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Five Noteworthy Performances in Preseason Week 1 - Defense

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As meaningless as the final scores are for preseason games, these games matter a lot for individual players, whether it be drafted rookies with something to prove or fringe players trying to make the team. So here are five performances I felt were noteworthy from our defense. Noteworthy doesn't mean it's positive, just that they stood out to me.

Interior Defensive Line: You would expect our first-team defensive interior rotation to be mostly Alan Branch and Brandon Mebane, but Mebane didn't play that many snaps. Instead, Junior Siavii rotated in a lot on 1st-team, and even Jimmy Wilkerson kicked into the inside at times. Having Wilkerson and Brock as defensive ends was interesting but not an experiment I hope to see a lot in the regular season. Regardless, the interior defense played fairly well. Mebane commanded double teams and collapsed the pocket like we're used to seeing him do as a 1-tech, and even got into the backfield once on limited snaps.

I'm a bit less sure about Alan Branch, who stayed in much longer, playing next to Junior Siavii with the second team. He didn't show a lot of pass moves rushing inside. He's pretty quick and aggressive off the snap, and pushes relentlessly. His standout plays were nearly getting to Rivers on the deep ball to Vincent Jackson (looks like it could've been a sack with better coverage), and knocking down a Billy Volek pass.

K.J. Wright/Malcolm Smith: Wright and Smith came in as second teamers at the MLB and WLB positions, relatively. Wright was expected by most to play the SLB and Leo spots so it's interesting to see him used as an MLB. Both players played fairly well, particularly in run support. Smith was used in coverage less than Leroy Hill but played the position well. He played well in run support, particularly in the 3rd quarter where he had a few nice tackles. K.J. Wright looked pretty decent, strong particularly in run support but occasionally lost in passing situations, either not contributing at all or looking lost in coverage. An example of this came on a 15-yard pass from Billy Volek to Seyi Ajirotutu, where Wright had his eyes on Volek, who was staring down Ajirotutu, but for some reason didn't stop to cover the receiver.

Brandon Browner: Browner looked physically impressive, a pretty fast, mobile 6'4. He came up to tackle at times, noticeably on a short catch by TE Kory Sperry and another dump-off pass to Jordan Todman, and he looks like a sound, aggressive tackler. That said, there's a bunch of red flags here too, or really one big red flag. He looks very undisciplined and happy with his hands, and that's just asking for pass interference penalties. He might get away with it the same way the press-man corners in San Diego do by being consistent about it, but it's a risk, and I'd rather see him improve his hands discipline to make it less of an issue. That said, he seems to have all the tools to play cornerback. His best play was in coverage of Laurent Robinson, where he whipped his head around just in time to knock down what would have been a touchdown catch. It'd be good see him looking for the ball some more when in coverage, he doesn't seem very apt to turn his head to the pass, not responding when the receiver is clearly setting to receive. Don't want to sacrifice mugging to coverage.

Jeron Johnson: Johnson didn't get too many snaps, but he made the most of the snaps he did, registering two tackles, including one for a loss, and defending two passes. The tackle for a loss was a nice stop on 3rd and 1, running from the defensive left end to the right to tackle Isaac Odim one yard behind the line. Johnson was used as a movable chess piece, which is always my favorite type of player, lining up all over the field with different assignments. He performed well, and broke up the final pass of the game, a nice play where he positioned himself well enough to pick off the ball with a bit more luck.

Pierre Allen: Allen already came in on the 2nd team a bit into the second half, playing both defensive end spots. I noticed him a few times pushing into the backfield, but of course he really showed up when executing his specialized roar-sack from the weakside DE spot on Scott Tolzien, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Pep Levingston (who also had a nice though not outstanding game). The next snap Tolzien took after we scored, Allen got into the backfield, Tolzien panicked at mediocre pressure, and then scrambled downfield with Allen chasing him. It was amusing.