Eric Davis spent 13 years in the NFL as a cornerback. He's now in his second season as part of the 49ers broadcast team. After every 49ers game Davis will breakdown the game in his "Wrap Up" column. Here's Davis' second column of the 2009 season.**
After the 49ers second preseason game, the team's quarterback competition has not gotten much clearer. In a perfect world, you'd want to see someone step forward and say, "This is my team. I am going to claim this spot and I'm the guy!" That is what head coach Mike Singletary has been looking for. And that is what offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye is looking for.
But what's happening is that you are seeing improvement out of both Shaun Hill and Alex Smith, but no one is clearly stepping forward. There is positive movement and you see good play from both guys. But with that being said, you can say that the competition is being won by Hill.
Shaun is 7-3 as a starter. He's been the guy for the 49ers recently. And it looks like there is nothing clearly happening to change that. There is a certain comfort zone that the coaching staff will have because of his history with the team and what he has put on film so far.
On the other hand, Alex threw some balls that were catchable in the game and he made some proper reads. He's still showing each and every day in camp that he is progressing as a quarterback. But, I have to say that nothing was glaringly outstanding from either guy. If you want steady play from the position, that's what you're going to get from Hill. He's the guy who's stepping forward and will possibly take that spot.
While the quarterbacks might not have distinguished themselves on Saturday, the 49ers running game certainly did. In particular, the 49ers offensive line completely dominated the Oakland Raiders. They dominated with a capital "D!"
You can name guys from Eric Heitmann, Chilo Rachal, Adam Snyder, Tony Wraage to Joe Staley, they all at some point did something outstanding in that game. The guys up front are executing at a level that will give any running back, back there, the opportunity to gain big yards.
They were creating holes that you could drive cars through. There were times when a Prius would have no trouble making it eight yards down the field without getting touched. That's the kind of blocking they were doing in that game for them!
Moving on to Glen Coffee, he continued to do what he did in the first preseason game against the Broncos. He's extremely impressive in the way that he's running. He talks about how he wants to be assignment sound, and that is what he is concentrating on. He's not doing everything at warp speed and he's understanding how to be patient. On Saturday, we all saw his development. You see it carry over from the meeting room, to the practice field, to the game. He's making great decisions and he's running hard.
I see Coffee using great balance and great vision. Everything that you could ask for in a veteran tailback, he's already starting to show. That's amazing. Kory Sheets too, is coming into the game and he's showing some slashing ability. He's hitting holes hard for a smaller back. That right there is something that's going to be a plus for the 49ers offense going into the season because we're talking about this running back position and the great things that they are doing… And I haven't even mentioned that there is a guy in town named Frank Gore!
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers defense gave a strong performance. There was one play that stood to me because it represented what the preseason is all about. That of course would be the play Nate Clements was beat for a touchdown in the first half.
In some situations guys just haven't gotten themselves into game speed yet. It seems as though Nate didn't get deep enough to help out his safety. Mark Roman may have been able to get over a little sooner and there was a disconnect between the two guys, but that's what preseason is about.
Those are the type of plays, that as the season progresses, you know that these guys will make that play. Sometimes it is going to look as though the quarterback is looking at that short receiver and you want to come up and make the big play, instead of making the sound play.
Being a former defensive back, those plays do drive you crazy at times when you see it happen, but also because I was a former defensive back I know that in certain situations things are happening at warp speed. You can momentarily get caught up in something. It's not a case of a guy being a bad player; it's a case of a guy momentarily making a bad decision. That's something that I expect to get worked out.
As we all know, that's not the way Nate plays the game. I think the secondary this year, with some of the additions they've made to the starting lineup and to the roster in general, it has the opportunity to be a very, very good unit.
Another point I'd like to make about the 49ers defense is that I don't think that fans should hit the panic button with the pass rush. The 49ers defense will be a true 3-4 and part of a 3-4 defense is creating matchup problems for an offensive line. You are going to send more guys than they can block.
Sometimes, you are going to overload the guard with linebacker blitzes. You try to get three-on-two situations, two-on-one situations. The most important thing to understand is that a lot of times in the 3-4 defense, you're only rushing five guys and the offensive line will be able to pick it up. But the guys are coming from so many different directions on each and every play, that it creates confusion upfront and someone gets away clean or the quarterback starts to see ghosts and he throws the ball because he is expecting the pressure to get there when it's certainly not there. That confusion gives a defense the opportunity to make plays like we saw in that last game. You're going to get tip balls. You're going to get interceptions and things like that. Don't panic. Guys are in position and playing well.
I've seen it every day in their one-on-ones in camp down in Santa Clara. They're showing flashes of it during games. They are beating guys. Parys Haralson is playing well and Manny Lawson is healthy too. The 3-4 defense is a great system to play in because every position will get their shot at the quarterback. That confusion will create some pressure so fans don't need to panic right now.
My last observation was that there was solid play from some of the younger guys down the stretch. Guys like Reggie Smith and Scotty McKillop, stepped up and made some plays. This is what you want, you want to see these guys continuing to step up and do it game after game. It was nice to see Kentwan Balmer get in and tip the pass McKillop intercepted. He is the reason that McKillop got his interception; the pressure that was put on the quarterback from his defensive end spot helped tremendously. That's good to see that these guys can really push forward and make plays.