Posted: 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013
Recently, I moved to Lawrence, Kansas for the purpose of attending the University of Kansas' MA program in Classics. This means that I am about 45 minutes away from Kansas City, Missouri - the home of the Kansas City Chiefs (I just couldn't let you leave me, Alex Smith!).
Of course, this means that I had to attend the preseason game last Friday night. And, I had a blast. The seat in which I sat was three rows up on the 49ers' side on the 45 yard line. Not too shabby, eh? This meant, though, that I didn't do much sitting. The best view was standing.
Anyway, as a result of attending the game, I thought I would write a couple of posts about my experience. This post, which is more evaluative in nature, attempts to give you guys a fresh perspective on the game as I saw it from the sideline. My next post will be more about my experiences as a fan at the stadium.
In some ways, the change in perspective made the game harder to watch. I'm sure many of you have been to a game before, so you know what I mean. But, in other ways, it is quite revealing to be in the stands. I can see the whole field for one.
For example, it was interesting to see how far from the line of scrimmage Eric Reid was playing. When watching the games on television, I also felt like Mr. Reid was out of the way. He would come up to make a nice tackle every once in a while, but I couldn't see his coverage. But, having been able to see him in the secondary, I am happy to report that he looks pretty solid in coverage. Clearly, his greatest strength is coming up to defend the run or blowing up receivers. He has a nose for the ball and is quick in pursuit. But I also liked seeing him in coverage. In fact, the whole Niner secondary had a solid day.
Of all the players I paid individual attention to, the one to whom I paid the most attention isn't even on the team anymore. Yes, I used this game as a bit of a scouting session on AJ Jenkins. And now, I have to rewrite my earlier draft due to this new trade. But, I will say this, my earlier thesis was that my opinion on AJ had changed. I used to be cautiously optimistic about AJ. He had THE TOOLS and THE POTENTIAL because of his SPEED. I believed in the AJ buzzwords. And now? Well, let's just say that I'm not surprised that he was traded. All night long I watched him get abused by CBs in press coverage. He just couldn't beat them. Sometimes, he could barely get five yards off the line of scrimmage. I really want him to succeed. From day one, he had to face a lot of adversity. I remember reading some not so kind articles about him from a certain beat writer hours after AJ was drafted. That just isn't fair. But, the fact still remains that AJ had a hard time getting open and making plays. Seeing him in person helped me to understand why: he has a hard time beating press coverage. And, when he did, it was too late to kick to blazing speed into gear. He got almost no separation from defenders.
AJ getting shut down by a defender did lead to one cool moment, though. Right before the first half ended, AJ was pressed hard. He came to the sideline, and immediately Anquan Boldin was right in his face, giving AJ pointers and tips. It was super intense. I loved seeing the passion on Boldin's face. The guy loves the game and he has clearly bought into this team.
I just want to mention one last player: Michael Wilhoite. I was a bit worried about Larry Grant's departure. While I can't think of any players more worthy of the "every down" title than Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman (non-Justin Smith category), I was always glad we had Grant. He was a good backup. Well, Wilhoite looks to be pretty solid too. He hit his holes with discipline, speed, and power. That's essentially the perfect way to play ILB. Even when he wasn't making tackles, he was shedding blocks well and forcing the runner into other defenders. Ideal.