield as any defensive tackle in the NFL. Justin Smith has a great motor. He's always fun to watch. And you've seen a little of that from Kentwan Balmer.
To me, Dre' Bly and Shawntae Spencer have each really looked good at the corner position. With Dashon Goldson, you can see why the coaches and the front office got so disappointed when he was hurt last year because he was on his way to being a starter. He just plays with reckless abandonment and covers a lot of ground back there.
From what I've seen, Shawntae looks like he is close to being where he was last year before his knee injury. He looks like a guy who had to battle back from an injury. He looks more determined than he's ever been.
Another guy I forgot to mention is Glen Coffee. He is a great opportunity for Jimmy Raye to just change things up. And, if the 49ers are going to run the ball 60 percent of the time, it's tough for any one back to be able to do. Put a guy like Coffee in and that's a great one-two punch. In regards to them being tired after a long drive, Frank can come out for a couple of plays and then come back well rested to finish up the drive for a long scoring drive.
Besides individual players, I'd like to comment on the state of the 49ers pass rush. Much has been made about the lack of 49ers pass rush, but you have to remember that turnovers are the number one statistic in football. And so far, it has obviously been a strength so far for the defense this preseason.
There have been times when the pass rush is non-existent and that can be frustrating. But you have to keep remembering that it's not the time to game plan or scheme an opponent. They may not be giving pressure but they are continually reading the offense. We want our guys to continue playing at the physical level they are at. Our guys need to play physical one-on-one defense. We haven't gotten to the quarterback consistently yet, but I think it's important we find ways to get there this week.
The last aspect of this game I want to touch on is the importance of this game for players on the bubble of making the roster.
I can tell you from my own experience that it's tough being on the bubble at the end of training camp. Going into this final preseason game, it's important that the bubble players really perform well.
When I was at my first training camp, they literally told me before the game, "You're not going to have many chances to play on defense, you better perform well on special teams if you want to make this team."
That game I made multiple tackles and played very well. It was the reason I made the team. Coaches love to put that type of pressure on players because it forces them to rise to the occasion. It is a great indicator for coaches to find out who can handle the pressure. You're going to have to do something extraordinary in this game in order to make the difference and be one of the 53 players on the roster.
Unfortunately, injuries come into play so you never know. You could be a guy on the bubble and the guy in front of you gets injured. Just like every single game that you play, there is a chance that this could be the last game of your career. For many guys, this thought is in the back of their mind during this last preseason game. Players need to get use to this thought. If you're a bubble guy right now and you really want to make a living playing this game, then you better get use to that feeling because you have to put that pressure on yourself week after week, year after year.