(Yes, that is me trying to make excuses.)
First up, the 49ers have two wide receivers who will either dominate or not give you anything, Marcus Lattimore and Quinton Patton. Lattimore got the majority of the snaps with his first unit. Patton got less time, but got some chances. Now that the 49ers have both backs, it will be interesting to see if either would be able to step up for the final roster cut down of 53. They both have some nice traits, as we’ve always found out, but neither is really an asset for them.
Second, linebacker Ray-Ray Armstrong. At a 6’6” 224+ pounds, you can’t imagine how much of an asset Armstong brings to this defense. It’s scary to think that his size might be the difference-maker between the 49ers finishing 8th in the league for rushing, and last place. He has good instincts, plays with good quickness, has some impressive burst, and he also showed he can cover at least 1 down and 6 steps. He only allowed 2 completions on 5 pass attempts. He would give the 49ers a solid edge rusher in the 4down game.
Third, linebacker Devon Kennard. The younger guy did not make the roster, but was much better at his second stop (Tennessee vs. Baltimore in the team’s final preseason game). As we’ve said, he is a very smart player. His reads were very sharp in this game, where he managed to not have a single error in coverage. If Kendall Sheffield gets the final roster spot, the 49ers will be happy. They also have Jaquiski Tartt in the 4th round. The third linebacker spot will come down to a battle between the 5th and 6th round players. We’ll see.
Fourth, the 49ers went with a heavy running attack from their last game to get out to an early lead. I don’t know about you guys, but I think the 49ers’ run game will be excellent. On their first offensive play, they had 7 (!) carries for 37 yards. They’ll probably want to run about as many out of the formation as possible, but you can’t win the game on the ground. Here’s what linebacker Aldon Smith said after the game.
Defensively, the 49ers did not look any closer to dominating than they did Sunday. With the Rams’ defensive struggles, it looked more and more likely that the 49ers would be playing the Rams in week 4, but that could change. Some of the “moves” from an offensive player seem to have gotten into the defense, but nothing game changing. Here’s a play from the first quarter that really blew the 49ers, and the Rams, away. That looks like a good look for Mike Pettine. Watch how much Mike Iupati looks in position to cover.
I do like Pettine. If you can coach better than that, I don’t know how. Anyway, the 49ers’ defense has been better than the Rams’ one in recent weeks, and with that, the next week will tell. Also, in this same week, they hope to find out if new nose tackle Glenn Dorsey feels 100% capable of playing left tackle. I have a feeling there will be even more change over the next few weeks.