San Francisco 49ers linebackers Patrick Willis (52), and NaVorro Bowman (53), and Aldon Smith (99) and Ahmad Brooks (55) during training camp at the 49ers practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-US PRESSWIRE
The 49ers couldn't script things to go any better two weeks into training camp.
They are relatively healthy, they received good news on pass rusher Aldon Smith's hip injury and all phases played well in their workman-like 17-6 exhibition game victory over the rebuilding Vikings on Friday.
Wanting to continue to be a running team, the 49ers bludgeoned the Vikings with 260 rushing yards. Their defense once again played well and the team exudes the confident air of a playoff team. Players in the locker room constantly talked about the mistakes they made rather than reveling in the win.
If the rest training goes like it did in the first two weeks, the 49ers should fulfill their promise as a strong playoff participant.
Smith, the team's leading sacker with 14 last year as a rookie, exited in the first quarter and was taken to the locker room on a cart. He sustained a hip bruise, which is also what a preliminary X-ray at the stadium revealed. No fractures or dislocations. Just how long Smith will be out is not yet known.
On offense, the team continued to be what it showed last year - and that's a run-first team that only salts in the passing game when needed. Displaying a variety of running backs in their opening drive, the 49ers went 84 yards in 12 plays and ended in the end zone with a 4-yard pass from Alex Smith to wide receiver Brett Swain.
Smith only threw the ball three times and completed all three for a meager 16 yards. Meanwhile, Brandon Jacobs, Rock Cartwright and Kendall Hunter accounted for the rest of the yards in the drive on a night when Frank Gore was rested.
The offense also featured a multitude of receivers, with Ted Ginn Jr., Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and Kyle Williams all shuffling through with the first-team offense. Coach Jim Harbaugh said the cast of many characters is something that may carry into the regular season.
Harbaugh hopes Smith will be his one and only quarterback. The greatest concern through the first two weeks of training camp was that none of the backups separated themselves as the primary understudy. However, Scott Tolzien made a strong statement in the opener by completing 10 of 13 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.
That line didn't account for two drops by receivers. Tolzien's third incompletion occurred when he was hit as he threw. The ball fluttered out of his hand and was intercepted.
If receivers caught passes and the line blocked better, Tolzien could have gone 13-for-13 for about 150 yards and a touchdown.
But Tolzien did what Colin Kaepernick, who's listed as the second quarterback, could not do and that's throw from the pocket. Kaepernick played decently, completing 5 of 9 passes for 40 yards with one of those incompletions coming on a spike to stop the clock. However, Kaepernick, who played in a shotgun offense in college at Nevada, completed only one pass when he took a drop from the pocket.
Both Kaepernick and fellow quarterback Josh Johnson are far superior to Tolzien in physical ability, but Tolzien seemed more poised and accurate. In deciding who will be the primary backup, the 49ers have to decide whether they want the athleticism and promise of Kaepernick and Johnson or the solidity of Tolzien. It won't be an easy choice.