The annual pre-season battle of the bay took place this weekend, and with some late fireworks from some third-string players, the Niners pulled off the comeback victory over their cross-bay rivals.
Now, everyone says exhibition and pre-season games don't matter, and they don't for the most part. However, for individual players trying to win jobs and make names for themselves, the pre-season is as important as the playoffs. One guy who's viewing them in that light is former number 1 overall draft pick Alex Smith. Since the Niners took Smith with the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, it's been an up-and-down run for the young QB, but mostly he's been down. He has gotten new life this summer though, as his play in training camp prompted Mike Singaltery to hold off on announcing a starting QB until later in the preseason. The thing is, Smith hasn't been all that impressive in his 2 pre-season outings. He did throw a TD in the first game and looked decent, but he pretty much struggled vs. the Raiders, going just 3-9 with an interception. Granted, the int wasn't entirely his fault, he threw the ball a tad high to Josh Morgan and the ball ricochet off Morgans hands and into an Ricky Brown's. The thing is though, Shaun Hill wasn't too impressive either. Hill went just 3-7 f0r 20 yards and was sacked once. Due to Hill's experience though, I would assume that Singletary will lean towards him as the QB to start the year off as long as nobody separates themselves from the other over the next 2 weeks. I don't think Smith's totally lost his chance, but he's going to have to do something that helps his cause big time and he's going to have to thoroughly outplay Hill if he indeed wants to be QB1 to start the year. I'd like to see that happen, but I think Hill gives the Niners the best shot to win right now and I think he's going to be their guy on September 13th.
The passing game was quiet in the first three quarters, but once again, the 49ers running game was thriving. San Francisco rushed for 275 total yards, including a 129 yard outing from back-up tailback Glen Coffee, and a 97 yard day from back-up fullback Michael Robinson. The strong running game is a signal that the Niners offensive line could be a strength. I know it's just pre-season and all, but the 49ers are taking control of games on the ground, and that's the way I expect them to be with Singletary at the helm. Another positive to come out of Saturday's game was the solid play of rookie quarterback Nate Davis. The former Ball State stud went 6-11 for 73 yards and a score, which put the Niners right back in the game in the 4th quarter. If fact, it was Davis at the helm for the whole 4th quarter in which the Niners scored 17 points and ultimately beat the Raiders 21-20. I still think the plan with Davis is to have him on the practice squad to start the year as the team has 3 NFL experienced QB's in Hill, Smith and Damon Huard. I would actually like to see Davis make the active roster over Huard if only one of those guys could make it. Davis has upside and I think he's a little bit further along than anyone really expected at this point and I wouldn't put him getting an active roster spot to start the year out of the question if he puts up another game or 2 like he had vs. Oakland.
Don't worry Raider fans, we'll get to the Raiders side of the recap in our next post. This one ran a little longer than I had anticipated so we'll just save our Raiders talk for the next post, so stay tuned!