The 49ers wrapped up their preseason with a loss on the road against the Houston Texans. The offense never really got it going, and the effort overall looked like what you would expect from a team playing a meaningless game on a short week. Here are five takeaways I had from the preseason finale.
Lack of discipline
The 49ers were flagged for 11 accepted penalties for a total of 104 yards in this game, repeatedly giving the Texans momentum while halting their own. Unfortunately, it was a sloppy effort on both sides of the ball, and it felt like every time some momentum was being built, it would be offset by an egregious penalty that never should have happened.
Preseason games don’t count, but that is no excuse for how sloppy the 49ers looked in all three phases of the game. In what will be their final game for the next 17 days leading into week one, ideally, there is a higher level of execution that leaves you feeling good heading into the regular season.
There were a handful of missed blocking assignments, a couple of pass interference penalties resulting in a fresh set of downs, and even a punt that somehow resulted in a touchback after landing inside the Texans ‘ yard line surrounded by 49ers on the coverage team, with multiple players getting their hands on the ball well outside the end zone.
Ultimately it doesn’t have any bearing on how the team will play when they hit the field in Chicago a little over two weeks from now, but the overall lack of execution across the board was a discouraging way to close out what has otherwise been an encouraging preseason.
Offensive line struggles
In my pregame article, I mentioned that the 49ers’ first-team offensive line struggled to find consistent run blocking during the preseason. Not only did their issues paving the way in the ground game continue in this game, but they also struggled to contain a Texans pass rush that generated three sacks and double-digit pressures.
What was more concerning was the way that they lost at the line of scrimmage while running the ball in short-yardage situations, especially on fourth down, where they were 0/3 on the night. The 49ers’ ground game never found any consistent rhythm, going for 51 yards on 24 carries for a paltry 2.1 yards per rush.
Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey both did not take the field in this game, and the addition of two of the best run blocking tackles in football should alleviate some of the stress currently being placed on the offensive line’s ability to run block.
Pass rush looks strong
The 49ers defensive line racked up three sacks in this game, with all three coming from players who will make the team and be an integral part of the rotation on the front four. Samson Ebukam dominated a couple of reps, picking up right where he left off when he finished last season by contributing to a sack in seven of the last eight games to close out the season.
Charles Omenihu got a sack in his first game back at NRG stadium since being traded by the Texans last season, and Jordan Willis tallied one as well. In a game where the 49ers struggled to stop the run, the pass rush was one of the few bright spots in a game where they had serious struggles stopping the run early.
Samuel Womack continues to build on a strong preseason
Womack contributed to yet another turnover, the third time this postseason that Womack has been the primary reason for the 49ers defense registering a takeaway. Womack was able to play through the ball on a pass intended for Chris Moore in the end zone, tipping the ball in the air for safety Tarvarius Moore to come down with the interception.
Womack has continued to display an extremely impressive amount of poise and IQ for a rookie, and based on his physical traits, he gives the 49ers some severe upside as their slot cornerback moving forward. Another bonus, Womack lined up on the outside in this game, adding versatility to the ever-growing list of things Womack has done to impress early on in his NFL career.
Brock Purdy made a strong case to be the primary backup behind Trey Lance
Purdy was by far the best 49ers quarterback in this game, capping off a preseason that has seen the final pick in the 2022 draft make a strong push for the QB2 spot. Purdy has looked calm, cool, and collected throughout the action he has seen in three preseason games, leaving Kyle Shanahan with a tough decision while finalizing the depth chart at the quarterback position despite the two million in guarantees owed to Nate Sudfeld.
Purdy finished the preseason finale going 13-20 for 182 yards and a pick, also having as sure of a touchdown as you could have without actually recording one on a ball dropped by Willie Snead in the end zone.
There have been a couple of throws downfield by Purdy in particular that have stood out, threading the needle to layer the ball over an underneath defender on multiple occasions over the last couple of games.
Purdy just has a certain moxie to his game that is hard to quantify but evident the more and more you see him play. His ability to consistently know where to go with the football is something that has likely made him extremely endearing to Shanahan, and his services come at a much more discounted rate than Sudfeld’s and the majority of other reliable backup quarterbacks who might be available on the open market any time soon.
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