You just get the sense that the 49ers are ready to go. The team made plays on offense, defense and special teams as they cruised to a 34-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings in their third preseason game (otherwise known as the dress rehearsal for the season). Here is a look at some key developments from last night.
Quarterback Picture Clearing Up
After a slow start in which he started 1-7, Colin Kaepernick got into a rhythm as he led the first team offense on a crisp touchdown drive that culminated with a 5-yard scoring strike to rookie Quinton Patton. Kaepernick finished 7-13 for 72 yards and the one touchdown in one quarter of action. He has looked comfortable and in command of the offense all preseason. Colt McCoy, who apparently restructured his contract over the weekend, relieved Kaepernick and had a decent performance overall.
McCoy was 11-15 for 105 yards but did throw one ugly interception. Despite the mistake, he was good enough to have Jim Harbaugh name him the backup after the game. B.J. Daniels was the next quarterback to enter the contest and he looked impressive again with both his arms and his legs. He was 2-3 for 30 yards and ran for another 20 as he led the 49ers on a 15 play touchdown drive that lasted a little over eight minutes. With the way he has played so far during the preseason, it’s hard to imagine Daniels not being the 3rd quarterback. The 49ers could attempt to put him on their practice squad, but that would be a risk at this point. There is a good chance another team might claim him.
Sencea Wallace came in to end the game and went 2-2 but with McCoy being named the official backup, his place on the team doesn’t look so secure. At this point, you have to wonder why the 49ers even bothered to sign him for any other reason than to motivate McCoy.
Scott Tolzien did not see any action and was apparently battling back spasms. Tolzien’s days with the 49ers could be numbered as he’s kind of the odd man out with the team shifting to more athletic quarterbacks who can run the read option.
Rookies Continue to Impress
The big name to come out of last night was Quinton Patton. After sitting out the first two preseason games with a broken finger, Patton hauled in four passes for 35 yards and a touchdown. He saw time with the first team offense and looked like he had been there for years. Patton is a hard worker and an intriguing prospect. If last night was any indication, he could see significant playing time early on and make a big impact his rookie season. Considering the A.J. Jenkins mess, Patton might find his way into the hearts of 49er fans very quickly. He looks to be the anti-A.J.
In addition to Patton, the rest of the 49ers’ rookie class continues to play well and have had a good preseason overall. Vance McDonald, who was back after missing the last game with an undisclosed injury, caught another couple of passes. Daniels, as mentioned above, looks like a 7th round steal. On the defensive side of the ball, Eric Reid and Corey Lemonier have looked good throughout the exhibition slate and could be major players for a while. Lemonier won’t see too much action initially with Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith ahead of him but Reid looks to be on track to start week one. He’s a beast out on the field.
With the early success of the 2013 draft class, you have to wonder how much more promise this group will have when the guys who have been injured actually suit up. Tank Carradine, Quinton Dial and Marcus Lattimore will all start the season on non-football injury list. Lattimore will not play this season but we could see Carradine and Dial at some point late in the year. All three players carry with them promise and Lattimore and Carradine have the ability to be stars. The group could be laying the foundation for the future as vets like Frank Gore and Justin Smith eventually pass the torch onto the younger players.
How did Baldwin do?
Well, considering he’s been with the team for less than a week, the 49ers should be encouraged by Jonathan Baldwin‘s performance. He caught two passes for 23 yards and looked as comfortable as you can considering the short amount of time he’s had to gel with his teammates. Baldwin should make the team and has the talent to provide some big plays for the 49ers this year.
The 49ers finish the preseason against the San Diego Chargers and I wouldn’t expect to see many of the starters play much, if at all, in that game. There’s a good chance Kaepernick is locked in closet somewhere enclosed in bubble wrap at this point. With the first game against the Green Bay Packers less than two weeks away, the 49ers will begin to make cuts as they shave down their roster. It will be interesting to see what the coming days bring in that regard.
Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez