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49ers stock report: Breaking down winners and losers in preseason loss to Texans

© Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports


The Houston Texans staged a late comeback to hand the 49ers their first loss of the 2018 preseason, 16-13, Saturday evening. Both starting offenses scored touchdowns on their opening drives. The ensuing three quarters featured little scoring, penalties, and some 49ers reserves making big plays.

Whose stock rose and fell after Saturday’s loss?

STOCK UP

Marquise Goodwin

It’s been the preseason of Marquise Goodwin, who has dominated all training camp long.

That transferred into Saturday, as Goodwin and Jimmy Garoppolo connected on the first third down of the game. Garoppolo hit the streaking Goodwin up the left sideline for a 40-yard gain. No cornerback can run toe to toe with Goodwin, a former Olympic sprinter. He beat cornerback Kevin Johnson off the line, and he stood no chance.

What’s most impressive about Goodwin’s excellent preseason is his evolution as a receiver. He’s no longer a straight-line speedster. He is a crisp route-runner and has shown he is capable of catching contested passes over the middle. He caught an eight-yarder three plays after his 40-yard bomb, setting up a fourth and 1, which the 49ers ultimately converted on.

Fast forward another 49ers’ offensive drive, and Goodwin produced on third down again. He snagged a 13-yard pass from Garoppolo near the left sideline to move the chains.

Goodwin finished with three catches for 61 yards in two drives to lead all 49ers receivers. He looks every bit like Garoppolo’s go-to target, just as he was in the latter half of the 2017 season.

D.J. Jones

Nose tackle D.J. Jones dominated Saturday’s game for stretches of the second half. One the second play of the fourth quarter, Jones tossed the opposing lineman to the side and thwacked the running back for no gain.

Later in the quarter, on 2nd and 17, Jones used a swim move to penetrate the backfield and flushed quarterback Joe Webb out of the pocket. Jones was consistently disruptive, clogging running lanes and giving Webb little time to throw. Jones finished with three tackles, two of which were solo.

Jones is Earl Mitchell’s backup, but he played better than his competition Saturday. That gap may be closing.

Backup cornerbacks

The importance of secondary depth can not be overstated enough, considering the inevitable attrition any secondary faces. The 49ers do not have many backup options with NFL experience. They are relying mostly on rookies and second-year players to supply that depth.

Saturday night featured several backup cornerbacks making plays. With fewer than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, third-round pick Tarvarius Moore dove for a ball, tipped it, and Emmanuel Moseley scooped it before hitting the ground for the interception.

Moore is an elite athlete who has undergone a position change from safety to cornerback. His tipped pass was encouraging. Moseley was an undrafted rookie, and he showed impressive speed on his return. Fellow rookie Tarvarus McFadden nearly had an interception in the fourth quarter, too.

Second-year cornerbacks Greg Mabin and Tyvis Powell also played well. They both blanketed receivers on deep throws. On another play, Powell pursued Webb, who rolled to his right, and batted down the pass.

With Jimmie Ward’s struggles, the need for quality backup options in the secondary is important.

STOCK DOWN

Weston Richburg

Richburg may be in Kyle Shanahan’s dog house for the night.

As the 49ers’ starting offensive unit marched downfield for another promising drive, their second of the game, Richburg was called for holding on 1st and 10 at the Houston 12-yard line. To make matters worse, Richburg mouthed off to the referee, who flagged the 49ers center for unsportsmanlike conduct.

The 49ers backtracked all the way to the 37-yard line. One play later, Garoppolo threw a pass to Dante Pettis, which tipped off his fingertips, and the Texans intercepted the ball. The unraveling of that second drive can be traced to Richburg’s series of penalties.

“I thought we had a stupid penalty that ruined it for us, and we had an interception the next play,” Shanahan said during his halftime interview. “(I am) disappointed with how it ended. We got to clean up these penalties, but I was happy with how we moved the ball.”

Richburg is in no danger of losing his job. The 49ers signed him to a five-year, $47.5 million contract in March, making him the league’s third-highest paid center in terms of annual salary. He has had a solid preseason. He was, however, pushed back toward Garoppolo a couple times in Saturday’s matchup, but not enough to where Garoppolo was in serious danger of being sacked.

Those two penalties— the 49ers had 15 altogether on the night— costed them points.

Jimmie Ward

Ward struggled in the preseason opener. On the game’s opening drive, he was beat up the sideline for a 30-yard touchdown.

Those struggles spilled into Saturday. Ward allowed three first downs to receivers he covered. Each completion was similar, with Ward sagging too far off the receiver and allowing an easy pitch-and-catch.

Ward is effectively San Francisco’s top backup at nickel corner and both cornerback spots. He formerly played free safety. And he’s the team’s highest-paid defensive player this year.

Injuries have already sidelined K’Waun Williams (ankle) and Richard Sherman (hamstring), though neither are considered serious. Ward is going to see the field in 2018, and he will need to improve upon these first two preseason games.

Pass rush

The most glaring weakness on this 49ers squad is the pass rush, which was nonexistent Saturday evening. The 49ers did not record a single sack after having two in last Thursday’s preseason opener. The outside pass rush yielded little quarterback pressure.

This rush unit is filled with youngsters and journeymen looking for that breakout season. No current 49ers player has more than 10 career sacks. The 49ers finished 26th in the NFL with 30 sacks last year, and leading sacker Elvis Dumervil was not re-signed this offseason. Instead, the 49ers signed former Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu, who has not done much in either of the first two preseason games.

Behind quarterback, an edge rusher may be the most important position in the NFL. The 49ers do not have one. The plan is to build around defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, whose up-the-middle attention will isolate those edge players in one-on-one opportunities. But thus far, they have struggled to win those matchups.

 

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