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August 23, 2010
LaBoy leads 10 standouts from Sunday's game

Here are 10 standouts from Sunday's 15-10 win over the Vikings. Overall, the 49ers have to be happy with their first-team defenses and the way that Alex Smith and the first-team offense ate up nearly seven minutes on their first offensive series. The offensive line - particularly the right side - still needs work but was better than it was last week in Indianapolis. Rookies Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati continued to get extra work, playing well into the second half with the second-team line.

OLB Travis LaBoy. I'm listing LaBoy first for two reasons. One, he was in the Minnesota offensive backfield throughout the evening, finishing with a sack and three quarterback hurries in a limited amount of play. What's perhaps more significant is that he needed that sort of effort. LaBoy has been an observer for most of training camp after suffering a concussion on the fifth day of practice. He was beginning to fade into the background as youngsters Diyral Briggs and Bruce Davis got more playing time. LaBoy needed to assert himself, and he did so with a big game last night. Before the game, it appeared that Briggs was the clear frontrunner to be the fourth outside linebacker. The question now is whether the 49ers keep five at that position: Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, Ahmad Brooks, LaBoy and Briggs.

CB Phillip Adams. Adams is another guy who didn't play last week but who made up for his absence with a big performance. The rookie broke up three passes, including a very nice play along the sideline on a throw to receiver Marko Mitchell. He also led the 49ers with four tackles. Adams is trying to be the fifth quarterback cornerback on the active roster. The fact that he is a strong, big-bodied corner helps his cause because he can contribute on special teams.

OLB Diyral Briggs. The second-year player followed up a very good game in Indianapolis with another solid effort. Briggs has very good balance and is adept at lowering his lead shoulder and getting around offensive tackles. He finished with a sack, a quarterback hurry and a tackle for a loss. It would be interesting to see if Briggs can duplicate his success against a first-team offensive lineman.

C David Baas. What was supposed to be a competition between Baas and Tony Wragge to be the early-season starting center is becoming decidedly one-sided. Baas had another strong outing. There were no bad snaps (not even in shotgun) and more importantly, Baas continues to get a nice push up the middle when he run blocks. When Eric Heitmann went down with a broken leg, Baas said his first job was to win the confidence of the rest of the offense. So far so good.

QB Alex Smith. To this point in his career, Smith has been like an old lawn mower - he takes a while to get going. But the 49ers offense made it a priority to get rolling early against the Vikings, and it did just that. Smith went 5-6 for 59 yards and converted three third downs on the opening drive. He looked poised, he didn't double clutch and he was aggressive when he needed to be. The rest of the half was ho hum, but the play calling emphasized the running game, not the passing game.

WR Dominique Zeigler. If Zeigler didn't make the final roster at this point, it would be a shock. Leading up to the game, Smith noted how trustworthy Zeigler is as a receiver in that he runs precise routes and has very strong hands. So it was only fitting that Smith went to Zeigler on one of the third-down plays on the opening drive and gained 13 yards. Zeigler was targeted five times and finished with five catches for 33 yards. That's in contrast to Jason Hill, who was targeted twice but did not have any catches.

RB Anthony Dixon. Dixon's numbers are pretty lousy. He carried the ball 20 times and gained 51 yards - a 2.6 average. (Glen Coffee's numbers last year vs. Minn.: 25 carries, 54 yards, 2.2 avg). But the mere fact that Dixon started the game and played all four quarters showed how much improvement he's made. Ten days ago, the 49ers coaches had no faith in his pass protection. He handled that well against the Vikings' first-team defense (Better, in fact, than Adrian Peterson did for Minnesota). Dixon has deceptive speed, which his four-yard touchdown run in the first quarter clearly showed. He has to learn, however, when it's permissible to use that elusiveness and when it's wiser to just plow ahead for a short gain.

NT Ricky Jean Francois. The team's offseason iron man. The 49ers won't admit it, but Aubrayo Franklin's absence this offseason has worked out beautifully in that it's allowed Jean Francois to develop into a more-than-serviceable nose tackle. That development might make it easier for the team to part ways with Franklin at season's end if the two sides cannot reach a contract agreement.

DE Khalif Mitchell/Derek Walker. The two back-up defensive ends played well. Mitchell pancaked his right tackle opponent at one point in the second half. Walker, who has gutted his way through some injuries in training camp, was active and was credited for the safety that came at game's end.

OLB Manny Lawson. Lawson was active in the run game, slamming into Peterson for a three-yard loss. His performance was in contrast to that of fellow OLB Parys Haralson, who didn't set the edge very well and who whiffed on Peterson on a 13-yard gain off a swing pass.

-- 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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