ReFo: SF @ SD, Preseason WK 4
Instead they got their backsides handed to them by a San Francisco 49ers team that has its guys putting it all on the line to try and make the final 53. For this outfit the only disappointing thing is that they can only sign up so few because there’s no doubt in my mind other teams will be sniffing around a number of the guys they let go.
49ers – Three Performances of Note
As a 2012 seventh round pick, this tends to be the time of your career where you’re entering make or break mode. That may be the case for Cam Johnson (+3.1) who did little in his first three preseason games, but exploded to life with two sacks, a hit and two hurries on his 21 pass rushes.
While in preseason you might sometimes go up against some guys you’re never going to see in the regular season, Johnson did it beating guys who were starting last year in the shape of Max Starks and Michael Harris. Granted they aren’t the best of starters but in Starks case especially, there are worse left tackles in the league right now.
His punt block returned for a touchdown is something you’re not likely to see repeated, but it capped a superb performance.
Baldwin’s Slow Start
A week ago Jonathan Baldwin caught both of the passes thrown his way for 23 yards. This week he caught only two for 11 yards and dropped another pass as he showed just why the Chiefs were so content to trade him away.
That was in stark contrast to some of the other receivers. In addition to the screen pass Quinton Patton (+0.7) turned into a touchdown, Lavelle Hawkins (+2.6) made the kind of highlight reel play you really have to see to believe. After almost dropping a pass, he broke three tackles within a three second spell and raced away to the endzone for a touchdown that gives you an idea why he’s hung around the league so long.
Longtime readers of Pro Football Focus will note that we don’t think we’ve seen a line as good as what he San Francisco 49ers had last year, and will return this year.
What makes it remarkable is how they’ve found talent not just in the first round, but also through undrafted free agency with a gem like Alex Boone they developed into one of the best right guards in the league.
Could Patrick Omameh be in line to follow him? He had a quiet day in pass protection, giving up just two hurries on 33 run blocking situations while he was at times dominant in the run game. If you don’t believe it, look at the movement he got on Logan Harrell with 5:26 to go in the game, or how he manhandled Frank Beltre with 12:01 to go in the first half.
Time will tell, but it’s worth keeping an eye on where he ends up.
Chargers – Three Performances of Note
Making the Most of Limited Opportunities
He may not make the Chargers final roster, but Jerrell Harris (+2.3) showed his pass rushing potential. With just eight snaps to do some damage he ended up with four hurries, being the only man to beat Omameh while also picking up a couple against Carter Bykowski. That kind of production makes him an intriguing prospect, but his poor work on special teams (twice he was beaten for a tackle) may make him expendable.
While he was so impressive, the star of last week, Thomas Keiser (-3.1) had a day to forget. Just one pressure on 14 pass rushes and getting benched after he was flagged for a neutral zone infraction. From the penthouse to the outhouse in one week.
End of the Line
When the Chargers brought in Max Starks (-3.1) it was to compete with King Dunlap for the starting spot. Judging by how he played in this one, he’ll be lucky to make the final 53. It’s been a tough preseason for him and the beating Cam Johnson gave up summed it up. Of course it wasn’t just Johnson who had joy against him, and watching how quickly Dan Skuta beat him for a sack (5:19 in the 1st Qtr) you get the impression Starks has little left in the tank after a relatively successful NFL career.
Rough day for the Rookie
Not much is expected of rookie seventh rounders, and in that respects Brad Sorenson (-2.4) delivered. After being relatively untroubled during preseason he imploded in such a way that the team was left with no choice but to just run the clock out midway through the fourth as he threw two bad picks and completed just 38.9% of his passes. He’s unlikely to see any playing time until next year, so let’s hope in the meantime he can replicate more of what we saw in the first three weeks of preseason.
– Michael Harris got beat for a sack and three hurries. Amazing to think he spent a good portion of last year a starting left tackle. How does a team find themselves in that situation?
– After turning six rushes into 54 yards, any chance the 49ers don’t keep seventh round selection B.J. Daniels on the final 53? You might want to stash him on the practice squad but would another team not nab him?
– Nathan Stupar led the team with nine tackles and five defensive stops.
PFF Game Ball
It has to go to Cam Johnson after a performance with such fine pass rushing.
Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled