SANTA CLARA, Calif. - First-year head coach Jim Tomsula had a checklist of objectives heading into the San Francisco 49ers' preseason opener Saturday night. His team met all but one.
"We met them, other than the end result," Tomsula said Sunday.
That result was a 23-10 loss to the Houston Texans, where the 49ers looked like a team in transition, also missing 14 players, 10 of which figure to have prominent roles once the regular season starts.
NaVorro Bowman, Vernon Davis, Darnell Dockett, Reggie Bush, Bruce Ellington, Aaron Lynch and others sat out for either precautionary reasons or because they were dealing with injuries. That's just how things go in the first of four preseason games.
But the significance of Saturday wasn't lost on Tomsula, who was the leading man for the first time since he replaced Mike Singletary in 2010. He wanted his team to operate properly, which meant getting the plays called on time and getting the right personnel in place.
"From the sidelines, to operation, to the communication, to the huddles, to personnel and getting the reps on some people we wanted to see in a game situation, to getting guys paired up and seeing different people play together. All of those things we were able to get," Tomsula said.
Continuing a theme of the offseason, the 49ers didn't commit a pre-snap penalty on offense, cleaning up things after being the most penalized team in the NFL in that area last year.
A few more notes from Sunday's teleconference:
--Tomsula said he liked what he saw from the team's makeshift offensive line.
"I thought that was a great start. As we go through this preseason, you’re going to see some different guys working together," he said.
One of those new guys could be Brandon Thomas, who played 21 snaps at right guard. Thomas played well, particularly while blocking for the run, and didn't allow a pressure or a hit to the passer against Texans reserves.
When Thomas came in, Marcus Martin shifted from right guard to center, where he has the most experience over the last two years. Martin started eight games there as a rookie last season when he replaced Daniel Kilgore, who continues to work his way back from a lower-leg fracture.
Thomas playing well puts pressure on Joe Looney at center, where he's gotten the most reps with the first team throughout camp. If the 49ers play Thomas, it's likely Martin moves to center. Looney has not gotten reps at guard with the first team offense so far in camp.
--It hasn't happened much in practice, but Ahmad Brooks shifted over to Aldon Smith's old spot at right outside linebacker for the majority of his snaps Saturday. Going forward, Tomsula indicated Brooks might be moving around the defensive front quite a bit.
"We are definitely evaluating that," said Tomsula."With Ahmad, if they're chipping and setting backs in formations, that does nothing but help us, being able to move him from one side to the other. So we do want him to work on it."
Brooks played just nine snaps Saturday, and will be one of the defense's most important players in 2015 with Smith no longer around to rush the blind side of the quarterback.
--First-round pick Arik Armstead received mixed reviews in his debut, but managed to play 46 snaps, the fifth-most of any defender.
"Some really good things and some really bad things, some not-so-good things," Tomsula said. "He's got some power to him. He's got length, he can bend. He knows how to use his leverage. All the reps in a row ... so he got a little winded. The guy strained, I was happy to see that."
Armstead managed three tackles and a hit on the quarterback, according to our friends at Pro Football Focus.
--Tomsula reiterated what he said about running back/return man Jarryd Hayne following the game, after the former Australian rugby league star impressed with a 53-yard run, and a pair of eye-opening returns.
"I’m not as shocked, that Jarryd was able to field punts and run, or field kicks are fun, or that Jarryd was able to see creases and take them and get into the open field and avoid," Tomsula said. "I’ve seen him do all those things. I watched a lot of film on Jarryd Hayne playing rugby."
Hayne was the game's leading rusher with 63 yards, and also netted the 49ers' longest punt and kick returns of the night while Bush and Ellington were held out. "I just like to temper everything. We don’t need to put undo expectations. That’s unnecessary," Tomsula said.
--Channeling the same conversation he had earlier in the week about Blaine Gabbert's preseason struggles from last year, Tomsula brought out the 'supporting case' argument when asked about third-string quarterback Dylan Thompson's struggles.
"There was a surrounding cast that has to be at the right places at the right times … We have to put it all together," said Tomsula.
He was likely referencing Tomson's first drive in the third quarter, when he was sacked twice when his tackles missed their blocking assignments leading to a safety. Left tackle Patrick Miller allowed a first-down sack to Kourtnei Brown before right tackle Trent Brown let Jason Ankrah get Thompson for a safety two plays later.
Thompson finished the day completing 4-of-6 for 15 yards with a late interception.
--Tomsula said he will have updates on linebackers Nick Bellore, Michael Wilhoite and Desmond Bishop when he meets with the media again Tuesday. Bellore was placed on the non-football injury list with an illness, while Wilhoite has continued to work his way back from a leg injury. Wilhoite is slated for an MRI, Tomsula said.
"Any of those muscle things, we’re trying to get them healed so they don’t nag you all year long," said Tomsula. Bishop left Saturday night's game early with a lower leg injury.