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“Surge or Static?” Preseason Week 2: Walk tall and carry a big Stick

Hats off to the former fifth-round pick for his exceptional play on Sunday.

NFL: AUG 22 Preseason - 49ers at Chargers Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No need for a long intro on this one.

The Chargers lost a close 15-10 decision against the 49ers on Sunday night where most of the game was spent watching the third-teamers get handled by San Francisco’s backups and future starting quarterback. Once the third-team offensive line took the field, the game was effectively over. They couldn’t have protected Chase Daniel if their life depended on it but luckily that’s not “reality” for the Chargers. The actual line is going to be much, much better. We just don’t get to see it until next month.

Alright, now that the quick rants are out of the way, let’s dive into this.

Surge

QB Easton Stick

In his first preseason start of his young career, Stick dazzeled in an efficient, yet exciting, performance against a number of the Niners’ starters. His day was highlighted by a spectacular improvisation where he baited the defense on a scramble near the end zone before firing a dart to a wide-open Josh Palmer near the back sideline.

Stick finished with 10 completions on 14 attempts and 85 passing yards. He also rushed for 15 yards on three scrambles.

The third-year passer out of North Dakota State does not have the same arm strength as Herbert but their athleticism is much closer to each other compared to what veteran Chase Daniel has to work with.

If the Chargers want the offense to stay as similar as possible whether Herbert is on the field or not, Stick may very well be the best guy to back him up going forward.

CB Asante Samuel Jr.

Just like his father, Samuel is a ball magnet.

After picking off Jimmy Garoppolo during the team’s joint practices last week, the rookie out of Florida State did it again on Sunday afternoon when he hauled in a tipped pass off the hands of receiver Brandon Aiyuk. It was the team’s first of two interceptions off of tipped passes and one of three total takeaways by the Bolts’ defense.

He finished with one total tackle and a lone pass deflection in his limited snaps.

Early returns from Samuel are incredibly promising and I cannot wait to see him work alongside Derwin James and company on Sundays for the foreseeable future.

EDGE Kyler Fackrell

Consider the race for the starting pass rusher job opposite Joey Bosa a lot closer than we originally thought several weeks ago.

In Sunday night’s exhibition, Fackrell helped punctuate the ending of a three-and-out on defense by bringing down rookie quarterback Trey Lance late in the second quarter. He also led the team with three quarterbacks (they totaled four as a team).

At 6’5 and 250 pounds, Fackrell fits the mold for a standup pass-rusher in the team’s new front. He gets the nod over Uchenna Nwosu in terms of size and length and as of late, he’s also had the edge in performance. To be honest, if I didn’t already know Nwosu was out there, I wouldn’t have noticed him through the first two preseason contests.

Static

OT Trey Pipkins

Where to start?

Pipkins allowed two sacks on the night, including one that gave up a safety to the Niners for their first points of the game. You could argue Stick needed to get the ball out sooner, but Pipkins did just about nothing to bide his quarterback a few more fractions of a second.

To Pipkins’ credit, he’s heading into his third year in the NFL despite only having one other NFL offseason prior to this one. He lost crucial development time during the 2020 season and that should be acknowledged, but I don’t think that’s enough of a reason to try and brush off his play thus far through two preseason games.

Despite looking the part, whatever Tom Telesco saw in Pipkins prior to the 2019 draft just doesn’t seem to be showing up thus far into his career.

LB Nick Niemann

I didn’t necessarily want to include Niemann on this part of the article but it was tough to find anyone else who may have allowed the same type of damage he did while on the field Sunday night.

With 30 seconds left in the first half, Niemann did not match up with wide receiver Trent Sherfield as he went vertical, instead deciding to pass him off to an imaginary safety behind him. Sherfield caught the pass near the sideline and sprinted for a gain of 41 yards. Three plays later, Lance fired a bullet to Mohammed Sanu in between both Niemann and safety for the Niners’ first touchdown of the game.

Based on their alignment, Webb was responsible for anything deep and outside. Niemann was responsible for any routes that cut inside to the middle of the field. In Niemann’s defense, Sanu’s route gave him the option to work within the open zone. He was going to run a different route based on how Niemann and Webb chose to cover him.

While I don’t think Niemann had a good chance of defending the pass no matter what, it didn’t make sense for Niemann drop so far into the middle of the field when the 49ers had five wide and his initial alignment was only going to put him in a position to defend Sanu. He essentially just increased the size of the throwing lane for no reason at all.

He’s a sixth-round rookie so I’m not going to get too low on him, but this certainly was a humbling experience for Niemann going up against a savvy veteran.