49ers’ preseason blues

By Mike Young  |   Wednesday, August 15, 2007  |  Comments( 29 )

San Francisco 49ers
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I know there are benefits to the preseason.

First and foremost, it gives guys trying to make the team a chance to show what they can do: run the ball, make catches, lay big hits, whatever.

Second, and tied closely to the first point, coaches use the games to evaluate talent, set the depth chart and even tinker with the playbook a little.

Third, it's a little bit of extra cash for the owners to line their pockets, many charging close to regular-season prices for "games" that amount to glorified scrimmages.

For most fans, however, actual people with lives to live who don't obsess over the fate of every third- and fourth-string player, the preseason is just brutal.

Take Monday night's Denver-San Francisco game.

The first few drives were entertaining.

For the Broncos, viewers got to see Travis Henry run for 27 yards on five carries, showing he could be the perfect fit in Mike Shanahan's running game. Jay Cutler threw only two passes, but his one completion was a bullet to lead receiver Javon Walker for 24 exciting yards.

After scoring an easy touchdown on their first drive, Shanahan felt his offensive starters got the work they needed and gave them a seat next to him for the rest of the night.

I'm sure that's what the fans came to see.

For the 49ers, two possessions were all Alex Smith & Co. were allowed to play.

In the short amount of time Smith did look great, finding Darrell Jackson with a nice ball in front of Champ Bailey and hooking up with Arnaz Battle for a 26-yard completion to the 1-yard line.

Both throws were impressive. Bailey had only four passes completed against him all last year according to ESPN, and Smith showed great accuracy to Battle, putting the ball where only he could catch it.

The action in the first three possessions was well worth watching and gave insight to how players are progressing - but if you went to the bathroom, you probably missed it.

The rest of the night featured mostly players far down the depth chart, scrapping and clawing for their chance to play in the NFL. Again, I understand this is important to them and the teams, but as an observer, it's not top-flight football.

Yes, fans did get to see a few backups who might make an impact -- Michael Robinson and Thomas Clayton, to be specific -- but many were probably tempted to change the channel.

What fans want to see are the top players in the world, flying around at breakneck speed, trying to score spectacular touchdowns or take someone's head off. Nobody wants to see them on the sidelines, giving way too many interviews to the pointless sideline reporter.

Watching the backups to the backups play for 3½ quarters isn't anyone's idea of a fun Monday night. Just keep telling yourself that there are only three more weeks and nearly 30 more player cuts until the start of the season. It can't come soon enough.

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