Harbaugh takes low-risk approach to preseason

Harbaugh takes low-risk approach to preseason
August 11, 2012, 8:16 pm
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Coach Jim Harbaugh didn't take any chances Friday night in the 49ers' exhibition opener.He decided not to play Frank Gore, Justin Smith and Mario Manningham.None of those players has a specific injury. Gore has not missed a practice all camp. Smith was held out once, but he returned the following day. Manningham has suited up for every practice, but has been pulled from time to time."Frank, Justin, Mario, yeah that was more of a right before the game decision that I made," Harbaugh said. "And there was Will Tukuafu was rested. And there might have been a few others."Gore has generally not played much in the exhibition season since becoming the 49ers' full-time back in 2006. Last summer, he carried eight times in the four games."I'm ready to go," Frank Gore said in the locker room after the game. "I feel like I'm working hard in camp, and the coaches know I can play."In addition, receivers Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss saw a handful of snaps apiece.Late in the 49ers' 17-6 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the 49ers got to the one-yard line. But after the two-minute warning, Harbaugh decided to have his offense take a knee for the final three plays."They want to keep playing, but we elected to be prudent and not see anyone get hurt in the last three plays of the game when we don't have to," Harbaugh said. "We just take a knee and the game is over. So we chose that option." I'll be posting my all-89 review on Sunday, but after re-watching the TV broadcast here are some quick observations:--Aldon Smith sustained a right hip bruise when he landed hard on his side while leaping over teammate Donte Whitner to try to make a stop of Toby Gerhart. Smith was clearly aching when he got up. But he stayed in the game for one more snap. Afterward, he left the locker room with the use of two canes -- no, not crutches ... canes. I've never seen that before.
The fact that he was walking out into the parking lot seemed to confirm the 49ers' report that Smith sustained a hip bruise. And Harbaugh said the 49ers "dodged a bullet." Don't expect to see the 49ers rush Smith back onto the field. The regular-season opener is a month away, and they want him 100-percent to face the Green Bay Packers.--Harbaugh remarked that the Stanford players all played well -- on both sides. And, yes, they did. Chris Owusu was particularly impressive with nice moves after the catch to pick up a couple of first downs. Owusu was the team's leading receiver with three catches for 35 yards. What particularly impressed me was Owusu beating a double-team as a gunner to hustle down the field in punt coverage.
--But how about the University of San Diego players? Eric Bakhtiari is in contention to win a roster spot as the fourth outside linebacker and special teams player. He got good pressure on the quarterback and had two sacks to show for it. Also, defensive back-turned-receiver Ben Hannula had a 22-yard reception.--Anthony Dixon did a reasonable job at fullback, but he had a couple of mental breakdowns. He did not step up far enough in front of Josh Johnson in pass protection on one play. Then, with the 49ers trying to run out the clock, he ran out of bounds. It's the same thing the coaching staff scolded him for in practice last week.--Don't sleep on Scott Tolzien. He completed 10 of 13 passes, and two passes were dropped. His best pass was when he hung in against pressure to deliver a throw to Nathan Palmer, which he dropped. That play would've gone for 20 yards or more. Tolzien had an interception when left tackle Mike Person allowed a pressure and Tolzien's arm was hit as he threw.--Colin Kaepernick did not do anything to wrap up the No. 2 job. But he didn't do anything to lose that position, either. Running is a big part of his game, and he showed why with a 78-yard TD gallop on his second offensive play.--Brett Swain made a nice block on Kaepernick's touchdown run. He also got open immediately and Alex Smith found him for a four-yard scoring pass to cap the first drive of the game.--Kyle Williams and LaMichael James both looked comfortable fielding punts on a windy night at Candlestick. "Pregame, you're looking at this 'OK, this will be hard for quarterbacks,'" Harbaugh said. "This is going be tough on kickoff returners. This is going be especially rough on the punt returners. In watching the ball in pregame moving 10 to 15 yards in the air. We knew that they would be the challenged player on those downs, even more than always. It was good."--A little good; a little not-so-good from rookie receiver A.J. Jenkins. He made two really nice catches for a total of 20 yards. But he also dropped two easily catchable passes.--Perrish Cox helped his cause as he hopes to earn a role -- any role -- in the 49ers' defense. And rookie safety Trenton Robinson, a sixth-round draft pick, had a pass breakup and is on pace for a roster spot.--Demarcus Dobbs, who now wears No. 40, saw significant two-way action. He was very good on defense. He looked raw, as expected on offense. Here's the unofficial snap-by-snap breakdown on offense and defense (players are listed by order in which they came into the game at a particular position):Offense
QB: Alex Smith 12, Colin Kaepernick 22, Scott Tolzien 22, Josh Johnson 18.
RB: Kendall Hunter 6, Bruce Miller 3, Brandon Jacobs 7, LaMichael James 11, Rock Cartwright 26, Anthony Dixon 30.
WR: Michael Crabtree 5, Ted Ginn 5, Randy Moss 4, Kyle Williams 13, Brett Swain 12, A.J. Jenkins 31, Nathan Palmer 18, Brian Tyms 35, Ben Hannula 16.
TE: Vernon Davis 11, Delanie Walker 7, Konrad Reuland 41, Garrett Celek 28, Demarcus Dobbs 16.
LT: Joe Staley 14, Mike Person 42, Al Netter 18
LG: Mike Iupati 14, Derek Hall 14, Joe Looney 28, Mike Person 8, Garrett Chisolm 10.
C: Jonathan Goodwin 14, Daniel Kilgore 34, Chase Beeler 8, Jason Slowey 18
RG: Alex Boone 14, Leonard Davis 20, Derek Hall 22, Joe Looney 18.
RT: Anthony Davis 14, Kenny Wiggins 60.Defense
LE: Ray McDonald 17, Ricky Jean Francois 11, Tony Jerod-Eddie 17, Patrick Butrym 5
NT: Isaac Sopoaga 15, Ian Williams 18, Matt Masifilo 9
RE: Ricky Jean Francois 17, Demarcus Dobbs 17, Matt Masifilo 5, Patrick Butrym 11
LOLB: Ahmad Brooks 17, Parys Haralson 11, Eric Bakhtiari 20
ILB: NaVorro Bowman 17, Larry Grant 17, Michael Wilhoite 16
ILB: Patrick Willis 17, Tavares Gooden 32, Joe Holland 1
ROLB: Aldon Smith 7, Kourtnei Brown 23, Parys Haralson 9
LCB: Carlos Rogers 17, Chris Culliver 22, Perrish Cox 11
RCB: Tarell Brown 17, Tramaine Brock 26, Perrish Cox 6
SS: Donte Whitner 17, C.J. Spillman 22, Darcel McBath 11
FS: Dashon Goldson 17, Trenton Robinson 33
Nickel: Chris Culliver 5, Perrish Cox 4, Michael Thomas 4David Akers, Joe Hastings, Mario Manningham, Frank Gore, Cam Johnson, Darius Fleming, Nate Byham, Will Tukuafu and Justin Smith did not play. Others not listed played solely on special teams. The 49ers do not practice Saturday. They return to work Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. with a practice during Fan Fest at Candlestick Park.