The San Francisco 49ers ended the preseason with a bang on Thursday, defeating the Houston Texans 40-13.
Here are a few takeaways from the fourth and final preseason contest:
Josh Johnson played well enough to cause Harbaugh to strongly consider moving him past Blaine Gabbert as the backup quarterback behind Colin Kaepernick. Johnson went 14-17 for 135 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. He has a solid grasp of the offense, dating back to his days with Harbaugh at University of San Diego.
The Niners as a whole scored more points on Thursday than they have in the previous three games (24). Although it was the preseason, scoring 40 points will always make a team feel positive about itself.
Let’s look at the bright and dark spots that have surfaced from the four games.
The young guns in the secondary are looking to grow together and elevate their game. Tramaine Brock, Chris Culliver, Eric Reid, and rookie Jimme Ward are poised to step up after the departures of Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner. It will also be telling to see how Antoine Bethea performs in his first season in a San Francisco uniform.
The offensive line is a bit of a concern right now for the Niners. Rookie Marcus Martin is out for six to eight games with a knee injury, which means Daniel Kilgore needs to be the solution at center. With Alex Boone still entrenched in a contract holdout, his replacement Joe Looney has looked good, not great. He has also not seen too much regular season action at this stage in his three-year career.
Pro Bowl guard Mike Iupati has showed concerns in his pass blocking ability this preseason, although there is reason to believe he will correct his mistakes and return to the high-level of play once the games begin to count.
Kaepernick and Steve Johnson have both admitted their chemistry has not been clicking on all cylinders at this point in time. After being acquired from Buffalo, Johnson has been widely acclaimed as the Niners’ third receiver.
Kaepernick and the rest of the starting offensive unit did not show much at all this preseason. Hopefully for fans, they are simply keeping their cards close to the vest and did not show any of their new or intricate schemes. Still, it would’ve been encouraging to see Kaepernick and the first-string offense put together a few productive drives.
Carlos Hyde is the real deal. The rookie out of Ohio State is proving his second round value and will be ready to carry a heavy workload this season.
Tank Carradine looks like a healthy and promising pass rusher. Sitting out his whole rookie campaign could pay dividends for him this season. San Francisco absolutely needs his pass rushing services along with the likes of Corey Lemonier with Aldon Smith out for nine games due to his suspension.
Finally, Michael Wilhoite will be at least serviceable alongside Patrick Willis while All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman is out. Rookie Chris Borland has good instincts and had a productive preseason, but Wilhoite has done nothing to lose the job and started two regular season games last year when Willis was out due to injury.