Less than 24-hours after the Niners beat the Indianapolis Colts in their first preseason game of the summer, 31-17, they added a much needed piece to their offensive depth chart, signing former Eagle halfback Brian Westbrook to a 1 year deal.
First off, although they won the game, the Niners first stringer's didn't impress too much vs. the Colts on Sunday. Alex Smith went just 3-9 for 37 yards with an interception, and the Niners went scoreless in the first quarter. It wasn't entirely Smith's fault though, there were a few drops on a couple of very catchable balls. The offense was without receiver Michael Crabtree and running back Frank Gore. In Gores absence, and in the aftermath of the sudden retirement from prior back-up Glen Coffee, Anthony Dixon got most of the touches at running back and did an admirable job. Dixon rushed for 103 yards on 21 carries, and did a lot towards securing himself a spot on the running back depth chart. Rookie tight-end Nate Byham, who's been very impressive in training camp, led the team in receiving, hauling in 3 passes for 52 yards. Most of those passes came from the arm of new Niner QB David Carr, who was impressive after Smith in the 2nd and into the 3rd quarter. Carr went 9-11 for 98 yards and a score, though he did get sacked 3 times. He did look good though, showing his uncanny accuracy and solid arm strength when he had time. David Carr is actually one of the more talented QB's the Niners have had in here in recent years, compared to the likes of J.T. O'Sullivan, and Trent Dilfer and is one of the better backups in the NFL.
Speaking of back-ups, the Niners now have one of the most explosive back-ups at running back in all the NFL as well. Brian Westbrook had concussions derail most of his 2009 season, but before that, he was about as efficient as any offensive player in the NFL with the ball in his hands. He was pretty healthy in 2008, and put up 1338 yards from scrimmage (936 rushing yards, 402 receiving yards) and 14 total touchdowns after putting up over 2000 yards from scrimmage in 2007. The best thing about his situation in San Francisco is that he's not going to need to be an every-down back and will only be asked to play 2nd fiddle to Frank Gore. That said, the Niners didn't add Westbrook to keep him on the sidelines. He has the flexibility to be on the field with Gore, as he has the ability to split out wide and play as a receiver. I really like this add, and I don't see how any Niner fan couldn't. Westbrook's not done and I think he's very eager to prove that. His value as a receiver should pay huge dividends for Alex Smith as well, and he could be even move valuable as a receiver to this team than a runner. Regardless what he's doing, he's going to be a weapon for this team, and provides them with an element they haven't had in a long time. With Westbrook and Ted Ginn Jr. now in tow, the Niners offense all the sudden has some speed to go along with Vernon Davis, and I can't wait to see this bunch get going.