49ers may have won their 1st preseason game, but did we really learn anything?

Niners' exhibition opener provides more questions than answers

Tommy Call
August 10, 2019 - 10:17 pm

Usually the first preseason game is a wash — it’s a time for bubble players to make their official first impression on the 49ers front office. That’s usually the case for the team, but two players we’re being watched more than most. 

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Quarterbacks Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard have been in a tight battle for the 49ers backup quarterback position. With Jimmy Garoppolo held out of Saturday night’s preseason tilt vs. the Dallas Cowboys gave both quarterbacks the first chance to separate themselves. 

Mullens got his number called first, but don’t read too much into that as Shanahan said after the game that Beathard would play before Mullens in the next game. 

Mullens made several easy throws, but when it came time for him to zip a few balls into tight windows he struggled. Mullens had a ball deflected in the first quarter on a pass that hung up on him to the corner of the field. Mullens then threw an interception to Cowboys linebacker Luke Gifford. 

Mullens bounced back to lead the 49ers to their first touchdown drive of the preseason. Mullens found rookie Jalen Hurd for a 20-yard touchdown pass. The Mullens to Hurd connection was working all training camp and carried over to live game action. 

Beathard replaced Mullens when the second half kicked off. Mullens first snap started with an immediate sack. He had a shaky first couple drive with one ending in an awful interception. 

Beathard was able to put together the 49ers best drive of the evening late in the 3rd quarter. Beathard hit rookie Deebo Samuel for a 45-yard gain on a pass where Samuel cooked Cowboys corner Mike Jackson Jr on a hesitation stutter step. The play should’ve been a walk-in touchdown but the ball was slightly underthrown by Beathard. Beathard ended the drive with an easy touchdown pass on a fade route to Hurd for his second touchdown of the game. 

“I thought both of them made some good plays, but I thought each one of them had one really bad play,” said Shanahan. “I thought they each threw a pick that was easy to see.”

Neither Mullens or Beathard truly separated themselves in the backup quarterback competition. Each passer looked like the same exact player we’ve seen in the past. There was no real progression for either Beathard or Mullens. 

While Saturday’s game could’ve been a moment to provide clarity in the 49ers competition for QB two, we leave the Levi’s Stadium not knowing anything different than what we knew at the start of training camp. 

Rookie wide receivers show out

The 49ers used back-to-back draft picks on pass catchers, but neither have really shown up in training camp. Each have had their moments, but mistakes have clouded their best days of practice. Saturday night each rookie showed up in a big way. 

The 49ers 3rd round pick out of Baylor, Hurd had three catches on the night with two of them being touchdowns. Both of his touchdown targets came in the red zone. Hurd showed a sense of physicality on each score. He barrelled through two defenders on his first touchdown and boxed out a smaller corner on fade route for his second score. 

Samuel didn’t have a touchdown on the night, but helped the 49ers crack off some of their biggest plays of the evening. Samuel’s highlight came on the aforementioned 45-yard pass from Beathard in the 3rd quarter.  Beathard toasted the corner to create separation then climbed the latter over him to haul in the underthrown ball. Sameul also showed his versatility when he gained 15-yards on an end-around carry. Shanahan praised Samuel after the 49ers preseason win, “The game’s not to big for Deebo,” said Shanahan.

Both receivers showed skills for roles the 49ers desperately need in the regular season. Samuel was a big play target, while Hurd showed his ability as a red zone threat. If both rookies can do half of what they did Saturday night each pick will be looked at as a home run for John Lynch. 

Injury bug stays in Santa Clara

An injury riddled week of practice bled late into Saturday night. In surprising news Lynch announced wide receiver Trent Taylor underwent foot surgery to repair a jones stress fracture. Shanahan said the 49ers are hoping he can return for week one. 

Offensive tackle Shon Coleman went down with a gruesome ankle injury. Coleman’s injury leaves the 49ers with rookie Justin Skule in-line to be the 49ers only swing tackle behind Mike McGlinchey and Joe Staley. If Coleman’s injury is as serious as it looked the 49ers could be in the market for another offensive tackle as camp cuts begin. 

Coleman’s injury was followed by a bevy of others. DJ Jones (knee), Raheem Mostert (concussion) and Marcell Harris (stinger) all left the game early. Earlier in the week Shanahan spoke about wishing he had the ability to skip all four preseason games — maybe he was right. 

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