Missing from the 49ers’ exhibition-opening win Friday night was a staple of their recent offenses: quarterback scrambles and designed runs.
Neither Brian Hoyer nor his backups Matt Barkley and C.J. Beathard took off running once, and, in fact, Beathard’s poise in the pocket sparked the fourth-quarter comeback and 27-17 victory at Kansas City.
“Usually guys scramble because no one’s open or they’re not comfortable in the pocket, and I’d rather play football,” coach Kyle Shanahan told this newspaper recently at training camp.
Hoyer played only seven snaps Friday so he had a small sample size. But the undisputed starter has scrambled just four times in 11 practices at training camp.
“If Brian is scrambling a ton in the season, we’re going to be in trouble,” Shanahan added.
Since 2011, the 49ers have deployed mobile quarterbacks: Colin Kaepernick, Alex Smith and Blaine Gabbert. Kaepernick had 375 carries and 2,300 rushing yards in regular-season action from 2011-16, plus 51 more runs for 507 yards in some remarkable playoff showings.
Beathard’s pocket poise won over the 49ers before the draft, and he showed that off by throwing a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes, plus a two-point conversion pass to tie it at 17.
Shanahan, in a media conference call Saturday, said he expects Beathard to play earlier in Saturday night’s exhibition against Denver at Levi’s Stadium. Shanahan held off from naming Beathard his No. 2 over Barkley but called it a “very stiff competition.”
“He does good job hanging in the pocket, getting the ball to the right spots,” Shanahan said of Beathard. “You can see he’s a pretty tough competitor.”
“It’s like peripheral stuff,” Beathard said of his pocket presence. “You can feel it around you when the pocket is closing in around you and you have to move a little bit. It’s just something that all quarterbacks have to deal with and figure out as they get older.”
— Solomon Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick, was “antsy” as he waited to rotate into the defensive line and debut. “I wanted to get in,” Thomas said. “But I definitely waited my turn, let the ones do their thing, then get in and do what I had to do.”
He did quite well on his first play, pressuring Chiefs quarterback Tyler Bray into throwing a pass Rashard Robinson intercepted. Later, Thomas’ pressure nearly resulted in a sack but instead an Aaron Lynch pass break-up.
Thomas played 28 defensive snaps (54 percent). Said Shanahan: “He definitely got noticed out there, caused some pressure on the quarterback, ran to the ball, got a big hit on the sidelines.”
— After Carlos Hyde’s seven-snap cameo, the running back reps were split among Matt Breida (28), Joe Williams (25) and Raheem Mostert (23). Tim Hightower, who’s been hindered by a knee issue, did not play. Kapri Bibbs’ four snaps came on special teams.
Mostert tallied a team-high 89 yards on 15 carries. Williams averaged an impressive 8.6 yards per carry (seven for 60 yards). Breida, first off the bench, had an impressive 7-yard run to the 1 but struggled in goal-line runs and finished with 11 carries for 40 yards.
“We wanted to give all three of those backs a chance to get out there and perform once Carlos came out,” Shanahan said. “All three of them did a good job.”
— DeForest Buckner aggravated a low-ankle sprain that isn’t a long-term concern, Shanahan said. Buckner will rest this week rather than face the Denver Broncos, who’ll practice at the 49ers complex Wednesday and Thursday before Saturday’s exhibition. Defensive lineman Ronald Blair (groin) also is doubtful.
— Shanahan was impressed by undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome, who played the most defensive snaps (33) while starting at free safety in place of the injured Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt.
— Safety Jimmie Ward will have his hamstring tested Monday to possibly come off the physically unable to perform list.
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