As far as preseason games go, well, the 49ers were pretty impressive in Friday’s opener. There was a Trey Lance deep ball, three San Francisco interceptions, plenty of moments from defense and, not much more.
Deep throws and running back blows
The obvious question entering this game was how Trey Lance would perform. It was a brief outing, but all signs were positive.
Lance finished 4-of-5 with the clear highlight being a 76-yard touchdown to Danny Gray. He hit Gray — who stumbled, then recovered — in stride and he finished the play down the left sideline.
The lone incompletion was also directed towards Gray. He got one foot down but not the second.
Aside from that, he was pretty much faultless, escaping and scrambling on one play and sliding down safely for a 7-yard gain. There’s been a question about his ability to slide, so getting down, though it’s not exactly a monumental feat, is an encouraging sign about him being able to protect himself as a runner.
When Lance left the game, he was promptly relieved by Nate Sudfeld following a Marcelino McCrary-Ball interception. Sudfeld got an absolute gift, with perfect protection and Ray-Ray McCloud finding himself in acres of space after sending Rico Gafford falling to the turf.
There were other points of note, too:
- Spencer Burford played into the second half, a surprising amount of snaps given that he may start at right guard. But the 49ers want him to get all the reps he can there, to make sure he’s ready to take on that role over Daniel Brunskill. He looked solid.
- Ty Davis-Price was the physical, downhill runner he showed in college and throughout camp. His best run of the day followed the one below, but this one highlights the sort of hurt he has the propensity to put on linebackers. He led the running back stable with 10 carries for 36 yards.
- JaMycal Hasty had some nice carries, too, along with an 11-yard reception. He looked quick and decisive as a runner, freed from the burden of the third-down back role, was impressive. It’s still looking like it’s going to be tough for him to make the team, but he had a positive impact on Friday.
- Oren Burks looks like a tremendous pickup. He played substantial minutes and was all over the place, leading the team with eight tackles. His role will primarily be special teams, but linebacker depth is crucial, especially if the 49ers keep just five (with Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles the probable fifth).
Sam Womack goes huge
There are only a handful of positions still up for grabs. Center looks like it’s Jake Brendel’s to lose, and right guard should go to Spencer Burford, unless his performance falls off in second half of camp.
But the competition at nickel is still muddy. Darqueze Dennard, who impressed in his short-notice opportunities last year, has been running with the starters. Samuel Womack III, though, was drafted in the fifth round out of Toledo with the express purpose of taking on that role.
Womack certainly made a statement on Friday night. His first interception happened so quick it almost didn’t happen at all.
He out-muscled Romeo Doubs — the only player the Packers seemed inclined to target in the first half — on the way down and falling out of bounds. Despite pleading with referees that he’d come down with the ball, it took a last-second Kyle Shanahan challenge to overturn the call.
His second was arguably more impressive given how tight the coverage was.
Jordan Love threw a horribly ill-advised pass over the middle and Womack picked his head up at just the right time, undercutting the route from Amari Rodgers and returning the ball inside the 20-yard line.
He also had a couple of nice plays in the run game, coming in from the backside on some group run stops. At the very least, it was an eye-catching performance that should increase his chance to win the starting job.
Drake Jackson impresses, then departs.
Jackson has looked exactly like the player the 49ers were thrilled to select at 61st overall. Many believed he was a first-round talent who suffered from having to switch roles at USC and take on outside linebacker responsibilities.
Having added weight this offseason and working with Kris Kocurek with a philosophy that emphasizes playing fast, without much thinking, he’s looked right at home.
Jackson was impressive on Friday, charging after Jordan Love and forcing an incompletion by hitting him as he threw, along with a couple of other pressures on the night.
But on a high-effort play, when he chased down Love on a scramble, Jackson came down hard and promptly headed for the locker room.
The 49ers deemed it a shoulder injury and he did not return. While the defensive line group is deep enough to weather an injury, it would be a brutal blow if he was out for any extended period.