49ers’ Rookies Solid In Preseason Debuts
A new era officially kicked off for the San Francisco 49ers as they traveled to face the Kansas City Chiefs in their first preseason game. Though the 49ers walked away with a 27-17 victory, there is still plenty of room for improvement in order to really steer this team in the right direction. And Friday night would have its share of up and downs on both sides of the ball.
The 49ers committed 17 penalties for 131 yards on a night where it was clear that both teams had some rust to knock off from the long layoff. Penalties are expected to happen as they are a part of the game, but committing 17 of those in a game is excessive even for a preseason game. The 49ers will have to show more discipline on the field in order to correct the mental errors.
But despite the constant slip ups by the 49ers, there were plenty of positive to go around. New general manager John Lynch assembled his first 53-man roster together as if he’s gone down this road before. And there were several rookies who stood out Friday night.
One first-year player that had a noticeably excellent game was rookie defensive end Solomon Thomas. The third overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft was all over the field as Thomas played a majority of the game and recorded two tackles to go along with several quarterback pressures, one which led to an interception by cornerback Rashard Robinson during the first quarter. Despite Thomas missing off-season team activities due to Stanford’s semester schedule, the former Stanford Cardinal seems to be picking up defensive coordinator Robert Saleh’s scheme very quickly.
Staying on the defensive side, inside linebacker Reuben Foster is another rookie who looks comfortable out on the field. The former Alabama Crimson Tide recorded two tackles and almost had an interception on the Chiefs opening possession which slipped through Foster’s fingers. Being within the vicinity of the ball seems to come natural for Foster as the 31st overall draft pick was flying up and down the field at Arrowhead Stadium.
Rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard got off to a slow start after entering the game in the third quarter, but would settle down and perform well. The third round draft pick from Iowa threw for 101 passing yards and two touchdowns on 7-of-11 passing. After being sacked twice early on in the second half, Beathard was able to get into a rhythm and help the 49ers score 18 unanswered points in the 4th quarter.
One position battle to watch this preseason is at running back, and fourth round draft pick Joe Williams is sure to put veteran teammate Carlos Hyde on notice with his explosive running style. The former Ute ran for 60 yards on seven carries, and had a knack for hitting the holes very quick. The 49ers look to be deep at the running back position, and the combo of Hyde and Williams looks to be an intriguing one especially if the former can manage to stay healthy this season.
Today the 49ers began a new chapter under new head coach Kyle Shanahan and are working with a new nucleus consisting of many young players. The 49ers rookie unit as a whole tonight performed exceptionally well and painted a picture of how bright the future can be for this proud franchise if this nucleus stays in tact. And with both Lynch and Shanahan having the plan and vision on where they want this team to go, this young 49ers team can only get better after each game.
A Few Other Notes
-Quarterback Matt Barkley came into the game late in the first quarter and played through the second quarter. Despite throwing a couple questionable passes, Barkley played well by throwing for 168 yards on 10-of-17 passing. He seems to have good chemistry with free agent wide receiver Aldrick Robinson, who both connected on a 63-yard pass play towards the end of the first quarter.
-Beathard had nice chemistry going with undrafted free agent wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. The two hooked up four times for 88 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown strike in the 4th quarter which made the score 17-15. Both Beathard and Bourne would close out the drive by connecting on a fade route during the ensuing two-point conversion which would tied the game at 17.
-Running back Raheem Mostert may have run against third-string defenders in the Chiefs, but that in no way means he didn’t earn every yard he rushed for. Mostert would be the 49ers leading rushed by gaining 89 yards on 15 carries. A lot of those yards came late in the fourth quarter while the 49ers offense was milking the clock.
-Linebacker Aaron Lynch has had a nice training camp so far, and he put that on display Friday night as if the veteran was playing with a purpose. As well as recording two sacks, Lynch also recorded a tackle for loss and had a pass batted down. Lynch has not looked this explosive in a few years.
-Cornerback Rashard Robinson got off to a rough start as Chiefs quarterbacks Alex Smith and Tyler Bray seemed to pick on the second year player out of LSU early on in the game. Robinson was beaten badly by Chiefs wide receiver Tyreke Hill on the very first play for 33-yards and was and would have been beaten a second time by Chiefs wide receiver Chris Conley on the second drive had offensive pass interference had not been called. But Robinson would end his night on a good note back making a tackle for a loss and grabbing an interception in the first quarter, thanks to pressure coming from rookie Thomas.
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