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49ers vs. Colts: San Francisco Preseason Game Balls & Highlights

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San Francisco 49ers Preseason Week 3 Game Balls
Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

We hand out three game balls to the San Francisco 49ers from the Niners’ dress rehearsal in Week 3 of the 2018 NFL Preseason, a 23-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

On yesterday’s Locked On 49ers Podcast, host Brian Peacock provided “stock up” and “stock down” analysis for players in key positional competitions, and handed out three game balls from the San Francisco 49ers’ loss to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3 of the 2018 NFL Preseason.

The visiting Niners fell to the Colts 23-17 in their third game of the preseason, which is widely referred to as a “dress rehearsal” for the regular season since most teams choose to give their starters extensive playing time in the third exhibition game before resting them until the regular season begins.

49ers DE Solomon Thomas

49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas returned to San Francisco’s starting lineup after suffering a concussion during the first drive of the preseason. The Niners expect a stark improvement from the former third-overall pick in his second season in the league; on Saturday, Thomas looked like a player worthy of a top draft selection.

The defensive lineman immediately made his presence felt on Indianapolis’ opening drive. On third down, Thomas tossed Colts right tackle Austin Howard to the side, before hitting quarterback Andrew Luck back and into the arms of his fellow Niner defenders for a drive-ending sack. Although Thomas didn’t light up the stat sheet, he was disruptive in the pass game and the run game, and finished the matchup with three tackles on 27 defensive snaps:

 

49ers C Weston Richburg

On Saturday, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan made a point to establish San Francisco’s rushing attack, which was dormant over the team’s first two preseason games. The 49ers did just that against the Colts, and while newcomer running back Alfred Morris received much of the credit, he had his offensive line — and particularly center Weston Richburg — to thank for his impressive stat line.

Along with the majority of the 49ers’ starting linemen, Richburg played 63 percent of the team’s offensive snaps, and helped open huge holes for San Francisco’s running backs while keeping star quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo upright. Throughout the preseason, it was easy to see what Shanahan and 49ers general manager John Lynch saw in the free-agent center, and why they were quick to sign him to a substantial five-year contract over the offseason:

 

49ers CB Ahkello Witherspoon

It took nearly half the 2017 season for 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to win a starting role, but once he did, he was San Francisco’s defacto No. 1 corner for the remainder of his rookie year. While starting on the outside for the 49ers last season, Witherspoon was rarely tested by opposing offenses, as fellow cornerback Dontae Johnson — NFL’s fifth-worst corner, per Pro Football Focus — was easily the weaker link of the two DBs.

But with the 49ers’ offseason signing of top cornerback Richard Sherman, Witherspoon will begin the 2018 season as the outside cornerback opposing offenses are more likely to attack. Yesterday, Sherman demonstrated that he still commands the respect of opposing QBs, as Luck mostly avoided the right side of the field while Sherman was in the game.

Although Witherspoon’s performance against the Colts was far from perfect, the second-year cornerback appears be to up for the challenge he’s likely to face this season:

Listen to Locked On 49ers host Brian Peacock’s review of the San Francisco 49ers’ Preseason Week 3 dress rehearsal — including “stock up” and “stock down” player analysis — on yesterday’s Rapid React podcast:

Chris Wilson is the Lead Writer for Locked on 49ers - part of the Locked On Podcast Network. You may have seen Chris Wilson’s work on NFL game theory, statistical analysis and film breakdowns at FanSided, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, ClutchPoints, Insidethe49 and others. Follow Chris Wilson on Twitter @cgawilson.

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