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Brett Kollmann's 3rd Quarter Notes From Texans-49ers: Chandler Worthy Dazzles On Special Teams

The Texans have had a pretty terrible history when it comes to special teams, so you can imagine just how exciting it was to see Chandler Worthy consistently ripping off long returns against the 49ers last weekend.

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The third quarter of a preseason game can be kind of painful to watch at times. Most if not all of the starters have long been out of the game, and at this point the coaching staff is just evaluating backups and players on the roster bubble to see where they are at with their depth. This mentality, of course, means that we have to watch a lot of bad football throughout the month of August. Regardless of the quality of play, however, I’ve got more notes to take. Let’s get on to the third quarter of Texans-49ers, shall we? But before we do, here are the first two parts of this series:

First Quarter

Second Quarter

And now for the third quarter...

1. Carlos Thompson is still having major issues holding the edge against the run. Holding or not, he got swallowed by Blake Bell on a Mike Davis run for a first down. Even if Bell wasn’t getting a fistful of jersey, I don’t think Thompson ever had a shot on this one. He really, really needs to get stronger at the point of attack or he won’t make this team.

2. Kevin Johnson looks so much like a younger version of Johnathan Joseph, it’s almost uncanny. He just exploded out of his back pedal to make an open field tackle on DeAndrew White for 3 yards. I’m not sure any other corner on the roster can cover a 10 yard split as fast as K-Jo.

3. Chandler Worthy’s speed on returns really is something. Pursuit angles are literally meaningless to him. I think he’ll make the roster just on special teams potential alone.

4. James Ferentz was very up and down in the second quarter, but he’s had a couple strong pass pro reps to start the third. When he uses his low center of gravity to his advantage, he is basically an immovable human boulder.

5. I’ve seen Mike McFarland show up well as a blocker a few times so far today, but he still needs to learn a few lessons about leverage. He’s a big-bodied tight end with long arms that is used to being more physically gifted than just about everyone he was facing, but even the longest and strongest blockers can still get put on their asses if they don’t respect the laws of physics. If McFarland keeps that butt low and uses his natural strength to his advantage as a blocker and special teamer, he could make a push for that third tight end job. He certainly has the tools for it.

6. You can tell that Chris Polk relishes every opportunity he has to inflict pain and misery on people who try to tackle him in space. I love that about him.

7. I’m not really sure why, but James Ferentz just stared at Shane Skov as he ran right by him in pursuit of a screen pass to Polk. The play of course resulted in an entirely avoidable tackle for loss, which is not a good look for Ferentz, considering he was lead blocking for Polk…or at least he was supposed to be.

8. At Arizona State, Jaelen Strong was known to be nigh unstoppable on back shoulder fades because of how well he used his big frame to shield defensive backs from the ball. He then came out and demonstrated that very same skillset in his first professional game for a touchdown. Whether Strong is the 3rd, 4th, or 5th wideout on the depth chart, I think that size and physicality will at the very least earn him plenty of snaps in the red zone this season.

9. Jason Ankrah just made a hell of a play against the run following Kourtnei Brown’s first sack.  He physically dominated the tight end at the point of attack, took on Bruce Miller’s lead block without losing an inch, and then forced the running back to bubble and re-direct into a hard charging Darryl Morris. Speaking of Morris, he has made several great clean up tackles on the edges today. I’m very, very impressed with him.

10. One play later, Ankrah came free to get a sack in the end zone for a safety. The reason he was mostly untouched, however, is because Christian Covington was immediately double-teamed off the snap. Covington has clearly been the best defensive lineman on the field among the second and third teamers (and I don’t think it’s even been close), and the 49ers are starting to show their respect for him. He is not on Jared Crick’s level yet and will likely not challenge for the starting spot, but if Covington keeps flashing throughout the rest of the preseason, he will earn a big role in the rotation.

11. Greg Mancz and James Ferentz just gave Kenny Hilliard the football equivalent of a canyon to run through. Even Kendall Lamm took a break from getting beat and helped blow open the lane play side (even though he was only going against Eli Harold, who was downright atrocious at the point of attack in college). It’s nice to see the backups start to assert their dominance.

12. Tom Savage looks like a completely different player from a year ago. He’s confident, he’s making great decisions with the ball, and he’s showing that he has the arm to make every single throw in the playbook. Bill O’Brien might have something here.

13. We’re over halfway through the 3rd quarter.  Kevin Johnson leads the defense in snaps, and he still has yet to allow a catch. I just want to point that out because it makes me giddy.

14. All three of these quarterbacks are killing the Niners with underneath and boundary throws. None of them have done much to test San Francisco’s safeties deep, but they have been so efficient on short and intermediate throws that they haven’t really needed to chuck it deep in the first place.

15. Lamm is still getting his ass kicked out there.  Ferentz and Mancz combined to open up yet another lane for Polk on 3rd and 4 only for Lamm to ruin it by getting beat badly inside. There have been a lot of yards left on the table because of his blown blocks throughout the game.

16. I’m starting to see Louis Nix maintain control of his front side gap on zone runs now; he struggled with that in the first half. Maybe going against third stringers is helping with that, but hey, I’ll take the improvement. Side note:  On the same play Max Bullough beat the center front side on the second level, penetrated into the back field, adjusted to the ball carrier’s cutback, and brought him down by the ankles. He single-handedly wrecked that play. Love it.

17. Okay, we’re done here. I’m calling it. Chandler Worthy is your starting punt returner, folks. He's making people look silly out there.

What did you think of the backups that got a lot of playtime in the third quarter, BRB? Were you as excited about Chandler Worthy as I was? Did Kevin Johnson show that he can be a future number one corner for this team? Sound off below.

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