5 players who absolutely need to perform on Thursday

The Niners fourth and final exhibition game against the San Diego Chargers this Thursday means very little for some players, and it means everything for others.

This is not a make or break week for Alex Smith. He’ll probably play very little. His make or break week will come during the regular season.

But on Saturday Harbaugh and Baalke will cut 27 players, so for the backups Thursday’s game is their last chance to make an impression on the coaches and win a roster spot.

Here are the top five players who need to have a big performance:

  1. Anthony Dixon – He clearly fell behind Kendall Hunter on the depth chart last week, and now he’s got to hold off Xavier Omon if he wants to remain a 49er. The 49ers seem to have no problem cutting recent draft picks, and Dixon was just a 6th rounder in 2010. If he rushes for less than three yards per carry in this game, he could get cut.
  2. Adam Snyder – He just lost the starting center job to Jonathan Goodwin. If Snyder plays well, he could potentially challenge Chilo Rachal for right guard job. But Snyder hasn’t been playing well – he’s been getting pushed around at the line of scrimmage. On Monday Joe Staley said he was disgusted with the line’s performance, but nobody acted more disgusted than Snyder, who refused to talk. Snyder very likely will find himself a second-stringer if he doesn’t have a big performance.
  3. Ronald Johnson – The starting five wide receivers seem to be set, and Ronald Johnson doesn’t appear to be one of them. Actually, there could be six or seven receivers in camp who have played better than Johnson. They are – Braylon Edwards, Joshua Morgan, Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Lance Long, and Chris Hogan. Not to mention Michael Crabtree, who will make the  team. Johnson is looking like a practice squad player, and with all the fumbles and drops he’s had so far this exhibition season, it’s unlikely another team will claim Johnson from the 49ers.
  4. Phillip Adams – Like the recently cut Scott McKillop, Adams hasn’t recovered 100 percent from his season-ending injury he sustained last season. For McKillop it was a knee, and for Adams it’s his ankle. The coaches describe him as 75-80 percent recovered, which doesn’t bode well for his chances of making the team. He’s going to have to show he’s closer to 90 percent on Thursday by playing tight in coverage at cornerback.
  5. A third quarterback – Both Josh McCown and McLeod Bethel-Thompson need to play well on Thursday because most likely there will be a third quarterback but not a fourth quarterback. Most likely it will be one of these two players, and neither of them has played in a single exhibition game. Sure, the coaches have seen them play in practice. But it would be fair to give them some reps on Thursday to show what they can do in under pressure.



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