Football in the Bay Area is finally back, and the first night did not disappoint. After trailing 21-10 heading into the fourth quarter, the 49ers stormed back behind third-string quarterback Nick Mullens to defeat the Cowboys 24-10. The starters played sparingly, showing off the potential depth pieces that hope to make the team.
Despite Limited Playing Time, the Big Names looked good
Star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo threw only six passes tonight, completing three of them. However, he showed the same improvisational ability that makes him special. Completing an off-balance throw under pressure on third and ten during the first drive is was exquisite.
Defenders DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, and Reuben Foster all had productive games in limited action. Buckner got pressures on Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott and combined with Solomon Thomas to sack Prescott. Thomas had a solid game himself, finishing with three tackles before leaving with an injury. Foster flew all over the field like his normal self. He also had a phenomenal pass breakup working against speedster Tavon Austin.
Too Many Injuries
The worst, and arguably the scariest, part of preseason football is trying to get through the games unscathed. Projected starters linebacker Malcolm Smith, tight end George Kittle, defensive end Thomas, and backup running back Matt Breida all left the game with injuries tonight. Injuries are never good, but to have that many impact players go down in the first game is terrible. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious and there were all removed as a precaution.
Jimmie Ward is Fighting for His Career
Former first-round pick defensive back Jimmie Ward’s career has been marred by injuries and inconsistency since. Tonight, Ward’s play did not look NFL quality. Receivers beat him multiple times as he looked out of place at outside cornerback. He is also blocked at both safety positions by Adrian Colbert and Jaquiski Tartt, and at nickel-cornerback by D.J. Reed and K’Waun Williams. The 49ers would get no financial benefits from releasing Ward, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him traded or forced down the depth chart.
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Julian Taylor Looks Legit
Rookie defensive end Julian Taylor was relatively unknown when he was selected in the seventh round of this year’s draft, only starting nine games at Temple, but he already looks like he’ll be an impact player. After glowing reviews all throughout training camp, Taylor showed out against the Cowboys. He compiled one sack, one quarterback hit, and one tackle for loss while playing the entire game. He probably won’t start over Thomas or Arik Armstead, but Taylor looks to be a featured rotational player as a rookie.
Nick Mullens Shines
Undrafted, second-year quarterback Nick Mullens had his time in the spotlight against Dallas as he leads a 14-point comeback. He showed flashes of brilliance on his way to a stat line of 11-13 passing, 141 yards, the game-winning touchdown, and a tipped-pass interception. It’s early, but after spending last season on the practice squad, Mullens showed that he deserves a shot to make the final roster. The only question is whether Kyle Shanahan will think Mullens is good enough to buck the trend of Shanahan’s teams only carrying two quarterbacks.