49ers @ Texans
Final Score: Texans 17, 49ers 0
Writer: Mike Miklius (@ SIRL0INofBEEF on Twitter)
In the final warm-up action for Houston and San Francisco, this one was all Houston. They quickly marched down the field on their opening drive, capping it off with a Dameon Pierce touchdown plunge from one yard out. This felt like an important game for Houston, who doesn’t have the preseason hype of perennial playoff performer San Francisco. Houston looked excellent in nearly every phase of the game, imposing their will throughout. For San Francisco, it felt like some cards were being left off the table as they know what they have; still, I’m guessing Niners fans would have liked to see Trey Lance and the first-team offense score some points. The Texans win this one 17-0 and will start preparing for their home opener against the Colts while the Niners get ready to head to Chicago. Here’s everything I saw.
San Francisco 49ers
Trey Lance: 7/11, 49 yards, Sack | 1 carry, 1 yard
Nate Sudfeld: 5/10, 49 yards, INT | 1 carry, 0 yards
Brock Purdy: 13/20, 182 yards, INT, 2 Sacks, 1 Fumble | 3 carries, 10 yards
I was curious to see Trey Lance because he has so little game film to pick apart. Not counting preseason work, Lance has attempted only 86 passes since the end of the 2019 college season. He is at the helm of a potential contender–largely dependent on how he plays–and should be in the playoff mix. So how did he look? Lance looks like a rookie. Kyle Shanahan scripted a screen to Kyle Juszczyk for an easy first-down pickup, hoping to get Lance in rhythm. That rhythm never came, though, as Lance struggled to hit his targets. I should mention first that the protection was not good. The Niners line–without their starting LT–was looking poor. This was clearly a factor, and Lance should play better behind better protection. Go figure. What I did see was Lance struggling to accurately hit his targets, and missing the best reads available on a play. In one particular play, Lance took a deep shot to Deebo Samuel. It was a good pass and would have been a “did you see that???” moment if not for excellent coverage by the Texans. That being said, I saw easier throws to Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle that would have picked up the first down. On the next drive, Lance was sacked thanks to a breakdown on his line and then missed Kittle a play later–leading him just a little too far. On one of Lance’s last passes of the night, he again made a solid throw but missed an open target in first-down range. Lance can move well and should have some big rushing upside. That being said, I am not encouraged but what I saw from him as a passer. He is best described as a work in progress.
Jeff Wilson Jr: 3 carries, 16 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 2 yards
Trey Sermon: 8 carries, 20 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 5 yards
Jordan Mason: 4 carries, 7 yards | 2 targets, 1 reception, -1 yards
Tyrion Davis-Price: 4 carries, -3 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 10 yards
Kyle Juszczyk: 1 target, 1 reception, 15 yards
JaMycal Hasty: 1 target, 1 reception, 13 yards
Elijah Mitchell sat this one out, no doubt a move to keep him healthy for the opener. I don’t see a strong challenger to Mitchell on the roster right now and this should give confidence to Mitchell drafters. This looks like Mitchell’s backfield until he gets hurt. Jeff Wilson took the start and was serviceable in the role. After stumbling on his first carry, Wilson made a good first cut and ran hard on his second touch for a nice gain. Wilson was quickly pulled from the game and looks like the handcuff to Mitchell. Trey Sermon was next in line, and his best run of the night was his second carry. He made a good initial cut and ran hard for a big gain. Sermon feels like the odd man out on the roster given Mitchell (starter), Wilson (backup), TDP (rookie), and Juszczyk (fullback) have more clear roles. Heck, he may be off the roster before you even read this. Tyrion Davis-Price didn’t show much, but what’s most important is when he played. TDP was the last back in the game, not seeing a carry until there were 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Davis-Price may become a factor at some point, but he’s at best a stash right now.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Deebo Samuel: 1 target
George Kittle: 1 target
Brandon Aiyuk: 1 target
Ross Dwelley: 3 targets, 3 receptions, 42 yards
Willie Snead IV: 5 targets, 2 receptions, 36 yards
Jauan Jennings: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 34 yards
Malik Turner: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 32 yards, Fumble
Troy Fumagalli: 2 targets, 2 receptions, 26 yards
Tyler Kroft: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 23 yards
Ray-Ray McCloud III: 2 targets, 1 reception, 10 yards
Charlie Woerner: 1 target, 1 reception, 4 yards
Danny Gray: 1 target
There wasn’t much to be seen from the starters as the team played vanilla offense–likely just wanting everyone to stay healthy. Imagine the blowback if Deebo Samuel was injured on some trick play in a game that doesn’t matter. Speaking of Deebo, he saw one target on the day–a deep ball from Lance. He nearly pulled it in but was thwarted by excellent coverage. Houston’s defense was a force tonight, and they kept being in the right place at the right time. Deebo is a clear WR1 for me and someone I love to take at ADP. I want him playing for Shanahan for his whole career if possible. George Kittle saw one target as well, a short pass that was out of reach. Kittle would have had some room to run, but the throw was just off his fingertips and he couldn’t haul it in. Brandon Aiyuk only saw one target as well, but it was uncatchable and was more a throwaway by Lance as he ran for his life. My big takeaway for Aiyuk is that he saw the starter treatment. He wasn’t playing late into the game and he didn’t have to prove himself with 10 targets tonight. Still, he is only the third option for a quarterback that I don’t love. He is more of a stash in case someone in front of him goes down. Beyond the big three names, I don’t see anyone else in this receiving group on the radar. Grab one of the big names and hope everyone lives up to the preseason hype.
