Grading the 49ers Performance Against the Rams
Colin Kaepernick: B-. The 49ers still can’t get big chunks in the passing game, and that’s a problem. While the receiver situation is pretty dire, Kaepernick needs to a better job progressing through his reads and looking his receivers open. He has a tendency to stare down his first option, and seems to linger just a split second too long before looking at his secondary receivers. This was evident on the play Lauranitis almost picked him off; it looked like the Rams were in a simple cover-2, and Kaepernick had all the time in the world to make his throw, and still almost threw an interception, as Lauranitis followed Kaepernicks eyes to the intended receiver. That can’t happen, but these are growing pains typical of young quarterbacks, and people seem to forget that Kaepernick has still started fewer games than Andrew Luck and RGIII.
Frank Gore: B+. Frank Gore is a really good running back, and he reminded us of that last night. His patience and understanding of the running game is incredible; he’s one of the (football) smartest running backs in the league. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch Gore when he’s getting stuffed, because he seems to slow down and linger at the line of scrimmage, often hesitating behind his blockers. It’s tempting to say that he should “hit the hole” harder, or go more “north and south,” but that’s really not his game. Gore’s at his best when he hides behind a pulling guard before exploding to the second level, as he did repeatedly last night. The only thing downgrading Gore from an “A” was his third quarter fumble.
Bruce Miller: A-. I just want to call attention to how good Bruce Miller is. He’s a fantastic lead blocker and one of the best fullbacks in the league. The most surprising aspect of his game, however, is how good his hands are. He was a defensive lineman at USF when the 49ers drafted him, but he’s proven to be a very natural pass catcher, which is actually pretty important in the 49ers offense as he hits the flat often off of play action boots.
Vernon Davis: Incomplete. Played through an injury and didn’t have much of an impact.
Vance Macdonald: B. Macdonald is an intriguing player. He’s been physical at the point of attack, and seems to be a willing and capable blocker. He still whiffs occasionally, but hey, this was his fourth NFL game. Watching him at Rice he seemed to be a fairly athletic pass-catcher, but we haven’t really seen that so far for the 49ers. One thing is for sure, the 9ers miss Delanie Walker, watching him on the Titans I was shocked at how he excels at just about every aspect of his game. I think Macdonald will be a fine pro, but he’s no Walker.
Joe Staley: B. Solid if unspectacular game from the 49ers left tackle, scary moment with him howling in agony on the ground at the end of the game, but all indications are that he’s okay.
Mike Iupati: A-. Iupati is a monster, and is the single most important player in the 49ers running game. The 49ers are much better running to left of their offense line than their right, and Iupati is the reason why. In fact when the 49ers have success running to the right, its often actually behind Iupati pulling to that side.
Jonathon Goodwin: C. Goodwin is the 49ers worst offense lineman, and didn’t play very well last night. I was hoping he would be beat out by either Joe Looney or Daniel Kilgore in training camp, and it’s a little discouraging for those two that that didn’t happen.
Alex Boone: C-. Alex Boone had a bad game, and he’s had a couple of those to start the season. He missed his blocks on a couple of occasions in the running game, and has looked especially iffy when he has to pull. He’s been a bit slow-footed in pass protection as well, so this is a situation to keep an eye on.
Anthony Davis: B+. Solid in the run game, didn’t notice him in pass protection, which is good for a tackle.
Anquan Boldin: B+ I fucking love Anquan Boldin. He’s been on the 9ers four games and he’s already one of my favorite players. I disliked him when he was on the Cardinals and Ravens, because he seemed to have 200 yards every time he played the 49ers, but it was an envious dislike, like I was just jealous he was not on our team (as opposed to the just straight up “I think they’re a terrible person and loathe every second I have to watch them on the field” dislike I’ve developed for Richard Sherman, Clay Matthews, and Philip Rivers).
Jon Baldwin: B. He had two catches! Two more than AJ Jenkins had during his entire time on the 49ers! What a steal! In all seriousness though he did make two nice hands catches in traffic, which is supposed to be his big weakness. He can’t get open, but hey, no one on the 49ers can.
Glen Dorsey: A. The big standout surprise of the game for me. Filling in for Ian Williams at nose tackle, Dorsey had a monster game, and was a big reason the 49ers were so stout against the run. He even got up the field and pressured Bradford on a couple of occasions, recording a sack (I believe he had 3 in his entire career prior to this game). Really encouraging stuff from Dorsey; he may be working himself in to a bigger role in the defensive line rotation.
Corey Lemonier: B. Lemonier looks like a promising edge rusher. He pretty much only played on passing downs, but he did fairly well in those situation, moving Bradford off his spot a couple of times.
Ahmad Brooks: B+. Needed to play well with Aldon Smith drunk out, and did. Underrated in the run game, he sets the edge very well and has the strength to collapse the tight end blocking him inside when needed to.
Navarro Bowman: A+. Bowman was the best player on the field Thursday, and almost single handedly ruined the Rams pass protection scheme. He was also dynamite in the run game. It’s time to face a brutal truth that will sound like blasphemy to many 49er diehards: Navarro Bowman is better than Patrick Willis. There I said it. While he isn’t quite as strong taking on blocks, he’s better in coverage and more versatile. There’s a reason Willis comes out in the 49ers dime package while Bowman stays in.
Tremaine (Trumaine? Tramaine?) Brock: A-. Very nice game for the 49ers backup nickel corner and occasional Erik Utter punching bag. I’m not the biggest Brock fan, but he was tight with his coverage all night, and very physical and sure with his run support. He certainly played better than Nnamdi has over the first three games, so we’ll see what happens when he comes back.
Donte Whitner: B-. Donte Whitner makes me sad. The only thing he really does well is separate the ball from the receiver, which is apparently illegal now. His position is being legislated out of the game. Besides that, he’s a liability in pass coverage; the 49ers should really consider subbing him in nickel packages. He had a nice interception, but he dropped an easy one that ended up going for a catch earlier, so it evens out.
I think Sam Bradford is bad. Like really a below-average quarterback. I understand he doesn’t have the best receivers, but many of his throws weren’t even close, and some of his decisions were even worse. That RGIII trade looks worse every week.
The Rams have drafted terribly with skill position players. They’ve been trying to find a #1 receiver and replacement for Steven Jackson for the past three years…and they still don’t have a #1 receiver or replacement for Jackson. Brian Quick? Isiah Pead? Ew.