Next week’s 49er game against the Raiders is the third exhibition game, traditionally the one that is viewed as a tuneup for the regular season. It is numero uno in order of significance of the four insignificant practice games. The starters usually play the entire first half, and sometimes a series or two in the second half. I don’t anticipate Frank Gore or Patrick Willis will play that much, but we should get a peek-a-boo at Brian Westbrook, which will be fun.
The initial reactions from the blogosphere to Sunday’s Vikings game quickly degenerated into the trite and endless QB rhetoric regarding Alex Smith and Nate Davis. With a new and amusing wrinkle. The arguments got reversed. Those who previously accused Smith of inaccuracy, now found themselves defending Davis’ accuracy, while those who previously defended Smith’s accuracy went on the attack against Davis’. We even saw the first instance of “Nate-xcuses” replacing the former preponderance of “Alex-cuses.” The ebb and flow of the opinion mill. What didn’t change was anybody’s position on whether they liked or hated Smith. Davis, however, was a big loser in terms of relevance to the QB topic.
What we do know is that Smith works hard, and Davis apparently has not. Which probably explains why Mike Singletary would call Davis out publicly after the game. Singletary has little tolerance for players who do not make every effort possible to improve themselves and capitalize on their skills. To have the obvious talent that Davis has, and yet see the lack of commitment to maximizing that talent, would definitely anger Singletary. And it apparently has during the off season.
Noticeably missing from the blogosphere Monday were the most notorious Davis pimps. A lot of Smith haters also begged off on their usual post game fulminations. Nothing quiets the blogs like a magnificent fantasy (Davis is God) turning into a mundane reality (Not!). If nothing else, this game pretty much erased, or severely crippled, the Nate the Great rants from the 2010 year’s blog agendas. Smith haters can now focus entirely on trashing Smith and offering no alternatives — a much easier task for infected craniums to handle.
A second blogosphere reaction involved Jimmy Raye’s play calling. Or lack thereof. I’m not sure I understand this concern as it relates to the exhibition games. Teams usually practice/show only their base offense and defense in the exhibition games. The 49ers deviated from that by doing a lot of blitzing on defense against the Vikes, for whatever reason (perhaps a little payback), but the defense had most of its starters available to play. The offense did not have it’s top three playmakers in the game, so anything practiced that would deviate much from the base offense would not have much carry over to game 1. In addition, improved run blocking is clearly of paramount importance to Singletary, as well as giving the two new rookie O-linemen all the experience and adversity they can absorb with their playing time.
That’s just an off-the-wall suggestion, but none of us know what the offensive goals of the game were. We just like to see the offense look impressive and score points, like in a real game. There are plenty of reps in practice during the week geared to offensive firepower, though. And none of it will work if the O-line cannot provide a stout effort at the LOS. Solari and Brown need to know what their O-line can and cannot do. You can practice pass protection during the weekly practices, but run blocking can only be adequately tested in the simulated games where tackling is allowed, and the only time it is allowed during the off season.
I’m not trying to be an apologist here or imply that Raye will work wonders this year. But play calling in the exhibition games just doesn’t seem to be an issue worth getting worked up about. It means nothing. Especially when the three guys most necessary to an improved offense are sitting on the bench watching the game. Along with Westbrook. To endlessly harp on the theme “if we do this in real games, we’ll lose” just underscores the fact that these are not real games and also triggers the “duh, ya think so?” gong. It is hard for this scribe to envision the 49ers ignoring the offensive weapons so pointedly acquired in this past year.
There were no complaints about the defense, however. Both the first and the second team defenses were solid. The dumping of Farve on his keister was perhaps the highlight of the game. That this keister kaboom was supplied by Patrick Willis made it even more enjoyable. One team leader to another: eat dirt, pal.