Davis Mills: 6/10, 58 yards, TD, INT, 2 Sacks
Kyle Allen: 2/3, 36 yards, Sack
Jeff Driskel: 0/1, 0 yards | 1 carry, 3 yards
Davis Mills wasn’t asked to do much, but he looked good on his pass attempts. Bolstered by a strong rushing attack, Mills led the Texans down the field for a first-drive score. He threw the ball accurately, nearly missing a few big shots. There were also a number of pass interference calls that won’t show up in this yardage total. I expect the Texans to want to use Mills as a game manager, but I see a ceiling for more if he continues to develop. My favorite series for Mills came in the third quarter. On third and goal, Mills saw Nico Collins running a quick slant and hit him for the score. It wasn’t a particularly tough throw, but he recognized it and released the ball quickly and accurately. After that play was called back for offensive pass interference, Mills faced third and goal from the 16. He found Chris Moore–the receiver who drew the penalty on the last play–for a score. It was another good throw, finding a hole in the zone coverage. While I don’t see Mills as one of the league’s best, he could be on a good developmental path and actually turn into one of the 2021 rookie classes’ best quarterbacks. At the very least, I don’t see him holding this offense back.
Dameon Pierce: 6 carries, 37 yards, TD
Rex Burkhead: 10 carries, 28 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 3 yards
Marlon Mack: 10 carries, 55 yards
Dare Ogunbowale: 3 carries, 13 yards | 1 target, 1 reception, 12 yards
Royce Freeman: 6 carries, 20 yards
I’ve been hearing all this buzz about Dameon Pierce, and here’s my take: he lived up to the hype. Pierce looks like a strong runner, and one who likes to make a decisive cut and then go. I saw a few runs where he sat back, saw his hole develop, and then hit it hard. We see this on Pierce’s first carry of the game. Pierce also repeatedly picked up short-yard situations: I counted three carries where he picked up the hard yard including his drive-completing touchdown. Pierce looks like a veteran back in the best of ways; he knows how to play the position, and he looks confident doing it. My stock on Pierce is high after this one. After all, when has preseason hype ever failed us? Rex Burkhead was the next back in, but his only workload looks like spelling Pierce as necessary. I don’t see Burkhead as being all that useful even if Pierce goes down. Marlon Mack ran well, highlighted by a 24-yard gain early in the second half. He still has some juice, and I think he should be the backup here if the worst were to happen to Pierce.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Chris Moore: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 35 yards, TD
Seth Green: 2 targets, 1 reception, 24 yards
Chris Conley: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 15 yards
Brevin Jordan: 2 targets, 1 reception, 5 yards
Johnny Johnson III: 1 target
Nico Collins: 1 target
Brandin Cooks sat this one out but should be ready to go for week one. Cooks should be expected to lead the team in targets and will go as far as Davis Mills allows. Chris Moore made a good play on the first drive. He caught a short pass, and then fought hard through the first tackle attempt and kept running for a big gain. Moore also caught the lone Texans touchdown pass. Early in the third quarter, he was lined up in the right slot against zone coverage. Moore found space and made a great catch for the score. He nearly caught another, but it was broken up by good coverage and ended up as an interception. I don’t see him being a big factor in fantasy, but we can keep an eye on the 29-year-old receiver. Nico Collins had four targets I saw, three of which involved pass interference. On the first, Collins faded to the sideline and was in position to go up for the ball as his defender held him down. It would have been a tough catch, but Collins made a smart play and drew the penalty–leading to a touchdown on the next play. On his third target, he again was in position for a catch and again drew pass interference. Coaches love these kinds of plays and this should gain Collins more trust. Collins’ last target was a quick slant that he ran into the endzone, but it was called back for offensive pass interference elsewhere on the play. I like what I’m seeing from Collins and he could develop into a real weapon here. Keep an eye on him.