HOU-SF recap: QB Blaine Gabbert does little to secure 49ers' starting job
Here are the top takeaways and analysis from the Houston Texans’ 24-13 preseason win over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday night:
Quarterbacks: Brock Osweiler got his first game action with his new team on Sunday, but with just 15 snaps played, we weren’t given too much of a look yet. He completed four of seven passes, but all four came on throws less than 10 yards in the air, and he didn’t attempt a pass under pressure, as he was sacked on the lone pressured dropback. Third-year QB Tom Savage received the majority of playing time for the Texans, and looked like he had improved since last preseason. He performed really well under pressure, grading well above-average, and had a 75 percent adjusted completion percentage.
Offense: Rookie WR Braxton Miller (Ohio State) was targeted six times, gaining 34 yards on four catches. He was outplayed by WR Josh Lenz, though, who had three catches for 52 yards, all of which went for first downs. Offensive linemen Jeff Adams and Arturo Uzdavinis accounted for six of the eight total pressures allowed by the Texans’ offensive line, but otherwise the rest of the line played well in pass protection. Guard Oday Aboushi led the team with the highest run-blocking grade of the 13 linemen who saw the field. It was a pretty underwhelming performance for most of the running backs. Free-agent signee Lamar Miller averaged 7.5 yards on his four carries, but otherwise the rest of the group (Kenny Hilliard, Akeem Hunt, Tyler Ervin, and Jonathan Grimes) averaged 2.5 yards on 24 runs with three missed tackles and a fumble.
Defense: Missed tackles were a big problem for Houston’s defense. They combined for 15 total missed tackles, with four players being multiple offenders. Rookie UDFA LB Shakeel Rashad (North Carolina) was the top performer on defense, picking up a run-stop and grading well in coverage. He was targeted four times on 17 snaps in coverage, allowing one 4-yard catch and getting a pass defense. Second-year LB Benardrick McKinney fared just the opposite, as coverage is still his weakness, allowing the long touchdown pass to Vance McDonald. CB Kevin Johnson also had a solid day in coverage; on 33 coverage snaps, he was targeted four times, and allowed just two receptions for 8 yards.
San Francisco 49ers
Quarterbacks: With a quarterback battle underway for the 49ers, Colin Kaepernick sat out the game with Blaine Gabbert continuing to be the starter. Gabbert had a couple of nice throws, including one that ended up as a touchdown due to some nice after the catch work by McDonald, but ultimately did little to help secure the starting job. He missed on a handful of easy throws, once again bringing his accuracy into question. With Kaepernick out, backup duties went to Thaddeus Lewis and rookie Jeff Driskel (Louisiana Tech). Both had impressive plays with their feet, but did not throw the ball quite as well, earning below-average grades as passers. Lewis completed just three of his nine passes targeted 10+ yards downfield, while Driskel finished 4-for-12 overall. Neither player completed a pass while under pressure on eight combined attempts.
Offense: The 49ers have several players in contention for roster spots at running back after starter Carlos Hyde, and more than one made a good impression against the Texans. DuJuan Harris had a few good cuts and runs. He forced three missed tackles on seven carries, but fumbled the ball down by the goal line, eliminating the chance of a 49ers’ score. Mike Davis was the most impressive of the group, averaging 12 yards after contact on his five runs, and forced four missed tackles. Shaun Draughn also forced two missed tackles on as many runs. Second-round draft pick Josh Garnett (Stanford) was perfect on his 21 snaps in pass protection.
Defense: ILB Ray-Ray Armstrong played just 15 snaps, but he made three run-stops on five run plays, and finished as the highest-graded defender for the 49ers. Fellow ILB Nick Bellore also had a productive night, earning above-average grades in run defense and as a pass-rusher due to his three total pressures and three defensive stops. First-round draft pick DeForest Buckner (Oregon) graded average on his first 19 snaps of NFL action. He had one defensive stop, but also had a missed tackle. Seventh-round draft pick CB Prince Charles Iworah was one of four San Francisco defenders with pass breakups.