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Pre-season Preview vs Bears - By Bryan Hersh Aug 9 2006

THIS CONTENT IS COPYWRITED, REDISTRIBUTION OF IT (including copy/pasting it to a message board, forum or bbs) IS PROHIBITED AND COULD RESULT IN LEGAL ACTIONS - feel free to quote up to 1 paragraph providing a source link to http://www.49ersparadise.com is included

The 49ers prepare to take on the Chicago Bears in the teamís pre-season opener. Unlike regular season games, predicting the outcome or game plan is pretty futile because it is more of a practise session than actual game. So what can you expect from the 49ers? Hopefully, a lot of improvement.

In my ideal world the pre-season 49ers team should be able to knock the sox off of the regular season team fielded last season. Why? Mainly because last seasonís team was so awful, I firmly believe CFL teams could have beaten the 49ers, but also because I expect huge gains from the offensive line and young quarterback Alex Smith. If the offensive unit can muster 10 points in the first quarter, I would consider that good enough to beat last years dismal team.

On a more serious noteÖ
You can expect that the 49ers keep most of their starting players active for the first quarter. Nolan really wants to work on the cohesiveness of the group on both sides of the ball. Some starters may even play into the second quarter. This is a rare tactic for the first pre-season game. Center Jeremy Newberry (knee), defensive lineman Jerry DeLoach (knee) and wide receiver Derrick Hamilton (hamstring) will miss the game. Bryant Young, Larry Allen, Arnaz Battle, and Jonas Jennings may also only see limited action.

Expect to see a few different configurations along the offensive line. Adam Snyder will rotate into a few different positions, as will David Baas. With Jeremy Newberry continuing to suffer from injury, the team will focus on getting Baas some repetitions at center as well. Most importantly the team will be relying on this group to protect Alex Smith, something they did not do a good job of last season.

The team will employ a variety of formations to try and get both Frank Gore and Kevan Barlow integrated into the game. Expect similar rotations for Eric Johnson and Vernon Davis as well as some two tight end sets. The team will also try to look at rookies Michael Robinson and Delanie Walker in later quarters. If Battle is unable to start expect Antonio Bryant to start alongside Bryan Gilmore instead. Rookie Brandon Williams should see a fair bit of action, and will be the teams primary return man. Otis Amey and Rasheed Marshall will also see time on special teams.

Expect Alex Smith to get a fair amount of playtime in the game. The team has confidence in Trent Dilfer, and while they want to keep Smith healthy, he is also being fast tracked to learn the new offense and build a rapport with his receivers. Pay special attention to Smithís progressions and ability to hold onto the football. While a vanilla game plan is likely in-store, it should be easy to tell if Smith made progress.

On the defensive side of the ball, there is sure to be plenty of interesting battles. Bryant Young and Marques Douglas will likely be somewhat limited in their playtime. That should make the battle at the defensive end positions pretty intense. Meanwhile at tackle, Anthony Adams and Isaac Sopoaga will be dueling for a starting position. Ronald Fields should see time at both positions.

The linebackers will have a completely different look to them this year. While Derek Smith, Jeff Ulbrich and Brandon Moore return, expect to see plenty of Parys Haralson and Melvin Oliver in place of Julian Peterson and Andre Carter. It will be particularly interesting to see how often the team uses the 3-4 vs 4-3 defensive formation.

The defensive backfield should also look quite different from the injury filled backfield of last season. Tony Parish and Mike Adams will likely start at safety, but Cbad Williams Vickiel Vaughn, Keith Lewis, Mark Roman, and Marcus Hudson (who will also play corner) will be fighting for backup spots. The team is only expected to keep four of these players, so their contribution on special teams will also be a large factor for them.

Shawntae Spencer will start at left corner, and Walt Harris is the leading candidate for the right corner position. Mike Rumph and Sammy Davis are neck-in-neck for the third cornerback position, and Derrick Johnson, and BJ Tucker (if his ankle is better) are also vying for spots. Here too, the competition will be very intense.

Expect a vanilla coaching plan from the coaching staff. After all, it is pre-season and they will not want to reveal all there is to know about the offense. But how the staff manage the game, the sideline, the clock and the different personalities on the field is something I will be watching for. Nolan made his share of rookie mistakes last season, and I am hoping that he and veteran coach Norv Turner can work together to provide better overall game management.

Are you ready for some football?

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