Here is the second part of my review of the guys in the trenches for the San Francisco game. The first part focused on offense can be found here.
It's hard to find anything wrong with our defense so far, but there's one part of their game that is lacking. The pass rush last night was not very good, and unlike the Saints game, the 49ers did on occasion test us deep. The secondary was mostly up to the task, but I'm just a bit concerned about the lack of pass rush. Trying to make to big of an issue out of it at this point is a little crazy, considering the 1st team defense has given up 3 points in the first half of 3 preseason games. So when you read some negative points in the following review, keep it in context, for the most part they are doing an excellent job. It's also hard to evaluate the starting unit; they were out on the field for so few plays, the 49ers only ran 16 offensive plays in the first half and the last one was a kneel-down.
LDE - Marcus Spears: Spears had a couple of plays were he got pushed back by the RT, but he recovered to hold them to modest gains. He did have a very good play where he stuffed the runner before the line of scrimmage for a small loss. Overall, a pretty good game.
NT - Jason Ferguson: I've been impressed by the play of Ferguson in the preseason and he continued it last night. He's proving to be an immovable object in the middle and is clogging up the lanes allowing the LB's to clean up the plays on runs in the middle. He also managed to get 2 tackles for himself and only had one play where they got a push on him for a gain up the middle.
RDE - Chris Canty: For the second straight week in a row, Canty was mainly silent. He didn't have an official tackle and didn't make his presence felt in the pass rush. But like Spears, as long as he holds his ground in the running game and allows others to flow to the tackle, he's doing his job.
LOLB - Greg Ellis: Compared to the last couple of games, Ellis was kind of quiet, but still solid. He continues to give good run support on plays to his side and hasn't been too bad when asked to drop into coverage. The only negative play was one where he started to cover the TE, then realized he had to turn him over to the safety and get over to cover the FB in the flats. But he stumbled trying to recover and gave up a decent gain. He also didn't have much presence in the pass rush.
ROLB - DeMarcus Ware: At the risk of incurring the wrath of the Cowboys faithful, I'd have to say Ware didn't have that great of a game. He ended up with no sacks and really only got decent pressure on two occasions, and only one of those caused discomfort for the 49ers QB. He also got caught inside on a run, but Bradie James cleaned it up, and on another run he got caught upfield losing containment and the 49ers got a big gain on it after Larry Allen blasted Bradie James. He was late turning a man loose in coverage to the CB and found himself too deep to recover on a pass to the back which went for a first down. He did have another good coverage play where he had tight coverage on a pass and made a solid tackle for a short gain. He ended the night with two tackles which isn't bad for how few plays he actually played.
LDE - Kenyon Coleman, Jay Ratliff: Coleman was only in the game for a series before he got hurt, but he had some good plays in that time. He did a nice job of moving laterally while taking on a block to string out a run, and he stayed home on a roll-out to keep the QB from running.
Ratliff had an OK game, but didn't get too much done. His hot start in camp and in the first preseason game has cooled down over the last two games. He did have a nice recognition of a screen pass to help break it up.
NT - Pepper Johnson, Montavious Stanley: Pepper Johnson didn't get a tackle for the game but had a couple of plays where he did a good job of clogging the middle. Stanley, on the other hand got pushed out of the middle on two middle runs. He did read the screen on a play and hustled out to help break it up. If I'm laying money down here, Johnson will be the backup and Stanley will head to the practice squad.
RDE - Jason Hatcher: Hatcher had a great game last night, coming up with 2 sacks on a night when nobody else could generate any pressure. He is also improving in his run defense by moving laterally with the blocks and holding contain on his side. In addition to his sack he had 3 tackles, 1 assist and forced a fumble on one of his sacks. A superb effort by the promising rookie.
LOLB - Al Singleton: It's easy to see why Parcells likes Singleton, the veteran just plays solid defense. He stayed at home on a roll-out and had the main target of the pass play covered, forcing an incomplete. He also got good penetration on a running play to disrupt the blocking and allowing his teammates to clean it up for a short gain. He did have one play where he got blown-up on a run that went for a decent gain, but mostly it was a solid effort.
ROLB - Kevin Burnett: Burnett had a nice effort last night, cleaning up a sack that was started by Bobby Carpenter applying pressure up the middle. He ended up with 3 tackles for the evening, but he did get beat in pass coverage once for a first down.
Bradie James played very well last night. He finished with 3 tackles and sniffed out a screen pass and dumped the back for a loss the second after he caught the ball. Bobby Carpenter finally did something of note, forcing the QB out of the pocket on a blitz up the middle, and got credit for two tackles. The blitz came out of a formation with 4 down linemen and the LB lined up over the center. The Cowboys used this formation twice and both times it was effective.
Ryan Fowler ended up with 4 tackles to lead the team, but he also was beat badly in coverage for a big gain, got flagged for a holding call and missed a couple of tackles. Not a great evening for him. Abram Elam continues to do good work on special teams, but experienced his first real failure in coverage when Vernon Davis beat him for a TD.
Anthony Henry turned in a gem, with one pass deflection and an interception, but Aaron Glenn got beat on a couple of occasions.