Coach Jim Tomsula wants to pump the brakes on the expectations for 49ers running back Jarryd Hayne, who rushed for a game-high 63 yards on five rushing attempts in his first appearance on an American football field.
Hayne stepped away from his stardom in Australia’s National Rugby League to pursue a career in the NFL. His first game was a smashing success. He tore off on a 53-yard run that brought cheers of delight from members of the Australian media in the press box. (The standard warning that there's no cheering in the press box was reiterated over the intercom.) Hayne also provided a spark for the 49ers in the return game.
“I’d just want to temper everything,” Tomsula said Sunday in a conference call, the day after the 49ers’ 23-10 loss to the Houston Texans in the exhibition opener for both teams.
“We don’t need to put undue expectations (on him). That’s unnecessary to me, to put that on his plate right now. I just want him to stay focused on getting better. The guy is a world-class athlete.”
Tomsula said he has never doubted Hayne could be an explosive athlete with his straight-line speed in space. But there are parts of his game in which he must improve.
“The things we got to stay on is when you get into those tighter quarters and seeing the little creases,” Tomsula said. “That’s where the improvement is. That’s where he has to keep working. Not that he’s bad at it. He’s not, but we’ve to keep improving there.”
Hayne is competing for a spot on the 49ers’ 53-man roster. Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, Kendall Hunter and Mike Davis figure to be on the team’s roster. Hayne’s can likely place himself into the mix with his contributions on special teams.
Tomsula said he is looking for more from Hayne in the coming weeks.
“We’re definitely looking for the big growth to be from Week 1 to Week 2, and 2 to 3,” Tomsula said. “After Week 3, you’ve an idea where it is and you’re running out of time.”
---The 49ers, in general, accomplished many of the things Tomsula wanted to see in the exhibition opener -– except, of course, winning the game. Tomsula said he was pleased with the communication from the coaches’ booth to the playing field. The 49ers' only issue with tempo came in the second half when mostly rookies and first-year players were on the field.
--Left tackle Joe Staley and right tackle Erik Pears exited the game after the first series. But Tomsula said the play of the first group of offensive linemen was “a nice start.”
The 49ers will continue to work different players into the spots at center and right guard. It’s possible Marcus Martin could see more action at center with Brandon Thomas getting a longer look at right guard. On Saturday, Joe Looney started at center with Martin at right guard.
--The 49ers did not record a sack on Saturday, and Tomsula said the pass-rush was “not all the way in sync.” But he said that generally is typical for how he approaches the exhibition season.
“For me, in my history of coaching defensive line, look at preseason and the pass rushes are a little sketchy,” he said. “We don’t put a lot of game plan into the protections and we’re not putting a lot of game plan and using our leverage principles in the rush as much.”
--Outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks was moved to the right side, taking over for Aldon Smith, whom the 49ers released earlier this month. Corey Lemonier lined up on the left side with the first unit.
---First-round draft pick Arik Armstead’s first game was a mixed bag at defensive end. Armstead was credited with two tackles while playing 46 snaps. He was also flagged for holding on a running back leaving the backfield on a pass play.
“We see what we know about Arik,” Tomsula said. “He’s got some power. He’s got length. And he can bend. He knows how to use his leverage.”
--Defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye began his third season of American football with a solid showing. Okoye, who was a 2013 Olympic finalist in the discus for Great Britain, came close to collecting two sacks with his powerful bullrush. He let one get away and was a split-second late on the other.
“You saw a lot more consistency in blasting that pocket down,” Tomsula said. “And then playing some of the base blocks, you see that. His Year 3 is a little different. It’s Year 3 from zero. So he’s a junior in high school right now.”
---The 49ers surrendered 254 yards passing and the Texans quarterbacks combined for a 119.0 passer rating. Tomsula said the 49ers’ problems were a combination of individual play and not working together to get on the same page with their pass defense. Tomsula said the linebackers and secondary did not game plan for the Texans’ tendencies with their route combinations. The 49ers believe their cornerback situation is deep and talented, leading to the release last week of veteran Chris Cook.
“With the vanilla coverages that we’re running, trying to see, we’re really looking back there. That’s an area that we’re really looking at on finding out skill sets and finding out exactly who we have there on game day.”
---Undrafted rookie quarterback Dylan Thompson completed four of six pass attempts for 15 yards with one interception. He was also sacked three times. But Tomsula said his surrounding cast were as much to blame.
“There’s a surrounding cast that has to be in the right places at right times,” Tomsula said. “They have to know the depths of their routes. They have to know their protection. And we have to put it all together.”
---Linebacker Michael Wilhoite is scheduled to undergo an MRI examination this week on his leg strain that landed him on the non-football injury list at the start of training camp. As reported on Saturday, linebacker Nick Bellore is close to receiving clearance after reporting to camp with an illness. Linebacker Desmond Bishop left Saturday's game with a calf strain. It is not known how long Bishop will be sidelined.