The Takeaway: Patton Shines, Battles Clear Up

The 49ers found clarity in a number of areas in their 34-14 win over the Vikings Sunday night in their their exhibition game. In a free preview of premium content, we break down Quinton Patton's big debut, the battle for the third cornerback job, Jon Baldwin and an interesting development at outside linebacker.

Patton's Big Debut

There was no telling what Quinton Patton would be able to bring to the 49ers in his preseason debut.

Turns out Patton was on the receiving end of Colin Kaepernick's first preseason touchdown pass and he led the team with four receptions for 35 yards.

Patton had badly jammed a finger on his left on a pass from Colt McCoy in late-July that forced him into a blue non-contact jersey for the entirety of training camp. He was able to practice with the team and do everything in drills but catch passes.

"Just not being discouraged," Patton said when asked how he was able to stay in rhythm while being unable to catch balls in practice.

"Ultimately it's bigger than one person and I was just trying to do my part for the team, run routes and everything."

The wide receiving corps had been one of the most talked-about positions this August as the team is looking to replace Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham, who are both rehabbing from major injuries. Crabtree's Achilles tear during OTAs was not season-ending, Harbaugh said at the time, while Manningham will begin the season on the PUP list and miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season.

The 49ers had been looking for one of Kaepernick's targets not named Anquan Boldin or Vernon Davis to emerge and become a viable third option. Marlon Moore has gotten starts in the early going, and had a another strong performance in his third start of the preseason Sunday night. He caught three passes for 32 yards, although he was targeted seven times.

But the story of the night from a receiver standpoint was Patton.

"He's someone that's easy to have chemistry with," Kaepernick said. "He knows where windows are in defenses, he knows how to get open."

Asomugha Gets Ahead of Brock

Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha appears to be leading the battle for third cornerback over Tramaine Brock. He played almost all the snaps with the first-team's nickel package and had his third solid showing in as many weeks.

"I don't know what the plan is," Asomugha said. "From week to week it changes. One week I'm on the right, the next week I'm on the left, sometimes I'm with the one-nickel, sometimes I'm with the two-base. So, really right now my focus is just progress and then seeing how it plays out."

The way the 49ers are divvying out snaps at this point in the preseason, it would appear the coaching staff is past the experimental stage. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio indicated in a media session early in the week there was a leader in the race for the third-corner spot, but wouldn't indicate who.

With Asomugha getting those reps, it would appear the job is his to lose at this point with just one preseason game remaining.

Baldwin Solid in 49ers Debut

Wideout Jon Baldwin didn't make the same splash as Patton in his debut, but he was solid nonetheless.

The 49ers newest receiver caught two of three passes thrown his way (one Kaepernick threw into the ground on a covered screen attempt) and had 23 yards and a long of 19.

Most importantly, Baldwin didn't have a drop after having suspect hands in his two years in Kansas City.

Baldwin has a strong hold on a roster spot. That means the 49ers are likely to break camp with Boldin, Moore, Kyle Williams, Baldwin and Patton rounding out the receiving corps. There's still a chance Kassim Osgood could be the sixth added for his play on special teams.

Five Outside Linebackers?

All signs are pointing to the 49ers keeping five outside linebackers. With Dan Skuta working with the second team Sunday while third-round draft pick Corey Lemonier was with the 3s, it seems as though San Francisco would like to have that number at five in case Ahmad Brooks is suspended for his run in with the law back in June.

That means Parys Haralson will likely be called upon to start games in Brooks' stead should he get suspended.

Given the way the defense (and the pass rush in particular) played toward the end of last season's Super Bowl run, the 49ers would benefit from having depth on the outside. They broke camp with Clark Haggans and Eric Bakhtiari as backups last year. Haralson, Skuta and Lemonier would be big upgrades over that group backing up Brooks and Aldon Smith.

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