After falling to the Houston Texans on the road last week, the San Francisco 49ers return to action against the Indianapolis Colts for the third game in the preseason.
In this preview, each of the writers on our team will cover each unit on the team.
The offense in the last game was certainly sub par against Houston. The first team starters were definitely moving the ball well on their series. Jimmy Garoppolo balled out (excluding the tipped interception), Marquise Goodwin made big catches, and Trent Taylor made an instant impact.
However, when the backups came in, the offense went blank. C.J. Beathard didn’t do much to impress except for his scramble runs. It didn’t end well for Beathard as he was injured in the game. Nick Mullens came in and impressed again, completing six out of seven passes for 87 yards. With Beathard hurt, Mullens can certainly start to take further advantage of being the next man up and he will have that opportunity against Indianapolis.
The running game hasn’t found their rhythm just yet, but Alfred Morris is going to be the starter against the Colts. Morris has been under Kyle Shanahan’s system before so it’ll be interesting to see how he plays. With Joe Williams out with an injury, Morris, Jeremy McNichols and Jeff Wilson will most likely be sharing the load. All eyes will be on Morris to perform well as the 49ers look to get better in the running game.
One play to look out for is Morris coming out and racking up a 20-yard run. A run like that combined with consistent running will juice up this competition.
On Thursday, the 49ers announced that they traded young starting linebacker Eli Harold to the Lions for a 2020 seventh-round draft pick. This came as a bit of a surprise to many fans, as Harold started 11 games for the team last season. Going forward it leaves a hole at the SAM linebacker position for the team. This is where rookie linebacker Fred Warner could step in and become the guy. I wrote about Warner’s potential in the 49ers defense a while back but going forward, he now has the perfect opportunity to lock up a starting spot in this defense with a good preseason showing.
Another player who could push for playing time early on is rookie corner Tarvarius Moore. Moore was a third-round draft pick out of Southern Miss. While he won’t be able to secure a starting role over Richard Sherman or Ahkello Witherspoon, he could push for some reps late in the season or for the future.
Both players have good opportunities to showcase their strengths and how they could be valuable to the team in not only this upcoming game versus the Colts, but also the rest of the preseason. One big play to watch out for from this 49ers defense is an early and quick shutdown of Colts quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett. Last week Luck showed how rusty he was, struggling to complete some passes and throwing an interception. With good pressure throughout the defense that could be the same case this week.
Ryan: Special Teams
The 49ers’ specialists, Robbie Gould and Bradley Pinion, were an above-average duo last season. So far in the preseason, it’s been more of the same. Gould is perfect on field goals and extra points, while Pinion is averaging a below-average 40.6 yards per punt, but is putting three of his five attempts inside the 20. The addition of D.J. Reed and Dante Pettis have also given the 49ers a return duo that can do some serious damage. Reed’s ability on kickoff returns were shown last week against Houston with a 45-yard return. The Colts special teams has been sublime between Adam Vinatieri and Rigoberto Sanchez. However, they’re return men and kick coverages show weaknesses on paper. Two good units going after each other should be fun for all the special team fans out there.
My prediction is that Robbie Gould will continue his perfect streak with two made field goals and 3 extra points. Also, with more opportunities in the dress rehearsal game, Dante Pettis will finally have his first career punt return touchdown after having an NCAA record nine return touchdowns.