Former 49ers linebacker and KNBR analysis and color commentator Gary Plummer is back again th is year with his Points of the Game. In this column, Plummer will preview the upcoming opponent. Check out his thoughts about tonight's game against the Oakland Raiders. **
I think it's really important for everyone to understand that you aren't game planning for the Raiders. It's a little bit different though because these two teams just worked together twice this week on Monday. Guys will have a little bit more of a feel for their opponent than they would normally when you are entering the first exhibition game of the year.
I think the players should remember to just play fast. There are going to be some mistakes made, but what coaches want to see is can they play this game? Since there is still a lot of work to be done by the players, in terms of learning the system offensively, defensively and on special teams, coaches want to see effort. They want to see a guy who is going to go all out.
In the first game you usually see some turnovers, dropped balls, miscommunications and substitution errors. That's just part of trying to work out the kinks.
It's an interesting decision to go with J.T. O'Sullivan with the first unit this Friday. I'm assuming someone else will start next week at quarterback and that they'll mix it up. I've seen a lot of the local media keeping a chart as to the different completion percentages of the quarterbacks, and it's really unfair. That's not how this race is going to be determined.
I do think it's good that all three are getting opportunities. It's good that Mike Nolan is doing it this way, although trust me, it's not only him. There are two guys on the offensive side of the ball that know more about quarterback play in the NFL than most of us will ever know in Ted Tollner and Mike Martz. It may seem radical to start the guy who has been a journeyman around the league, but it certainly makes things fair. If JT O'Sullivan goes in there and bombs, then he can't ever say 'I didn't get a shot.' If he goes in there and lights it up, more power to him. It will put more pressure on Shaun Hill and Alex Smith. That's what it's all about in the preseason, the cream rising to the top.
Last year I said I'd like to see the LaDainian Tomlinson preseason approach for Frank Gore because he knew the offense and he was a starter, and was obviously coming off a Pro Bowl year, a phenomenal year. This year I think it's a little bit different because he's learning a new offense. I probably wouldn't want to see him running the ball too much, because for guys like Frank Gore, running the ball is second nature. But I'd like to see Frank get in there for maybe a couple of series, split him out of the backfield quite a bit, use him as a decoy, and use him to run routes. I want to see how he adjusts to Martz' system, and that will give Martz a better idea of how he is going to be able to use him. Frank is a student of the game, he just knows football. It will be interesting to see how he's going to adapt to being used in all of the various formations. It may be only for a couple of carries, but the rest of the time I'd like to see him out there. There are a lot of protection issues in Martz' system, so I'd like to get him in the backfield and see him have to pick up a blitz.
I'm interested also to see the wide receiver everyone has been talking about, Josh Morgan. I'd love to see him light it up, and with a couple of injuries at the wide receiver position, he's going to have more of an opportunity. I'm also going to keep an eye on Robert Ortiz because he's a local guy and I saw him play a few times at San Diego State.
I think there's always somebody that ends up jumping out in the preseason that you don't expect. That's the greatest part about all of this. People have been thinking about preseason football for the last three months of the baseball season. Let's face it, you can watch grass grow (baseball) or you can watch football. People are going to be excited about it no matter what happens out there. Plus, there's always extra hype for the Raiders versus the 49ers. The hype is really for the fans, more so than it is for the players. For the players, it's an opportunity to hit a body in a different color uniform. You are focusing on you and only you, if you want to make the football team. If you start thinking about the Raiders or the rivalry, it's going to take you out of the game.
The Raiders have had great physical talent especially on the defensive side of the ball for a long time. Sometimes they are more about beating guys up than they are winning football games. So that's why it's more physical when you play against them. They have an excellent defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan. He emphasizes that physical play, and so I think it's a great test for the 49ers. I'm anxious to see how the offensive line plays together with Joe Staley at left tackle and Jonas Jennings at right tackle. All those things will make this game fun to watch!