Sports Out West

49ers preseason: Five things we learned in Week 1

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The first offensive drive aside, the San Francisco 49ers played a sloppy and uninspired preseason opener. The 23-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was disappointing, and led to head coach Jim Harbaugh making the statement that his team got “pushed around.” It wasn’t all bad though, as some possibly key contributors showed progress.

Here’s a look at five things we learned about the 49ers in Week 1 of the preseason:

Hyde could be a big part of the offense

When the 49ers drafted Carlos Hyde in the second round, the general consensus was that the running back was a steal and would be a perfect fit in San Francisco’s power running scheme. 

It’s only the first preseason game, but the rookie looked every bit the part of a feature back, gaining 39 yards on five carries. He showed good vision and burst all night, which is a good sign considering he will be Frank Gore‘s primary backup this season.

Kaepernick better stay healthy

With a 5-22 record as a starter in Jacksonville, no one was expecting Blaine Gabbert to come in and set the world on fire. However, there was hope he could stabilize his career and at least be a quality back up. Unfortunately, the first audition didn’t go well as Gabbert went three for 11 with 20 yards and an interception. 

Jim Harbaugh admitted that there are now more questions than answers behind Colin Kaepernick, and the number two spot is basically anyone’s to claim.

“I think all the quarterbacks – Blaine and Josh and Mac – are coming out of this thinking there are a few (throws) they want back,” Harbaugh said. “I think they all did about the same. A couple of good throws and runs and extending the play, and a few they’d like to have back, too.”

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/07/6614221/whos-no-2-harbaugh-indicates-49ers.html#storylink=cpy

“I think there are spots up for grabs in the depth area,” Harbaugh said. “Whoever comes along the fastest will win those jobs. I think you can say that about quite a few of our positions on the back end.”

The most serious competition will come from Josh Johnson, who looked poised in the pocket while completing six of eight throws. McLeod Bethel-Thompson is at best a dark horse at this point.

Dial and Carradine are on their way

Despite some issues with the defensive line, Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine looked like they are ready to contribute. Dial posted five tackles and forced two fumbles, while Carradine was able to record a sack of Tyrod Taylor.

Both players are trying to rebound from injuries that limited them their rookie seasons, and are a big part of the team’s plans moving forward.

San Francisco may have two tight ends after all

Vance McDonald struggled his rookie season, only catching eight passes. There was hope that he would begin to turn a corner in 2014, but a slow start in camp painted a pessimistic picture.

McDonald answered his critics by hauling in passes of 17 and seven yards, accomplishing something he failed to do all of last season: catch more than one ball in a game. 

Inside linebacker isn’t much of a competition

Despite playing well in place of Patrick Willis early last season, there was some speculation that Michael Wilhoite could be unseated as as the 49ers’ starting inside linebacker (at least until NaVorro Bowman returns) by rookie Chris Borland. As of right now, it doesn’t look like Wilhoite has too much to worry about.

Borland looked lost for much of the game, playing overaggressive at times and got beat on more than one occasion. Wilhoite on the other hand, looked steady and recorded seven tackles and a sack. Borland seems destined for a special teams role at this point.

Photo: Gail Burton/Associated Press

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a staff writer for 49erswebzone.com and 49ersgab.com. He is also a contributor to Yahoo! Voices and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders.