2008 49ers Season Preview Part II

After the first two preseason games of 2008 the San Francisco 49ers have failed to show the world who they really are. They went out in the first contest and completely looked the part of a team in transition against the Oakland Raiders yet they appeared to turn it around last weekend in their annihilation of Green Bay. However two exhibition games does not a season make and the 49er faithful can thank whatever higher power they believe in for that fact.

For reasons that had escaped many onlookers minds at the time, Head Coach Mike Nolan elected to trot out career backup J.T. O’Sullivan onto the field to start the both games. O’Sullivan did what most thought he would in the first game, nothing. He did manage to complete a few nifty passes however he also made an ill-advised pass attempt which went straight to defensive back Stanford Routt for an interception. He also fumbled the ball when he was forced from the pocket and took off running, looking more like a Shriner then an NFL quarterback.

In the game last weekend he started slowly but did find his rhythm in completing 8 of 17 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown. He did however reach his minimum of one mistake per game quota in throwing a pass directly at two Packer defenders which resulted in a Charles Woodson interception. Alex Smith, once given a chance did not make any costly mistakes though he did miss on two passes that should have gone for scores thus he has not separated himself from JTO. Hence the reason he is getting only second-team reps in practice and in games.

But I digress; there really is no quarterback contest by the Bay. In fact it would appear that O’Sullivan will be the starter when the regular season opens on September 7th. As much as Mike Nolan would love for everyone to believe that he is indeed running an open competition the facts remain the same, O’Sullivan has been named the starter once again for this Thursday’s game at Chicago. To not hand him the starting position now would not be right after taking it this far and would only further the firestorm that Alex Smith has lived in since being drafted first overall in 2005.

Enough rambling, onto the matter at hand, discussing the second set of four games on the 49ers 2008 schedule and how we see them playing out.

Local boy comes home

Local boy comes home

October 5, 2008 – vs. New England

If there are any positives that can be extracted from this weeks match-up it is that the game is being played in San Francisco and the team doesn’t have to travel to the other side of the country to play the defending AFC champs. New England ran rampant on the league last season all the way to the Super Bowl where they finally met their match in the pass rush happy New York Giants. The only significant loss the team experienced was at cornerback as Asante Samuel signed a lucrative free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles; otherwise they are a team that is very much intact from their Super Bowl run of last season.

They have made some nice additions to a team which was already one of the best in the NFL, signing RB Lamont Jordan, TE Marcus Pollard and DB Fernando Bryant via free agency. They also drafted highly coveted OLB Jerod Mayo out of Tennessee and CB Terrance Wheatley from Colorado, both should see significant playing time this coming season.

If the 49ers are smart they will look at what the Giants did last February and try to mirror that game plan as much as possible. The defense is going find it difficult however to generate that same level of pass rush which should give quarterback Tom Brady ample time to find Randy Moss and the rest of a talented receiving corps. No matter the outcome of this contest it will be a good measuring stick to see just how far the 49ers have really come at this point in the season. Patriots 34 49ers 21

Does he have anything left in the tank

Does he have anything left in the tank

October 12, 2008 – vs. Philadelphia

Once again the Eagles come to town and once again this team is battling questions out of the gate. The most notable of the bunch? Whether or not incumbent QB Donovan McNabb can stay healthy and fulfill his potential to become a Super Bowl winning signal caller. If not, second-year QB Kevin Kolb will be ready to take over and see where his arm can take the birds.

Signing running back Brian Westbrook to a contract extension earlier this month was a good move although one which was not unexpected. To let a player the caliber of Westbrook leave at all would have been grounds for fans to run amuck on the team’s headquarters demanding
Andy Reid’s spleen on a stick. Philadelphia had a productive draft last April, selecting wideout DeSean Jackson out of Cal and defensive tackle Trevor Laws from Notre Dame. Jackson should pay dividends almost immediately as he pushes for a starting position and Laws is being projected as a back up to current starting DT Mike Patterson.

I see defensive coordinator Greg Manusky really trying to get after McNabb in this contest as well as placing a shadow on Westbrook virtually every down. On offense the 49ers should attack the Eagles with a heavy dose of Frank Gore to set up the pass and allow whoever is starting at quarterback to connect with newly signed wideout Bryant Johnson and surprising rookie Josh Morgan as well as tight end Vernon Davis. If the team can get pressure on McNabb and Gore has a solid day on the ground the 49ers can take this one. 49ers 17 Eagles 14

Can Eli repeat

Can Eli repeat

October 19, 2008 – @ New York

The schedule makers obviously didn’t see the need to do the 49ers any favors this season as this marks the third consecutive contest against a team that can legitimately challenge for a title in 2008. Of course this match-up pits the red and gold up with team who actually did win the title last year.

The Giants were somewhat of a Cinderella team in 2007 as no one expected them to appear in the Super Bowl let alone best the Patriots in the game. Eli Manning suddenly found the antidote for what had been ailing him since he entered the league as a wide-eyed rookie in 2004. When gauging this team it is clear that they possess one of the leagues most feared pass rushes.

San Francisco could very well find it difficult to effectively pass protect or have ample lanes to run against a New York defense which led the league in sacks last season and ranked fifth against the rush. Questions once again loom at receiver as Plaxico Burress battles an injury to his foot that could sideline him for the remainder of the preseason and age is creeping up on Amani Toomer. Young wideouts Steve Smith and Sinorice Moss should give Manning a host of targets as he attempts to direct this unit once again. If the 49ers offensive line has not developed a good amount of cohesion it will be an extremely long day for whoever is quarterbacking the team at the time. I just don’t believe the team has the firepower to overcome what the Giants bring to the table on both sides of the ball. Giants 28 49ers 17

Just as a sidebar isn’t it a bit concerning that here we are only two days away from the third preseason game of 2008 and there is still, at this very moment no inclination as to who will be the starting quarterback on opening day?

Sure the masses have their opinion on who will be under center that day but until Mike Nolan comes out and says the result is anyone’s guess. It bears mentioning that this franchise is in complete disarray although the front office at least appears to be making strides in both the player personnel and new stadium departments whereas the coaching staff leaves much to be desired. There are many signs which point to the inevitability of Nolan being fired by seasons end and depending on how the first few weeks play out possibly long before that. There might be no indication more significant then the quarterback carousel that is running without an operator as I am typing this. J.T. O’Sullivan has once again been named the starter for the upcoming game against Chicago.

Should not Alex Smith be leading this team to start the season? Doesn’t this franchise need to determine whether or not the former first overall draft pick has what it takes to be the team’s leader? It appears that Nolan is certainly in fear of losing his job and as usual is talking of “staying the course” and sounding like a man who has nary a clue as to what he is doing. Just had to get that off my chest.

Back to wreak havoc again

Back to wreak havoc again

October 26, 2008 vs. Seattle

The second meeting of the season between the 49ers and Seahawks takes place at Candlestick and I see this contest transpiring significantly different then the first. San Francisco should have the Martz playbook engrained in their minds enough to knock of the Seattle and improve to 4-4 at the halfway point of the season.

Frank Gore has had some very productive days against this team and this game will be no different as he will easily surpass the 100 yard mark and put up at least two scores. Watch for Patrick Willis to run roughshod against the Seattle offense targeting Hasselbeck and anyone else holding the ball. Seattle should once again be a playoff team however I simply do not see them sweeping the 49ers this season with the overall talent that the 49ers are fielding this season. That and I clearly view Seattle as a team on the decline as their Super Bowl window (if it even exists any longer at all) closes more with each passing year.

Not much else to say at the moment other then check back next week for the third installment of the season preview

  • MSouza

    There is no QB carousel, that would require another QB starting. JT is the starter. I'm not trying to hate on your article because I did agree with much of what was written, but the fact that you criticize for there being a QB competition this late in the camp, and then in the very next paragraph state that Alex Smith should be starting is a little bit contrary. He is being out preformed by JT, true he may have more ability, but that doesn't mean he is showing it. Every beat writer for the niners have stated numerous times that JT has looked better in practice.

    If you honestly think that Alex Smith should be the starter then don't complain that they are still giving him a chance by keeping this competition open.

    Also, one of your key off-season acquisitions for the Patriots, Marcus Pollard, has already been released.

  • Alex Smith will return to the starting lineup at some point during the season because J.T. O'Sullivan is not good.

    With foreknowledge of the offense and all the first-team reps since July 28th, O'Sullivan still is not definitively, concretely, better than Alex Smith. And Smith will be getting better with every rep.

  • Niners Fan

    I wonder what all the JTO haters will say if JTO turns out to be another Warner/Bulger/Kitna and suddenly bust out for 4000 yards/25 TDs. Martz obviously sees something most of the fans don't after all.

  • JTO DID show some flashes in the Packers game (besides that pick that he should have just thrown away). However, I still think that Alex isn't being given the same opportunities as JTO. I think since JTO IS starting the Bears game (3rd preseason game which is crucial) you all might want to get used to JTO as our starter. I REALLY hope nolan is dumb enough ( I probably just jinxed us because he totally is) to do some more switcheroos DURING the regular season because that just isn't good team management (barring injury of course). AGAIN, Mr. Glass is a VAGINA and I really hope Nolan is smart enough to realize that Moran is better than Battle. If he doesn't start him then that is another reason for his firing at the end of the season because he clearly is not practicing what he preaches to the media about this team. The QB situation is proving that and if Morgan (who clearly is at least our 3rd best receiver) doesn't start it shows Nolan's blatant favortism and completely QUEER way of getting this team turned around. I already believe in our D and our special teams, but our offense is something that Nolan just needs to shut up and step away from because other than being smart enough to continually stack the o line through the draft he knows virtually nothing about offense.

  • Samra

    bottomline im a 49er fan and not a alex smith fan…if he proves himself fine if he doesnt o well…its not like it'll be the first time the ownership fucked up…nolans been a huge mistake and im just ready for 2009 this year is looking to shape up into a disaster…no solid QB…a horrible o-line like always…crappy raggedy WRs (ie bryant johnson, ashley lelie)…a horrible NT…weak safety play (ie mark roman)…and horrible decisions by Nazi Mike "your eyes are deceiving you" Nolan

  • mouse

    JTO won’t be what those other quarterbacks are because he doesn’t have weapons. What he has is a pretty good defense. He needs to stop turning the ball over on our side of the field and he needs to show he can move the ball against a first team defense. He’s looked good so far with the first team going against second string defenses. This next game will probably be the same. He’ll suck it up for a quarter then when the starting D starts to rotate out you can start licking his behind again.

  • I meant to say that I hope nolan doesn’t make this qb controversy any worse by doing a whole bunch of switcheroos during the season.

  • Wow, I think I might be being called out here. I’m sorry, MSouza is it? I never criticized there being a quarterback competition, in fact I merely stated my opinion that it is a carousel. Reason being that I don’t see a career backup having what it takes to lead this team.

    It’s not because he has been with six teams in eight years, (which by the way IS a little concerning to me) or that he has never started a regular season game in the NFL. I said it because I believe, again this is what I BELIEVE, that Smith deserves a chance to be the starter after being in this hell for the last four years.

    Smith has been working with the second team, not the first and he has not been named the starter for any of the three preseason games thus far. How me stating that there is a QB carousel which I believe there to be, and by carousel I mean big machine with horses on it that goes around and around in a circle, and then stating that Smith should start is contrary is beyond me. I liken this so called competition to a carousel in that it’s been the same old thing with Nolan for years now and this is just one more instance where I don’t understand his coaching. That and kids ride on them and this team sometimes feels as though it is being run by a bunch of children.

    Sure O’Sullivan had one good game against the Packers second defensive unit, so what? It was a preseason game and came after he led the team nowhere against the oppositions first team defense. It doesn’t mean that he is the better quarterback then Smith and therefore it is my OPINION that Smith should be staring. If for no other reason then that this team needs to knows what it does or does not have in it’s former first overall draft pick.

    If you think there is an “open competition” at quarterback then I don’t know what to say. It clearly isn’t an open contest my man but you keep on believing it.

    And lastly at the time the piece was submitted Pollard was still a Patriot. But thanks for pointing that out. Since we are on the topic of making nit picky corrections, what does it mean to “out preform” someone? Just curious. :)

    Have a great day.

  • MSouza

    Dman I forgot to right Have a great day.

  • Hmmmmm… a terrific online name like James? Well since that is my name I figured it only fitting to use it. That and so anyone seeing a comment from me would maybe, ya know, actually know it was me.

    I misunderstood you then because it very much appeared to me that you were defending the position that there is indeed an open competition. So if we are in agreement that there in fact isn't then good.

