Notes: 49ers developments through two 2017 exhibition games

The 49ers are now 1-1 after two exhibition games, winning their first on the road in Kansas City, while dropping their second game and first at home to Denver. With preseason halfway through, some of the answers we were looking for are now starting to crystalize.

High-level takeaways

-Eric Reid looks like one of the best defenders on the field. He’s filling the right gaps and playing a supportive role in coverage, rather than being responsible for an entire area or weapon, which is yielding positive results for the secondary. Reid has a chance to lead this team in tackles in 2017 and maybe earn an extension.

-Undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome is playing standout football, and may be entering the realm of starter conversation, even with Jimmie Ward’s impending return. Depending on how the Niners feel about the cornerback play, they may want to discuss where Ward is best utilized—especially if they have something in Jerome.

-NaVorro Bowman had an athletic pass breakup on a third-down pass from Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch. He still looks spry in coverage.

-Brian Hoyer is a little cold; at least not looking as good in preseason games as he has in camp. He’s not seeing open receivers, and other times his ball placement is off. Consistency is missing. He needs to be a little sharper come the regular season. Hoyer through two exhibition games (@ KC, vs. DEN): 9-of-15, 92 yards, an interception and a fumble. He’s not been alarmingly bad, but there’s definitely room for improvement.

-The interior offensive line is a problem, all the way up to the first team. Nobody is finding room to run behind that line. This could very well be the 49ers’ biggest setback of the regular season.

-2017 third-round pick C.J. Beathard appeared to lock down the No. 2 quarterback job Saturday night at Levi's Stadium. Shanahan’s handpicked rookie quarterback has looked impressive over his first two games, feeling pressure and spreading the ball around, and also hasn’t been afraid to take shots downfield.

The offense as a whole seems energized when he’s behind center. His line over two games (@ KC, vs. DEN): 14-of-23, 211 yards, 3 TD, no interceptions and a fourth-quarter comeback. He has a 130.6 passer rating. Keep an eye on his trajectory.

-George Kittle validated the offseason talk Saturday night in his 49ers debut, catching three passes for 33 yards and a long touchdown in which he trucked through a Bronco defender. The rookie tight end appears to have good chemistry with Hawkeye brethren C.J. Beathard, as the two were finding each other early and often. As predicted, Kittle looks like TE1 for the 49ers.

“It was just play-action pass, C.J. found me in the flat,” Kittle told CBS KPIX about his 29-yard touchdown after the game. “Just kept going, trucking to the end zone.

“We ran that (bootleg) a lot at Iowa, that was most of our offense. Upwards of 20 or 30 times at Iowa. We connected on it a lot.”

-Victor Bolden returned a kick 106 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, really showing off his extra gear. In addition to being a primary returner, he’s been very solid at receiver, making it possible that the 49ers keep up to seven wide receivers (Bolden, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson, Jeremy Kerley, Marquise Goodwin and Pierre Garcon).

-49ers starter Rashard Robinson is making several mental errors in coverage and continues to miss tackles. It’s becoming more apparent to quarterbacks that the way to beat the cornerback is to connect with the receiver quick and force Robinson to bring the ball carrier down. As of now, this is a chink in the 49ers’ defensive armor.

-The 49ers have been sloppy this preseason. We’ve seen the missed tackles, but through two games, they’ve committed 28 penalties for 217 yards. “The ones I was disappointed with was the pre-snap penalties,” Shanahan told reporters after the Broncos game. They’ve also given the ball away five times and have a –3 turnover ratio.

-H-back Kyle Juszczyk, now the highest-paid FB in the league, is going to be a serious weapon in this offense. He had a splash play Saturday evening, taking a pass in the flat and putting a move on a defender to gain more yards and pick up a fresh set of downs. Juszczyk looks like he'll be a primary outlet for the 49ers quarterback.

Media courtesy NFL Network, Getty Images

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