Observations, calculations and signs of things to come after the 49ers improved to 3-0 in the preseason Saturday night with a 27-12 victory over the New Orleans Saints that saw several San Francisco players on the roster bubble going all out to keep their spots on the team:
--- Jeff Garcia
high-stepped onto the field 50 minutes before opening kickoff, leading the first group of offensive players to emerge for pre-game workouts. That made it a good night for the 49ers right there.
--- But Eric Johnson
fracturing his clavicle and sustaining a concussion on Garcia's first pass completion had the evening momentarily turning in the opposite direction right away.
--- Johnson was going to have a big season this year in coach Dennis Erickson's air attack. Now he'll have to wait until at least midseason to even get it started – if he gets that chance. He's out 10-12 weeks and might be placed on injured reserve.
--- Which makes it a darn good thing the Niners picked up Jed Weaver
in the offseason.
--- Weaver's no Johnson in the passing game, but now he's going to get a chance to be.
--- Garcia to Owens for a first down. Just like in the good old days.
--- Now everybody knows that Garcia and his ailing back can take a hit. His front can, too.
--- The back, by the way, came through its first collision course of the summer OK. "I'm not feeling any aggravation with it at all," Garcia said afterwards.
--- We've seen it in training camp and we've seen it during the preseason: Rookie Brandon Lloyd
has a sweet pair of soft hands.
--- And sometimes, he only needs one of them to do the job.
--- Jeff Chandler
did a good job putting kickoffs into the end zone before the game – when kicking from his own 40-yard line.
--- But when it came time to kick off from the 30 in the game, Chandler could make it only to the 7-yard line before shanking one to the 26-yard line to open the second half.
--- But the guy's not bad when he has the Candlestick Park wind at his back.
--- Either Aaron Brooks
is slow setting up and releasing throws, or San Francisco pass defenders are learning to break better on the football and get to it quicker.
--- Cedrick Wilson
could be a decent third receiver for this team, but he's not going to help the Niners as a kick returner.
--- Arland Bruce
will, however, if the Niners somehow can find a spot for him on their final roster.
--- Tim Rattay
didn't look too bad taking the Niners straight down the field for a touchdown on his first offensive series.
--- He looked even better taking them 80 yards straight down the field for a TD on his second series.
--- Jamal Robertson
or Rashaan Salaam
? The answer is becoming fairly obvious.
--- Bill Walsh says Ken Dorsey
isn't ready to play quarterback in the NFL this season, but he sure does look ready to play in the fourth quarter against the league's third-stringers.
--- It's becoming obvious Fred Beasley
is going to touch the football more often than he did last season.
--- Travis Kirschke
will not only make this team, he'll help it.
--- Maybe the signing of Chidi Ahanotu
is what was needed to light a fire under Andrew Williams
--- Rashad Holman
can contribute as a backup cornerback, but the Niners are going to be in trouble if he has to become a regular starter.
--- When the Niners revert to playing third-down defense like they did last year, opponents will string together 18-play drives, as the Saints did Saturday on the way to their first score.
--- From the inside or the outside, Jamie Winborn
is going to be a lethal weapon on the blitz this year.
--- And blitzing linebackers and defensive backs – sometimes on the same play – might be the thing that's needed to turn San Francisco into a respectable third-down defense.
--- After three preseason games, we're still waiting for one of the Niners' top two tailbacks to bust one breakaway run of longer than 11 yards.
--- But it was nice to see Garrison Hearst
break a tackle to get into the end zone for the Niners' first touchdown.
--- That's how the Niners tackled against Deuce McAllister
in last year's regular-season game.
--- Three games into the preseason, Bill LaFleur is not inspiring much confidence in his punting.
--- Young linebackers Marcus Reese
and Ray Wells
are making it awfully tough on the Niners to consider letting them go, and both should be sticking around for at least another preseason game.
--- Those young cornerbacks as the bottom of the depth chart are holding their own, too.
--- All things considered, the Niners have some awfully difficult roster decisions to make to get down the NFL-mandated 65-player limit.
"We have a lot of things to do here in the next 24 hours," coach Dennis Erickson said.