49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

August 9, 2008
Nolan: QB rotation for Green Bay to be decided

Mike Nolan said he has yet to meet with Mike Martz and quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner to discuss who will start Saturday's game against the Packers. He said he saw good and bad things from each of his quarterbacks in Friday's loss to the Raiders. He said J.T. O'Sullivan had nice accuracy and good command of the huddle, but made some questionable decisions that cost the team. "J.T. did a very good job aside from the two turnovers," Nolan said. "I think they were plays he could have kept from happening." His reliever, Alex Smith, didn't make any costly mistakes but was not as accurate, Nolan said. "Alex moved the ball pretty good, too," Nolan said. "His throws were not as effective. He had the throwing errors that J.T. did not have as far as accuracy."

Other Nolan notes:

Asked why Smith ended up handing the ball off to fullback Zak Keasey instead of throwing the ball, Nolan said that the running plays were designed to curb the pass rush. "Had (Smith) dropped back every down and gotten hit, I would have been disappointed," Nolan said.

Asked whether Jay Moore merited more playing time with first- or second-team defense, Nolan said, no. "He made some plays but he had some errors. If all of them were bright spots, then I would say, yes." Nolan essentially said that Moore was still very much in the learning phase.

Asked about O'Sullivan's backward dump off to DeShaun Foster in the first quarter, Nolan said he understood and admired O'Sullivan's instinct to want to make a play. But he doesn't want to see one again. "It's a high-risk play and I would rather him not do that at this time," he said.

Nolan wasn't exactly pleased with how the left side of his offensive line, Joe Staley and Adam Snyder, played, especially early. "I'd like for them to do better than they did last night. They started soft ..."

He said the safeties probably would continue to wear the radio receiver like they did Saturday night. He said Patrick Willis probably will get a chance at some point. "For right now, I just would rather not dilute a guy's play."

It looks like several players nicked Friday night will miss practice early this week, but few will be out for the Packers game. They are Eric Heitmann (hip), Allen Rossum (knee), Marcus Hudson (thigh bruise), Chilo Rachal (unknown) and Jason Hill (groin bruise). It sounds as if Damane Duckett (knee) is the most serious of that group. Nolan said receivers Bryant Johnson (hamstring) and Ashley Lelie (calf) probably would not play against Green Bay. If Isaac Bruce plays, it will only be briefly ...

I just finished watching the replay of last night's game. Here are some of the notes I took:

* It seems that Smith's touch on short passes continues to be a problem. He threw a screen to Thomas Clayton that was too hard to handle and it looks as if all of his short crossing routes are behind the receiver. Even one of his completions - to Delanie Walker - was behind Walker. This has been a consistent problem in practices, too. On a positive note, it's nice to see the 49ers running screens and slants, basic and effective plays that were mysteriously absent last season.

* The middle of the defensive line seemed to get shoved around pretty easily. Aubrayo Franklin did not hold up well at the point on several running plays and his backups didn't do much better. Protecting Patrick Willis is essential this season, and that wasn't happening early in the game.

* Speaking of Willis ... Moving Dontarrious Thomas from "Ted" to Willis' backup at "Mike" linebacker seems like a wise move. The scouting report on Thomas was that he wasn't good at taking on blocks, which is something "Ted" must be able to do. At Mike, he can use his athleticism to swoop in and make plays, which is what he did throughout the third quarter and second half.

* Walt Harris had perfect position on two deep attempts to Javon Walker. With Nate Clements at the other corner, offensive coordinators will try to target Harris - who turns 34 tomorrow - this season.

* Larry Grant did a nice job attacking the line of scrimmage. He certainly has the right attitude to play "Ted." The question is whether he can master the mental part enough to convince coaches to trust him with the job.

* The 49ers have a glut of defensive backs, and each one of them looked good at different times. The 49ers are going to have a very tough time figuring out whom to cut.

* I thought Vernon Davis was in position to pounce on J.T. O'Sullivan's fumble but for some reason did not.

* Asked early in training camp which areas of the team he's optimistic about, the first thing Nolan mentioned was special teams. The punting game, however, was a mess last night. Johnnie Lee Higgins, of course, ran a punt back for a TD and he had another long run negated by a penalty. For the record, that's two punt returns for TDs in a row for the 49ers. Joshua Cribbs took one in during the season finale in Cleveland.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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