Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Thoughts and observations after watching the 49ers' exhibition game against the Cowboys on Saturday night:
Time to start scheming. The 49ers' pass rushers rarely seem to win one-on-one battles. Parys Haralson flashes occasionally, as when he forced Tony Romo into an interception Saturday night. Justin Smith's relentlessness pays off at times. But coach Mike Singletary was right during a conference call Sunday when he said the 49ers would have to rely on scheme to generate a strong pass rush. I charted Manny Lawson during the Cowboys' opening nine-play drive. Lawson made no impact as a rusher on seven pass plays. On the run plays, the Cowboys first blocked him successfully with a tight end, then pancaked him with a fullback.
Love that run game. Lawson looked pretty good in pass-rush drills when I visited 49ers training camp. He was working against offensive linemen built for run blocking, not prolonged pass protection. The 49ers will have a hard-nosed running game this season. They will have the identity Singletary wanted to create. For example, that was Delanie Walker, known as a receiving tight end, lining up at fullback in the offset-I and throwing himself at Cowboys defensive end Anthony Spencer. Running the ball is a mentality. The 49ers have it.
Need more from the QB. The 49ers look like a team that practices running the ball about 75 percent of the time. They look like a team that didn't commit to a starting quarterback until last week. The first-team offense ran the ball pretty well against the Cowboys, but the passing game needs work. "First and foremost," Singletary said Sunday, "it starts with the quarterback situation." Shaun Hill missed practice time last week. Singletary also pointed to injuries at left guard and right tackle. The 49ers will not beat good teams without improvement through the air.
Rachal is still learning. Cowboys defensive linemen Jay Ratliff and Marcus Spears made plays against 49ers right guard Chilo Rachal. Ratliff beat him off the line cleanly for a sack. Spears sidestepped Rachal to foil a running play, causing Rachal to whiff. Working against such a talented defensive front can only be good for Rachal. It's easy to forget Rachal has started only six regular-season games.
Picking Battle. Hill kept looking for veteran receiver Arnaz Battle, the player he recently singled out as having an outstanding camp. Battle suffered a shoulder contusion during the game. It was unclear if he would miss time. Josh Morgan remains the starter, but Battle could figure into the mix more prominently than once expected.
Welcoming contact. Cornerback Shawntae Spencer, coming back from knee surgery last season, didn't shy from contact. He lowered his shoulder and drove his body into Marion Barber on one play. That seemed like a good sign for him.
49ers know running backs. From Frank Gore to Glen Coffee to undrafted rookie Kory Sheets, the 49ers have a knack for finding promising runners. Sheets flashed his athleticism with an over-the-top touchdown leap at the goal line.
Rookie QB showed savvy. Nate Davis showed patience in waiting for J.J. Finley to come open in the red zone, he showed touch on screen passes and he led the 49ers' winning drive late in the game. What more could a team expect from a fifth-round rookie?
The 49ers have made their cuts on the roster reduction to 75 players. Their final exhibition game is Friday at San Diego.