The San Francisco 49ers looked lost in the first game action of the 2023 season, losing to the Las Vegas Raiders 34-7 on Sunday. There was a lot more bad than good for the 49ers but there were players who looked good. Let's breakdown who saw their stock go up, who saw their stock go down, and what players could see a change in the first of three preseason games.
Clelin Ferrell: Following a good training camp with consistent positive reviews from those in attendance Ferrell flashed against his former team. Ferrell beat his man quickly to the inside and got a sack early in the game. With Drake Jackson reportedly having a mediocre training camp and currently hurt, are we sure Ferrell doesn't become the starter opposite of Nick Bosa on the defensive line?
Ambry Thomas: Thomas played the first half and made plays throughout. He had great coverage multiple times leading to an incompletion and also had a pass deflection. Thomas was noticeably confident, which is a departure from his demeanor earlier in his career. The depth on the outside at cornerback is a question mark for the 49ers. Thomas may finally have turned the corner and become the guy who spells starters Deommodore Lenoir and Charvarius Ward.
Ji'Ayir Brown: The rookie didn't make a big play. No interceptions or pass breakups. Rather, Brown raised his stock by doing exactly what you want of a safety in the run game. Brown cleaned up when he needed to. He had four tackles including a great open field tackle near the goal line.
Cameron Latu: To say the rookie is struggling is an understatement. It seemed every day in training camp there was a report of a drop by the tight end. He entered the first preseason game needing to rebound and build confidence. Instead, he lost a fumble and had just one catch. Despite being a third round pick, the chances of making the 49ers initial 53 man roster is not looking good as of now. Things seem to be spirally for him.
Jake Moody: Speaking of struggling rookie third round picks, Moody blew both opportunities against the Raiders. He missed wide left on a 40 yard attempt and wide right on a 58 yard attempt that was way off target from the moment it came off his foot. Rookie kickers struggle in the NFL. I wrote about that prior to the season but it's not the only concerning statistic for Moody. He made just 67.9 percent of his attempts on the road in college. Can he hand the pressure?
Entire Offensive Line: To steal a line from the late-great sports broadcaster Keith Jackson, "Whoa, Nellie!" To put it bluntly, the offensive line play for the 49ers against the Raiders was putrid.
The Raiders hit Trey Lance on nearly every drop back (more on that next), had four sacks and five tackles for a loss. The 49ers quarterbacks were under duress on nearly every attempt and the run blocking wasn't any better as the team averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. We haven't seen the starting offensive line yet, but let's all pray all of the starters stay healthy. No backup showed an ability to hold up if called upon on Sunday.
Trey Lance: There was good, there was bad and there was impossible to decipher. The good, Lance looked good when on the move and made some strong throws later in the half. He seemed to play better once head coach Kyle Shanahan started moving the pocket to get away from the Raiders constant pressure.
There was bad, Lance had two easy interceptions dropped by the Raiders, one of which was luckily deflected right to Ross Dwelley for the team's lone score of the game. If both of those were caught by the defenders the game would be classified as a train wreck for the third year quarterback. The fact a rookie fourth round pick looked like a starter for the other team serves as a good contrast. Lance looked like what he is, a backup.
The impossible to decipher part? Was Lance indecisive and missing open guys? He pumped on multiple plays that resulted in sacks. Without an overhead angle, its impossible to know if he had an opening and second-guessed it.
The book on Lance being a starter for the 49ers isn't closed, but it's started the final chapter.