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Offensive Pre-Season Game Reactions
August 6 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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There was a time when the 49ers didn’t lose in pre-season. Time has certainly changed that. Under the guidance of former 49ers quarterback and third draft pick, Steve Spurrier the Washington Redskins blew the 49ers out of Osaka Stadium. And perhaps the only savings grace here was that it was pre-season. Then again, it could have also been that despite Spurrier’s team looking great on the field, they looked ridiculous in the new ‘Skins uniforms. Still, there was a time when the 49ers viewed winning in pre-season as important, and clearly that notion has changed to, ‘surviving pre-season is important’.

The 49ers starting offensive skill players did not put points on the board. Then again, they only played for two series. Jeff Garcia, Terrell Owens, JJ Stokes, Garrison Hearst and Fred Beasley, were on the bench a long time before the 49ers put points on the board, but that was largely due to a botched field goal snap. Of course it does not really come as a surprise that the offense was not kicking it into full gear from the get go.

Last season the 49ers struggled throughout the first quarter at putting points up on the board. While the first team offense played far less than a quarter of the game, they did move the ball efficiently, and that was a good sign. Still Jeff Garcia entered the game ‘high strung’ as he always seems to do. He misfired early, but as always, rebounded as the efficient passer he’s become in San Francisco. Garcia will have to work on calming down at the start of the game - and perhaps that’s why Steve Mariucci likes to run the ball so often at the start of each offensive series. Garcia took no risks to his body in this one - not even leaving the pocket.

The first team offense looked in sync. Garrison Hearst was following the nice lead blocking of Fred Beasley, the offensive line -even without center Jeremy Newberry gave Garcia plenty of time, and Eric Johnson was a big outlet to Garcia who was moving through his progressions very well. Terrell Owens saw very little time on the field, but did have some troubles shaking double coverage. JJ Stokes is really going to have to step up here to help loosen the coverage on Owens.

From the starting offense, the only down side was really a hyper extended elbow of Ron Stone. Stone was replaced by Eric Heitmann who played much of the game.

The first string offensive line stayed in for a bit as Tim Ratty took over at quarterback. The offensive line is very good at the top, but the depth is still a little shaky. The 49ers will have their fingers crossed that this group will stay healthy, because they are banking on many youngsters for depth at this position.

Tim Ratty still needs work before the 49ers can consider him a reliable back up to Jeff Garcia. But that is what a big portion of this year’s pre-season will be about. Ratty’s biggest flaw is his tendency to stare down the receiver he is throwing to. Naturally, this clues in the defense as to where the ball is going. Ratty however, clearly has a great knowledge of the 49ers system. He calmly found his second and third receiver quite well, and always seemed to know where his players were. He also did a little bit of scrambling looking nimble enough to buy time or pick up the first down. Of course these are integral qualities in any quarterback.

While Ratty was at quarterback running back Kevan Barlow and fullback Paul Smith were the backfield. The two of these players working together is downright scary. They are two of the most solidly built 49ers and will run through just about anybody. Smith looked very good at picking up the blitz, and making his block. He was also explosive when on the run. Smith had a great strait arm move, something he likely picked up from watching Garrison Hearst. Barlow lived up to all that was said about him this off-season. He is certainly stronger, and just as quick. Barlow is also not afraid to cut back away from his lead blocker. With the move of Smith to fullback, it means Terry Jackson has been pushed down the depth chart a little. Jackson however, may still see more playing time than Smith, if the 49ers use him as the ‘lone back’ that they did last season.

Receivers Tai Streets and Cedrick Wilson made some nice catches, but don’t expect either to push JJ Stokes this year. Stokes is still a lock for the second receiving roll. Still there is certainly improvement in both these receivers, as has been well documented this off-season. Wilson made one catch and was immediately knocked to kingdom calm, still he retained the football (but lost his shoe and helmet due to the impact). Wilson did a fine job returning kicks, but did not break any long ones, or do anything particularly flashy.

As Brandon Doman moved in to finish off the game at quarterback, ESPN noted that Cade McNown may undergo surgery on his shoulder this off-season. If this is the case, the 49ers would be able to retain all of the quarterbacks currently on the roster, and McNown would get some time to digest the 49ers playbook. Still, the ESPN report has yet to be confirmed from the organization or any other source and Mariucci did deny the report on Monday.

Finishing off the game, Doman looked like a real prospect. He’s accurate on his throws, both short and long, and he’s starting to grasp the offense. Where Doman really needs work though, is not panicking when the defensive line gets pressure on him. Granted Doman did not have the starting offensive line protecting him, but still when there was penetration he seemed to panic. The game at this level, is clearly still to quick for him, but his accuracy and arm strength when given the time to throw was certainly encouraging.

The 49ers really do have a dynamite group of running backs. Jamal Robertson and Saladin McCullough worked with Doman, and did a very nice job. The 49ers will likely only keep one of these two players though. Both looked very good on special teams, but Robertson did look better running the ball. He’s physical and very slashy in his style.

Neither place kicker, Jose Cotez or Jeff Chandler, nor punters Jason Baker and Andre Bayes really separated themselves from the competition. Andrew Bayes kicker further than punter Jason Baker, but Baker’s punts were closer to the Redskin’s territory, so he could not kick them as far. The special teams coverage units do need to brush up on their containment too.

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