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

August 22, 2009
Niners ride a Coffee high *addendum*

***This is an addendum after watching the replay of the game***

Aside from the obvious stars of the game -- Coffee, Nate Davis, the offensive line -- these guys stood out to me.

  • Reggie Smith. He's been very active in both preseason games so far. He pressured Charlie Fry into making a bad throw on the Raiders failed two-point conversion and he's the one who came up with the punt-return fumble at the end of the game. He's done more in two preseason games at safety than he did his entire rookie season at cornerback. In other words, it looks like he's found his home.
  • Michael Robinson. If it hadn't been for Coffee's performance, everyone would be talking about Robinson's game. Yes, the offensive line was knocking the Raiders off the ball, but Robinson showed the vision and instincts that have always been there as a pass catcher but not as a running back.
  • Matt Spanos. A late pickup before training camp, Spanos played both guard and tackle in the game. He did a nice job run-blocking and seems to be the big-bodied center the team prefers.
  • The OLBS. Again, no one came away with a sack, although there was one "team" sack when JaMarcus Russell fell on his own. But I thought Manny Lawson and Ahmad Brooks were physical, they held the dge in the running game and mostly had solid performances. Undrafted rookie Diyral Briggs showed some burst in the second half. He's about as heavy as a safety right now. He needs to add about 15 pounds to his 6-4 frame. Practice squad?

This just in: Glen Coffee leads all rushers in the preseason. In fact, the rookie running back has 56 yards on the No. 2 rusher. Coffee finished with 129 yards on the ground. By contrast, the Raiders had 69 yards as a team. Coffee was part of a theme Saturday evening. The 49ers rookies carried the day in the 21-20 win. Nate Davis looked like a rookie at times, but he also showed a nice knack for sidestepping the pass rush and firing bullets across the middle. He led the 49ers on their only two touchdowns. Kory Sheets had 51 yards rushing, and this time did a nice job of sliding in bounds at the end of the game. Linebacker Scott McKillop led the 49ers in tackles and also came up with one of three interceptions. Yes, the buffet continued ...

You might be wondering why, when the 49ers have an unsettled quarterback situation, they would spend so much time handing the ball off to Coffee. According to Mike Singletary, perfecting the running game also is a priority this preseason. He said one of the goals is to teach Coffee the proper angles at which he should be hitting the holed. Seems to me like he's picking that up rather well.

Alex Smith finished the game with a 4.2 passer rating. Competition over, right? Shaun Hill is your regular-season starter. In my opinion, Smith actually had the better game. He showed good energy and urgency early on, which hasn't always been the case with Smith. The truth is that he wasn't helped out by his receivers. Both Vernon Davis and Josh Morgan missed catch-able balls, and Morgan's miscue led to an interception. If those muffs become catches, Smith's passer rating is about 69. Morgan was the target on five passes. The only one he caught came from Hill and probably should have been picked off by the Raiders cornerback. (You can bet that Michael Crabtree was paying attention to that facet of the game).

You also have to like how Smith decked Greg Ellis and then gave him the gangsta stare afterward. That's the type of nastiness Smith hasn't shown thus far in his career. And his tackle on linebacker Ricky Brown - the guy Frank Gore blasted earlier in the week - showed nice grit, too. In terms of backbone, Smith made huge strides Saturday. "That's what I see all the defenders do over me whenever that happens to me," Smith said. "It felt good. Quarterbacks don't get to deliver many blows. So it's nice every once in a while to get to do that."

"It shows he's not afraid," Singletary said. "I'm glad he stepped up. But at the same time, I'm not going to be glad he stepped up and hit the guy. Something like that, you just have to be careful."

Said Ellis after the game (with a big smile on his face): "That was the ultimate thing you don't want to have happen to you. He laid something on me. It sends a good message (to the 49ers) when the quarterback does something like that."

It's probably obvious, but neither Smith nor Hill really distinguished himself in the game. Singletary said that he and his staff would have to look at the game film but for now at least the QB competition continues.

Going into the preseason, the 49ers were debating whether they could keep Nate Davis, a fifth-round draft pick, on the practice squad this season. After Saturday's performance, it might be too much of a risk.

No big injuries in the game. Cornerback Dre Bly had the wind knocked out of him. Adam Snyder had a knee/ankle injury, but he was standing on the sideline after coming out of the game and didn't seem to be walking with a limp. Singletary said Snyder would be checked out Sunday but that the injury "didn't seem significant at all."

-- 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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