The biggest news coming out of the San Francisco 49ers exhibition opener loss to the Houston Texans was the play of rookie running back Jarryd Hayne. His 53-yard dash to set up a touchdown was the biggest play from an otherwise disappointing offensive performance, and he also looked good on special teams, returning two punts and a kickoff.
Hayne is used to the spotlight, for he’s had more eyes on him during training camp than any other player, with the possible – only possible – exception of quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The attention comes from Hayne’s past career as an Australian rugby superstar, and a former Rugby League International Federation International Player of the Year.
Hayne is a driven athlete, and at 27 years old, he’s committed to making an impact in American football. As the best rugby player in the world, he was close to signing a three-year deal worth about $4.5 million. Instead, he will make just $435,000 if he makes the 49ers’ 53-man roster.
Hayne finished Saturday’s game with 63 yards on five carries, and he’ll continue to get more looks through the preseason. At 6-foot-2, 226 pounds and with 4.53 speed for the 40-yard dash, he has the physical tools to push for a roster spot. With more highlights like last Saturday’s, the Niners might have found a much needed offensive weapon.
Brooks only constant on defense
Three seasons ago, linebacker Ahmad Brooks was a defensive starter in the 49ers’ Super Bowl lineup. In the exhibition opener against the Texans, Brooks was the only defensive player still in the starting lineup. That’s a lot of change, and it hasn’t all be either planned or good.
The release of Aldon Smith on August 7 left Brooks the sole survivor, at least until linebacker NaVorro Bowman returns – possibly as early as this Sunday in the home exhibition opener against the Dallas Cowboys. But, Smith’s release also created an opportunity for Brooks to slide over to the right-side position and carve out a spot as the 49ers marquee pass rusher.
Brooks career-high in sacks came in 2013 when he recorded 8.5, and he will compete with the likes of Aaron Lynch, Corey Lemonier and Eli Harold. Whether Brooks stays on the right or moves to his more familiar left position, the 49ers will desperately seek production – in the game against the Texans, the 49ers were unable to record a single sack.
Simpson suspended six games
It seems the bad news won’t stop hitting for 49ers fans. Tuesday, the NFL suspended Jerome Simpson, the club’s leading candidate to fill the number three wide receiver position, for the first six games of the season.
The suspension is Simpson’s third league-issued suspension in four years, and stems from a July 2014 arrest. Smith joined the 49ers in March after sitting out all of last season, and had impressed coaches during the early stages of training camp. In Saturday’s loss to the Texans, Simpson had two catches for 31 yards.
49ers general manager Trent Baalke was quoted in the San Jose Mercury News as saying, “Although he will not be able to participate in the first six weeks of the season, Jerome has done everything asked of him, both on and off the field. We are in full support of the NFL’s decision, and look forward to Jerome’s future contributions to our organization.”
Simpson will continue to practice and play through the exhibition season finale, September 3 against the San Diego Chargers. Then, he will not count against the 49ers 53-man roster until he comes off suspension on October 19.
Photo Credit: George Bridges/Associated Press
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