    You thought it was funny that I had him listed as a key pick up before there was any indication that he was going to be released? That makes sense, once again your post read as if you were a bit pompous, but there's no way that's the case is there?

    A buried mistake? How did I comment on a buried mistake and then open my post with one? As far as I could tell there was no reason for you to come to comment on an article and;

    A. Tell me that I am complaining about there is an open competition when I never said anything of the sort,

    and then

    B. End your post by telling me about something that had not even happened at the time the article was posted. I already knew that Pollard had been released when you responded and I am sure many others did as well, so again there was really no need to attempt to look like know it all in posting that info.

    Oh and please don't try to educate me on what does or does not look bad in regards to writing.

    One last thing… are you frequenter of .com?

  • MSouza

    “I’m sorry, MSouza is it?”
    Why do you have to ask me my name when it is on my comment post. I’m sorry I don’t have a terrific online name like James. I’ll have to work on that.

    “Just as a sidebar isn’t it a bit concerning that here we are only two days away from the third preseason game of 2008 and there is still, at this very moment no inclination as to who will be the starting quarterback on opening day?”

    I am referring to the above comment, in regards to you criticizing an open competition. My point is that there is no QB competition, so in that respect I completely agree with you.

    I’m sorry I didn’t understand your use of the term carousel; which I take to mean that one QB starts then the next game another QB starts, and then the next game the first QB starts again, round and round like a carousel, but thank you for explaining to me what those giant machines in the middle of amusement parks are, I’ve always wondered.

    As far as the Pollard comment, I knew that you had no idea Pollard had been released, because it hadn’t happened yet. I just thought it was funny that you had him as a key pick-up, when clearly the Patriots did not think as much of him.

    It really wasn’t meant as a full-blown call out, though I admit it does read that way. Like I said I did agree with a lot of what you wrote. I have quite a bit of respect for the contributors to this sight.

    “I think I might be being called out”. If you’re going to comment on a buried mistake don’t open up your post with one, it looks bad.

  • MSouza


  • JR

    can someone tell me how much run bryant johnson is going to get week 1? whats his status i know he isnt playing tomorrow , but does that mean he wont be used week 1??

  • MSouza

    My Name is M. Souza. Your reasoning is the same as mine.

    A. “Just as a sidebar isn’t it a bit concerning that here we are only two days away from the third preseason game of 2008 and there is still, at this very moment no inclination as to who will be the starting quarterback on opening day?”

    I post this AGAIN. This, among a few other comments, is what I am referring to.

    B. Pollard was a camp body. He had dropped 3 passes in the first two preseason games and looked terrible. He was awful with Seattle last year, his career is more than likely over. I thought it was funny that you had him as a key pick-up. I’m sure even Pollard would have been surprised had he read that, he hasn’t been a key pick-up since going to Detroit. Even if the guy would have made the team due to some kind of an injury, he wouldn’t have played. I wasn’t attempting to look like a know-it-all, I was merely commenting on your strange choice of key contributors. I guess I was wrong when I put a comment in a comments post.

    To answer your question I frequent quite a few .com’s and I am aware that double and triple posting is a no-no, if that is what you were getting at.

    You don’t seem to fully be reading my responses, or I must be stupid, because we seem to just be spinning wheels.

  • And your point is what? You’re the one who made a stupid comment about my name.

    I said that because Nolan has not announced who is going to be starting in week one. Other teams have a clear cut starter and there is no question as to who the backups are. This isn’t the case here and in fact is happening more so that Nolan can attempt to save his job. Smith should be starting in my opinion and I’ll just leave it at this since this is really going nowhere.

    Pollard finished 2007 with 28 catches for 272 yards and 2 scores. Not bad from the tight end position when you consider that Seattle’s receivers took all but 88 of Hasselbeck’s 352 completions last season. Sure they might not have been good numbers by Pollards previous standards, say in 2003 for example. But even Ben Watson who did start for New England last season only had 36 catches for 389 yards and 6 touchdowns. He had four more scores then Pollard but we are talking about the Pats and Brady here, not Seattle and Hasselbeck.

    I agree though Pollards best days are certainly behind him and the only reason he was listed as a key signing was because New England didn’t really sign any other free agents of note then the ones I mentioned.

    Yeah, no I wasn’t making a reference to double or triple posting. Just curious as to whether or not you were a regular on 49ers.com, paradise or webzone messgae boards is all.