The 49ers started their 2009 exhibition campaign with a victory over the Denver Broncos. The big stars of the game from the offense were the Niners back-up running backs. Rookie Glen Coffee, who the Niners selected in round number 3 in April's draft, ran 14 times for 67 yards and a 4.8 YPC average. Coffee is tentatively scheduled to be Frank Gore's main back-up once the season starts, so it was good to see him get off to a solid start. Potential 3rd string back, Kory Sheets, also impressed on the ground, tallying 51 yards in 10 carries. Amidst the solid running performance, all of the spotlight surrounded the 49ers quarterback situation though. Neither Alex Smith or Shaun Hill were particularly impressive, but they didn't play bad. As expected, Shaun Hill started the game, but only threw 2 passes, both completions for 41 yards. Smith connected on 5 of 7 passes for 38 yards, including a 3 yard touchdown toss new back-up tight-end Jeb Putzier. Both QB's showed the ability to move the ball and run the offense, but this competition is just beginning, so keep an eye on it throughout the next 3 weeks... Defensively, the Niners had a standout game from another rookie, fifth round pick Scott McKillop. The rookie linebacker lead the team with 9 solo tackles, 5 more than the next closest defender.
The Raiders kicked off their exhibition stretch with a home game vs. the Terrel Owens'less Dallas Cowboys, and the Raiders quarterbacks had a field day against "America's Team". Three Raiders QB's combined for 280 yards through the air, resembling a high-powered college football spread offense. JaMarcus Russell didn't impress too much to start the game, going 6-9 with 50 yards while getting sacked once. One of the receivers the Raiders are counting on big time in '09, Chaz Schilens, had a nice game with 5 catches for 52 yards. However, Schilens broke his ankle in practice earlier in the week and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks because of it. The one area of major question for the Raiders heading into the year is that receiving corps. They have rookie Derrious Heywerd-Bey who they have high hopes for, but they don't really have anybody to show him the ropes. They're hoping for a bounce back year from Javon Walker, who was a major bust in his first season in Oakland last fall. If the Raiders are going to improve upon what they've done over the last couple of years there, they're going to need a couple of receivers to step up and help ease the load for Russell, Darren McFadden and Justin Fargas, and in the first preseason game of the year, they got it! If I were a sports betting type of guy, I still wouldn't bet on the Raiders to make any post-season appearance, but they do look much improved from the last two years.
Next up for both of these teams will be their annual preseason match-up, this time at Candlestick Park on Saturday. Mike Singletary has yet to name the Niners starting quarterback for that game, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Alex Smith get a shot in that one.