For the first time in three weeks of preseason football the 49ers provided their fans with some exciting developments. Not having to scuffle with friends over who the starting quarterback will be is a great luxury, but it sure makes for some boring preseason fodder. The intrigue from training camp this year is who will replace Michael Crabtree while he recovers and who will play quarterback IF Colin Kaepernick gets hurt. Are the answers to these questions important? Sure, but they’re gold-plated problems for a team used to seeing J.T. O’Sullivan vie for the starting job in years past.
Both of those questions got a little closer to being answered with Quinton Patton and Colt McCoy’s performances last night, but what really stood out was the first teamers — especially the defense.
1. Strip tease
The pass rush certainly quelled some stress over the 49ers’ secondary, and Ahmad Brooks led the way Sunday:
That’s right tackle Phil Loadholt getting embarrassed by Brooks’ inside move, and if the outside linebacker’s performance was any indication, he should be underrated in yet another top-tier NFL defense.
(Bonus gif: Aldon Smith recovered the fumble and had an amazing celebration for it. He should have saved it for the regular season though.)
2. General Patton
Will 49ers’ rookie wide receivers always be compared to A.J. Jenkins? It won’t stop this year, that’s for sure. Quinton Patton hadn’t seen any action prior to Sunday night’s game due to a hand injury, but he made the most of his extensive playing time with Colin Kaepernick and the first-string offense:
First target, first catch. He beat his coverage and caught the pass in traffic with a safety bearing down. Patton has strong hands and he’s not afraid of contact (sound unfamiliar?). After the game, Kaepernick told reporters “he knows how to get open.” Has a starting wide receiver emerged? This couldn’t hurt his cause:
Patton’s second target was in the endzone and he certainly made that count too. He caught four of the five balls thrown his way, and in Patton’s defense, the one he didn’t catch was an ill-advised interception thrown by McCoy.
(Bonus gif: Patton can celebrate with the best of ’em.)
3. I like the way you move
Kaepernick got off to a concerning start with a few of his passes sailing errant. He found his rhythm in the third drive though, which featured both of the Patton highlights above, as well as this beauty to Marlon Moore:
The pocket went absolutely haywire on the quarterback’s blindside, but Kaepernick stayed calm moving to the right. He had a huge hole to run, but Kaepernick had a wide receiver open so he showed his ability to throw on the move instead. Somehow he zipped the pass into Moore between two defenders while throwing across his body. These are the kinds of plays I expect to see Kaepernick complete successfully much more this season. It’ll go a long way to keeping the 49ers’ star upright.
4. Special teams (over)excitement
Return man is one spot the 49ers have yet to figure out under Harbaugh, but did Lavelle Hawkins make a case for himself last night? His 105-yard return certainly opened some eyes …
… but the penalties for high-stepping and taking off his helmet did too. Harbaugh said Hawkins got “emotionally highjacked,” and I can’t say I blame him. there aren’t many plays more exciting than taking a kickoff 105 yards to the house. Still, the coach didn’t look all too thrilled with his wide receiver for the violations.