Former 49ers linebacker and KNBR analysis and color commentator Gary Plummer is back again this year with his Points of the Game. In this column, Plummer will preview the upcoming opponent. Check out his thoughts about Thursday night's game against the Chicago Bears.
First of all, I think the quarterback situation definitely has to be settled after this game, although it looks like it's already settled. From my standpoint, it's definitely J.T. O'Sullivan's job to lose now. Unless he falls apart against the Bears, I think he'll be the starter on opening day.
It will be a major test for him. They probably have eight Pro Bowlers on their defense. Facing a guy like Brian Urlacher is a great test for anyone. The Bears are going to present a few different coverages and usually you install most of the things you are going to use offensively and defensively by this time. The first game was pretty vanilla, because each week you put in a little bit more offensively and defensively.
So, O'Sullivan will certainly see some defenses he hasn't seen in a game situation. Obviously they are not going to show them everything they have, because the Bears will save some new defenses for their season opener, but it will be a good test for him.
What makes this game so important is that it's the first game for most starters that they'll actually come out of the locker room at halftime and have to prepare for the second half. That's probably the most useful part of going into the third quarter. It gets you back into the groove. Realizing exactly what 12 minutes entails and the adjustments you have to make in the locker room in all three phases of the game is important for each player.
It's also a chance to go see the trainer because you have a little strain in the muscle, or a helmet to the thigh, or whatever it might be. Maybe some of your equipment needs to get adjusted because it's new every single year, you're adjusting your chinstrap differently, your shoulder pads might need to be adjusted, there's a lot of little things that need to be done in a short period of time.
The other reason it's so beneficial is that it's ones versus ones for an entire half of football. It gives a better idea of where you're at. You tend to see these lopsided scores in the preseason but you're talking about mostly second and third team guys playing. What does that tell you? It tells us our second and thirds are better than your second and thirds? That's not going to matter much, come September. This game is much more indicative of what kind of team you have because you have your ones going against their ones for an entire half, and sometimes even the third quarter.
Some people might think it would be a bad idea for new offensive coordinator Mike Martz to use most of his playbook in a preseason game, but I don't think that there are enough games in a season for Mike Martz to showcase his offense. Martz is an innovative coordinator. It really doesn't matter if it's preseason or not. A lot of people, Arizona for example, are going to go watch an awful lot of Detroit film from last year and maybe even go back to Martz's "Greatest Show on Turf" to see what he did back in St. Louis. So, it really doesn't matter what he shows or doesn't show in this game. Pretty much, he's done it all already and the tape is out there. Martz' objective is not to worry about anyone else but his team absorbing his offense. If that means showing everything you have in order to get the repetitions against good competition, that's what he's going to do. I don't think he fears any defense.
While I'm looking forward to seeing what the offense does play-calling wise, there's a couple of players I want to check out again. First and foremost, Josh Morgan. It's exciting to watch the guy. It's a great story. You don't want to put any pressure on the kid, but he looks to be this year's version of Marques Colston. That would be kind of jumping the gun if he'd been doing it against second and third team players, but he's been starting with the first unit. Last week he's beating Charles Woodson, and Green Bay has an excellent defense, and Oakland does as well. He had over 100 yards in a game with a touchdown in one half of play – that's phenomenal. He's doing it in different ways and with different quarterbacks. We saw a couple of digs, 18-yard in routes in the first game so we said, "Well, ok he's great at that route." But we've seen him do it on comebacks and we've seen him do it by adjusting routes. He had a thin route, where he had a vertical route and he had an option to go inside or outside. The timing with him and Alex Smith looked perfect. With JT O'Sullivan, it has looked good too. He's also battled defenders and has been able to out-leap them and use his big body of his. This guy looks to be the real deal.
The other guy who has made the most of his chances for all intensive purposes is a new guy and that is Ray McDonald. I didn't really think he was going to have the impact that he's had in the first two games, but he's looked like a world beater. He wasn't able to do much last year because of injuries. But the growth of most second year players comes in the offseason. And that offseason is their first offseason because when guys get drafted, they are coming out of college and you don't have much of an offseason to work with the strength trainers to work on speed and spend all that time with the coaches. He's taken advantage of that time. He's going to be a starter this year and he's going to play an awful lot of football for a second year guy. He was a third- round draft pick. Kudos to Scot McCloughan and his staff for continuing to find guys in the latter rounds who are going to be productive.
That's the key to long term success in any football team. You just can't have the first round guys be successful, because those guys are expensive. You have to have your third, fourth, fifth picks and so on be productive. Around the league the teams that have done that well, the New England Patriots, the Philadelphia Eagles, etc - those are the teams that continue to have success from year to year.