Jarryd Hayne, the Australian import who is trying to make the transition to NFL player, stood out for the San Francisco 49ers in their preseason opener. He excelled as a running back, punt returner and kick returner with the second-team units. Here are some quick thoughts on the Niners’ 23-10 loss to the Texans:
A surprise player who looks amazing: An entire continent roared when Hayne put on a show. He broke off a 53-yard run from scrimmage, had punt returns of 11 and 13 yards, and also returned the second half-opening kickoff to the 26-yard line after fielding it 8 yards deep. He finished with 120 total yards (five rushes for 63 yards, two punt returns for 24 yards and one kickoff return for 33 yards).
QB depth chart: Holding steady? But of course. Sure, Blaine Gabbert (8-of-11, 86 yards, one TD) outperformed Colin Kaepernick (1-3, 14 yards), but Kaepernick is the face of the franchise, and he only played one series. Still, considering the Niners are running a new offense, it would have been nice to see Kaepernick get more run with the first-team offense against guys wearing other jerseys.
Maybe that dude could start: Mike Purcell was an unstoppable force in the trenches during the Niners’ first-quarter goal-line stand, with a pair of impressive stops including a 3-yard-loss tackle of Alfred Blue -- which, had you imagined hard enough, reminded one of Super Bowl XVI. He had six first-half tackles. The starting D-line for the Niners looked like this: Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams and Quinton Dial.
Who got hurt? It was a fairly clean game, with backup linebacker Desmond Bishop leaving the game early in the second half because of a calf injury.
Rookie watch: First-round pick Arik Armstead rotated in with the third defensive line and showed tremendous push against the Texans' second- and third-stringers. Armstead did not record a sack or a huge hit, but his presence was noticed ... and felt.
When it was starters vs. starters: The 49ers looked overmatched and like a team that had not tackled much in training camp, which, to be frank, they had not. Indeed, the only true “live” tackling they’ve done thus far came in a goal-line drill, and yes, that’s where the Niners actually excelled -- on defense.
One reason to freak out: It was only one play, but Torrey Smith showed his speed on the right side by taking the top of the defense and getting open for a long touchdown, but strong-armed QB Kaepernick overthrew him.
Who sat?: As expected, inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (and his rebuilt left knee) was not exposed to the wicked-looking NRG Field pallets and resulting seams of grass. Shayne Skov started in his place. Somewhat surprisingly, though, was Vernon Davis' getting the vet’s day off; his name was never mentioned as such a possibility this week. Vance McDonald started in his place.
A slow start: The Niners’ D gave up a 58-yard TD pass to Cecil Shorts on a catch-and-run on which he simply outran the defense on the first series of the game. The special teams were then flagged when the kickoff return squad ran an illegal wedge on the ensuing kickoff, before the Niners offense went three and out in the first-team offensive’s lone series (after a holding penalty on the first snap). There’s always next week, no?