Article Title: Achieving results despite distractions.
The San Francisco 49ers have been working tirelessly amid abundant speculations and adverse situations regarding their own personnel on the field as they still defeated the Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium in their pre-season debut handedly 37-17. First I’d like to comment on the drama that has unfolded before and amidst the 49ers training camp in Santa Clara and acknowledge the incredible focus the coaching staff has exhibited in keeping the players that are there in uniform competing for that coveted active roster of 53 total players.
North Carolina defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer as all of you know had “personal issues to deal with at home abruptly in the midst of 49er training camp and was excused by head coach Mike Singletary for two solid days to gather his collective thoughts on this.” As the two days passed and he neglected to show-up for the third day, Balmer made the AWOL list of being unexcused for training camp and the fines began to accumulate as he was still under contract with us.
Kentwan Balmer for all intents and purposes was a bust right out of the gate for us. He is yet to make an NFL career sack for us, as he was drafted in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft as we speculated he would be an effective sack artist that would help turn the tide on our defensive misfortunes. In fact he hasn’t even really started yet for us as an effective starter. In all he has had 19 careers tackles in 27 total games and missed the last month of the 2009 season with a shoulder injury.
This drama continued right up and until the 49ers traded him finally to our rival Seattle Seahawks for a 2011 sixth round draft pick. In the mindset of Mike Singletary as he expressed it: “If he wanted to be here he would be here.” I agree and I say good riddance. I wonder how many of you agree with this conclusion. Second-year running back Glen Coffee also sent tremors through the grounds at training camp by suddenly pulling out and quitting professional football forever. The third round draft pick from two years ago acknowledged that he had done a lot of serious thinking and had decided that the NFL wasn’t for him and his future. He was having a good training camp according to Mike Singletary and was in competition to be that coveted back-up to Frank Gore despite having a sub-par season a year ago. Glen Coffee came in with 10-pounds more muscle and more decisive in hitting he hole as it materialized with the offensive line.
His passion for the game was unmistakable according to veteran running back Michael Robinson. Playing for the Alabama Crimson Tide he is planning on completing his undergraduate degree in consumer affairs and serving Christ as his religious awakening has suddenly been beckoning for him. Mike Singletary acknowledged that Coffee is a fine human being and one he has great respect for in knowing what he is doing. Suddenly Anthony Dixon looks like a real keeper and was exceptional in this first pre-season game with 21 carries for 100 total yards averaging 4.8-yards per carry and a touchdown. I find Glen Coffee’s exit disturbing but well-timed as we sign long-time veteran Philadelphia Eagle superstar Brian Westbrook to the fold.
The two-time Pro Bowler lends insurance to Frank Gore as a sudden quality back-up that knows the hard knocks of professional football. He is in fact a gigantic offensive weapon with incredible agility to catch and run with the ball in any adverse situation. Brian knows that Frank is the man in San Francisco and simply still wants to play but only with a winning organization that he tends to believe that we are well on our way to doing. His mere presence in the backfield makes a defense tense knowing what kind of athlete he really is and is capable of being. His alignment with Anthony Dixon and Frank Gore solidify a potent running attack in my opinion.
Then you have even before these incidents the broken leg to 49er center Eric Heitmann which illuminates this critical position like never before. As all of you know the center is really the silent second quarterback on the field as he translates what he observes to the first quarterback with hands extended under his crouched position. David Baas inherits the slot and is his to lose. I am confident that he can be ready for the start of the season and Tony Wragge provides adequate insurance as well.
Now for the take on the first pre-season game against the Indianapolis Colts our offense looked potent at times and the same ho-hum drum of last year at times. The start was abysmal with Michael Robinson fumbling on the first play of the game and providing the Colts an early lead. But Alex Smith also threw an interception and looked rather ragged in his debut as the starting quarterback for the 49ers. Both back-up quarterbacks in David Carr and Nate Davis provided the scoring along with four 49er defensive interceptions.
I’m not reading that much into Alex Smith’s sluggishness as of yet. I think he has had an intense training camp and that he will get on track with Vernon Davis especially on that missed opportunity early in this game. I think the pass protection was a real legitimate concern as both newcomers Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati played fairly well but much better in run blocking than as pass protectors. 49ers safety Reggie Smith played with focus and intensity as he provided blanket coverage and exceptional focus on an interception he returned 90 total yards for a touchdown. Newly drafted tight end Nate Bryham also proved that he isn’t just another blocking tight end but one that has exceptional hands and decent yardage after the catch.
In all I thought it was a decent game and one that a lot of film will provide leverage and opportunities for the players to extract from. In my opinion winning is always the focus of what we do, but in pre-season individual development and accomplishments seem to trump the score as coaches weigh in on who stays and who goes. I wonder as to what your opinion is?
Sources of Information: Mercury News.com, SF Gate.com, Inside Bay Area.com, NFL.com and my own personal analysis and opinion.