Opening impressions

Impressions, observations, assertions and proclamations Saturday night after the 49ers opened their exhibition season with a wild, down-to-the-final-play 33-30 loss to the Oakland Raiders:

--- The future does look like Kevan Barlow.

--- Burst, acceleration and change of direction. When you combine those qualities with a guy Barlow's size, good things are going to happen. And, maybe, great things.

--- Jamal Robertson looks like he's going to earn a few carries this year, too.

--- Like Barlow, Robertson will have to keep working on his pass protection, however.

--- Terry Jackson? Yeah, don't forget about that guy, either.

--- One of the worst things that could happen to the Niners' offense is to lose Pro Bowl fullback Fred Beasley.

--- But it's great news that X-rays were negative and his high ankle sprain doesn't appear too serious.

--- Ken Dorsey's starting debut: Not bad, but certainly nothing special.

--- Yes, Jamie Winborn is ready to go.

--- Did you see that closing speed by Winborn, and the way he flew around the field? Who needs Julian Peterson?

--- Well, the 49ers do, of course, but they still can wait a while for his return, mainly because they have no other choice.

--- Those problems stopping opponents on third down don't appear to have gone away.

--- Let them play, refs.

--- That pass rush doesn't look a whole lot different than last season. Which is to say: Weak.

--- Well, at least those new sideline outfits worn by some 49ers coaches look better than last year.

--- Todd Peterson's first kickoff of 2004, down to the 12-yard line. That's about what we can expect to see all season.

--- Which we'll take, as long he's not short on makeable field goals.

--- It wouldn't bother us to see Arnaz Battle returning kickoffs this season.

--- He doesn't look too bad covering kickoffs, either.

--- Oh, and did we mention we wouldn't mind seeing Battle returning punts, either?

--- Battle's winding, tackle-breaking punt return for a TD was a vivid example of what the guy can do when he's healthy.

--- Not that he wasn't going to make the team anyway, but Battle just secured his roster berth with his fine all-around performance.

--- "I have great expectations," Battle said afterward, relaying a message that was obvious to all.

--- Mike Rumph can hit, but he needs to make sure and hold on.

--- It's just the preseason opener, and Ahmed Plummer was on the sidelines, but that was some pretty soft coverage being played by Niners' cornerbacks.

--- Michael Landry eats up space nicely in the defensive interior, but he needs to get more push in his pass rush to seal a roster spot.

--- When it all comes together for Shawntae Spencer, he's going to be a good one.

--- It's nice to see Eric Johnson catching passes over the middle despite wearing a soft cast to protect a torn ligament in his thumb.

--- Aaron Walker can get down the field, too.

--- That also was a solid impression made by Gabe Crecion on a good night for San Francisco's tight ends.

--- Another Saleem Rasheed sighting. Let's hope he doesn't fade away this year.

--- But, of course, he didn't make it through his playing stint without another injury, pulling his right hip flexor.

--- You can tell that Brandon Moore wants more playing time in a crowded field of quality linebackers.

--- Get used to it: Cedrick Wilson isn't shy about going up and getting passes in traffic. And he comes down with them, too.

--- You can see what the Niners like about Kwame Harris's run blocking.

--- Curtis Conway is going to be a nice complement in the passing game as the No. 3 receiver.

--- The Niners' talent, effectiveness and productivity on the offensive line really falls off after their starting unit.

--- Dwaine Carpenter still gambles too much in coverage, but he has the athleticism to make up for it.

--- He needs to take much better angles on deep balls, however.

--- That's the way Brandon Doman has been throwing the ball in training camp, too.

--- By what we've seen so far this summer, we'll already take Cody Pickett over Doman. His arm is just so much better.

--- Pickett, in fact, may have looked the best of San Francisco's three quarterbacks Saturday. But remember, he was playing against scrubs.

--- Andy Lee's second punt was much more indicative of what you can expect from him than his first.

--- But Andy Groom's first punt makes it look like he won't be getting too many more with the Niners.

--- Keith Lewis has looked good in practice, but he's obviously going to need some time to develop in coverage.

--- Sure, Kyle Kosier is the Niners' top backup along the offensive line, but since he's also their starting right guard, he was in the game way, way too long Saturday.

--- But he looks pretty good playing tackle, and the Niners need one more guy they can count on at that position.

--- We've liked Maurice Hicks since the start of training camp, and he continued to show why Saturday.

--- "We've got some work to do in all phases," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said afterward.

--- As exhibition openers go, though, that still was a lot of fun. The Niners saw some things they liked and some things they didn't. So did we. But that's what the preseason is all about.


Niners Digest Top Stories