Football is finally back in the Bay Area, with the 49ers and Raiders both looking to show the fans and the rest of the league that they both are vastly improved. Within each of those teams, there are players looking to make their mark. Rookies and veterans alike are trying to fight for and sustain their positions in the lineup and on the 53-man roster. This usually makes for some impressive plays in the preseason as players go for broke, trying to show the coaches they belong.
So naturally, I'm going to look at the top five performances between the 49ers and Raiders from the first week of the exhibition season.
5. Mike Iupati, LG, 49ers
I contemplated giving this spot to Reggie Smith, the cornerback on the 49ers for his pick six, but I think it's worth noting how little we've heard of Mike Iupati since the game. The reason is simple: he didn't make any mistakes. I can't really think of a time where pressure was given up from his side because of his block. The right side of the line struggled at times, but the rookie on the left held his own. He even powered through in the run game and allowed some big runs, including a touchdown run or two.
It would be nice to hear his name called as he dominates someone else - but I'd wager this performance on Sunday showed that 49ers fans someday will. He played a good portion of the game, being rotated out in the second half, and then back in for an extended look. Iupati will get even more looks next Sunday and I'd wager he'll have a similar performance.
4. Matt Shaughnessy, DL, Raiders
I'll go ahead and spoil it for you right now: the Raiders players on this list are all from the defensive line. Shaughnessy looks vastly improved this year. He looks bigger and stronger, and his presence on the defensive line was felt. The run had no chance going through him, standing up runners and generally causing havoc in the backfield.
He was in for two sacks as well. Shaughnessy looks to be solidifying himself into a starting role, and will try and built on that this week. He was one of the more impressive figures on a defensive line that is, quite frankly, pretty darn scary against both the run and the pass.
3. Diyral Briggs, LB, 49ers
Diyral Briggs, an undrafted rookie out of Bowling Green, was a fringe player last year. He had a good preseason but was considered too small and too raw. After being elevated to the 53-man roster for the final four (or so) games of last season, he worked on building muscle this offseason. Not only does he look bigger, he looks faster and more intense. He was only in on a couple of tackles, but he made many good efforts, leaving it all out there on the field. He saw time at linebacker and defensive line, and at both he looked good rushing the passer, getting into the backfield.
He also snagged an interception, which looked mighty impressive, though it did end in him fumbling the ball. I don't think you can chastise a linebacker too much for, you know... running back stuff. It's something he'll work on a little bit, but playing among backups and third stringers, Diyral Briggs looked like he needed to be on an active roster, playing against starters.
2. LaMarr Houston, DL, Raiders
Houston was quiet for a good portion of the game, but early on he was impressive. Against the run and pass, he showed he was the correct pick from the Raiders. The best thing about his performance was his two sacks in the opening series, generally causing havoc and showing he belonged. In the second half, Houston played some defensive tackle as well, being a major contributor to Oakland's run stopping game. The fans have got to be happy about this pick.
1. Anthony Dixon, RB, 49ers
Dixon was set to be fixated with a very long look of scrutiny from coaches, players and fans alike - and it turned out they didn't need to look real hard. Dixon came on strong in a big way, justifying being drafted and possibly cementing himself as the teams primary backup to Frank Gore.
He rushed 21 times for 100 yards and caught 3 passes for 22 yards. He showed good strength and speed, and aside from one or two plays, good patients and intelligence. Above all, he was consistent, and consistency is the main thing you're looking for in a backup running back. His pass protection was also solid, which is one thing that has held 49ers running backs out in the past.
1. Jared Veldheer, OL, Raiders
2. Bruce Campbell, OL, Raiders
3. Reggie Smith, CB, 49ers