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Scout’s Eye: Grading The Veterans; DB Breakdowns 

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OXNARD, Calif. – Before we get back into the practice schedule, you always need to clean up the game.

After a brief rest, I took another look at Thursday night’s 24-21 loss to San Francisco. As is usually the case, there was a lot to like and a lot to correct.

Here are my notes:

·      On his touchdown pass to Michael Gallup, Dak Prescott made a nice read to see the safety adjust to Rod Smith once he sent him out of the backfield and into the slot. As soon as Adrian Colbert moved with Smith, he knew he was going to have the space necessary to get the ball to Gallup. Prescott made Colbert have to cover too much ground. With the ball in a perfect spot, there was no chance of him making the play over the top.

·      Great example of why the defensive staff likes Tyrone Crawford on that right side at end. He can be the force that sets the edge in the running game. The 49ers tried to go to his side with Jerick McKinnon. By the time Jimmy Garoppolo put the ball in McKinnon’s stomach, Crawford had beaten Garrett Celek to the inside and had forced McKinnon to retreat in the backfield. Once Crawford got him going backwards, Byron Jones and Datone Jones were in position to help him make the tackle for loss.

·      Outstanding job by Cooper Rush of keeping his eyes down the field to find Marchie Mudock for a sizeable gain. By not staring at the rush, Rush was able to come all the way back across the field when it appeared initially that he wanted to throw the ball to Mekale McKay along the sideline. The 49ers dropped the coverage on a large part due to the route that Lance Lenoir ran to pull Antone Exum his direction. Exum was with Mudock but gambled the ball was going to Lenoir and that was all Rush needed.

·      Anthony Brown might have had some difficulties in coverage during the game, but give him some credit for stepping up and taking pulling tackle Darrell Williams. That gave Damien Wilson a free run to capture Raheem Mostert in the backfield with a beautiful wrap-up form tackle.

·      For a big man, Bo Scarbrough has some nifty feet. On his long run, the play wasn’t cleanly blocked. As a matter of fact, Korey Toomer, who plays linebacker, was completely left unblocked. Scarbrough was able to set up Toomer by selling him outside but then at the last moment, quickly went to the inside. Toomer was put in a poor tackling position, which Scarbrough was able to break to get into the clear. Scarbrough also got some help along the way with a nice double block from Mekale McKay, who picked off two 49ers defenders.

·      Once again, another great sign of Jaylon Smith’s mobility by carrying George Kittle down the middle of the field in a Cover 2 call. The 49ers’ tight end was lined up in a flex position and attacked the middle of the field. It was a good 30-yard run for Smith, who managed to stay with Kittle stride-for-stride. Jimmy Garoppolo tried to fit the ball over the top of Smith, but his positioning was just too good and it sailed too high and far for Kittle to run down.

·      I liked what I saw from Allen Hurns once again getting off press coverage on third down and making the tough slant reception to secure a first down. Hurns just knocked Jimmie Ward out of the way and proceeded to the inside. Cooper Rush put the ball in the ideal spot and Hurns was able to finish the rest. Cornerbacks in this camp have had a difficult time dealing with Hurns, especially when he wants to go inside. Very similar to we have seen from Dez Bryant in the past.

·      The defensive coaches have to be happy to have Kavon Frazier back in the lineup -- not only on defense, but special teams, as well. Frazier made an outstanding defensive play coming off the edge as a blitzer to force a C.J. Beathard interception by Joe Thomas. Frazier avoided the block of fullback Malcolm Johnson and somehow was able to maintain his balance in order to get in Beathard’s face. Frazier timed his leap perfectly and was able to knock the ball in the air. If Frazier doesn’t make that play, Beathard is likely to connect with Joe Williams in the flat for a sizeable gain.

·      Big-time snatch catch by Tavon Austin on the curl with the offense facing a long yardage situation. Cornerback Greg Mabin clearly was respecting Austin and his speed by playing a good 10 yards off. Austin, playing all the way to the outside, closed Mabin’s cushion quickly -- which forced Mabin to have to retreat more. Once Austin felt he had him at depth, he broke to the inside and in front of Mabin. Cooper Rush put the ball head-high and Austin finished the rest. We’re starting to see more and more of Tavon Austin lining up as a true wide receiver and making plays like this one. His hands are extremely underrated in my opinion.

·      Bad mistake by Marqueston Huff not to give help to Jourdan Lewis on the deep ball to Dante Pettis. Lewis was in poor shape trying to defend the route down the field, but Huff could have given him some assistance. What was strange about the play was that Huff was looking in Pettis’ direction, but chose to help Duke Thomas with Aaron Burbridge on the crossing route. It wasn’t until Pettis crossed his face that he realized his mistake -- but by that time it was too late to prevent C.J. Beathard from finding Pettis for a chunk play.

·      On the final drive of the game, Scott Linehan came back to the “Texas” route that he called earlier in the drive to Trey Williams -- except this time he went with Darius Jackson as the running back instead. The 49ers had it covered underneath with the middle linebacker. Looking at Mike White’s next best option, he could have tried to float the ball down the middle of the field to David Wells working against Mark Nzeocha. Wells was open, but there was too much pressure. Pita Taumoepenu and Julian Taylor executed a beautiful twist stunt that Jake Campos and Dustin Stanton didn’t handle well. I initially thought on radio that White held the ball too long but with that pressure, he did the right thing by taking the sack.

·      Hearing a lot of folks talking about the game that Leighton Vander Esch played against the 49ers. I will say that the mistakes he made were not physical ones but are more of a result of his inexperience. He took some angles that carried him out of the play. He stepped up on a play action pass when he should have stayed in his area. He missed a tackle in the hole that I have seen him make plenty of times before. He nearly had an interception cutting under a route by a tight end. He needs to get a better feel for how to drop in his zone and play with his eyes. When he commits to the play he needs to follow through on it. He will put himself in awkward positions by thinking too much. React and go play. Be more physical as a blitzer. Learn better hand use and power to take on blockers. This is an area that Vander Esch struggled while at Boise State but he should get better at it.

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