49ers preseason opener: What to look for against Green Bay

The 49ers kick off the preseason tonight with a home game at Levi’s Stadium against the Green Bay Packers. Many starters are not expected to play; however, this contest will give many their first glimpse of the changes to several key areas. 

Here is what to look for tonight against the Packers.

Trey Lance

Kyle Shanahan stated Tuesday he would like to get his starting quarterback some playing time in the preseason opener.

Training camp has been a bit rocky for Lance. 

“I think it’s gone kind of how you expect it. How you do with every quarterback,” said Shanahan when asked what he’s seen from Lance during the early stages of camp. “I think he’s had some really good days. He’s had a couple of rough days, but I’ve been really pleased with Trey and real pleased with all three of them.”

Sure, he started a game as a rookie, but tonight will be the first time Lance takes the field as the full-time starting quarterback of the 49ers. 

Things to look for: It will be all about the little things for Lance tonight. How is he getting the team in and out of the huddle? Is he being patient in the pocket? Is he trusting his eyes? 

Interior offensive line

The 49ers have entirely revamped the middle of their offensive line over the offseason. 

Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford have stepped in at left guard and right guard. The second and first-year offensive linemen have taken every snap with the starting unit in training camp. 

At center will be either Jake Brendel or Daniel Brunskill. The two journeymen have rotated throughout training camp with no clear-cut starter emerging. 

Things to look for: How does this group hold up? What is the rotation at center?

Running back 

Expect the running backs to get a lot of action against Green Bay. 

This group has quite a bit to prove. Last season saw Deebo Samuel forced to take carries from the backfield due to the ineffectiveness behind starter Elijah Mitchell.

In addition to Mitchell, San Francisco returns ball carriers Trey Sermon, Jeff Wilson Jr, and JaMycal Hasty. All three have produced big plays on the ground throughout twelve training camp practices. The 49ers chose a running back in the draft’s third round this year, meaning one of these veterans likely won’t make the 53-man roster.

With tackling limited during training camp, tonight will provide the first glimpse of how powerful rookie Tyrion Davis-Price truly is. The third-round draft pick has shown a combination of speed and power in practices and is looking forward to finally being able to run through defenders. 

 “I’m so excited to really go out there and show what I’m about,” said Davis-Price when asked how he feels about finally being able to truly finish off a run. 

Jordan Mason joins Davis-Price as a new kid on the block. The undrafted rookie free agent out of Georgia Tech has looked explosive with the ball in his hands. Despite not getting many carries in camp, Mason has been hanging tough and should see several attempts against the Packers.

Things to look for: How does the power of Davis-Price translate to the NFL? How does the rotation play out? Can Trey Sermon’s strong training camp performance carry over to the game?

Cornerback

Charvarius Ward and Emmanuel Moseley, San Francisco’s top two corners, are out due to lower body injuries. Replacing them will be Ambry Thomas, Deommodore Lenoir, and Ka’dar Hollman.

Thomas made several starts over the second half of last season and has struggled to keep receivers in front of him during training camp. 

Lenoir did not see the field much during his rookie season. Like Thomas, Lenoir had a tough time not allowing receivers to get past him. Against Green Bay last season, Lenoir was too far off Davante Adams late, allowing the Packers to get into position for a game-winning field goal. Lenoir did not see the field much after that game. 

The Packers originally drafted Hollman in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. Last season he spent time on the practice squad in Houston, New Orleans, and the New York Giants. He joined the 49ers this offseason and has impressed the coaches enough to move up the depth chart. 

The 49ers are also looking to replace K’Waun Williams at nickel cornerback.

Veteran Darqueze Dennard and rookie Samuel Womack have been battling for the starting role throughout training camp. Womack has continued to impress, closing the gap in recent days. Solid in coverage, it remains to be seen how Womack holds up against the run. 

Things to look for: Can Thomas, Lenoir, and Hollman be solid backup options? Does Womack show the ability to defend the run?

Wide receiver

Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk are the undisputed top two wide receivers on San Francisco’s roster. Behind these two things get a bit murky.

Jauan Jennings entered camp as the clear-cut number three wide receiver. However, Jennings has struggled with inconsistency thus far in camp.

Like Jennings, rookie Danny Gray has yet to get things going entirely. The SMU product, brought in to be a downfield threat, has struggled to gain separation consistently.

As Jennings and Gray have struggled, free agent addition Ray-Ray McCloud has impressed. The veteran wideout has been productive daily. Known mainly as an underneath threat during his time in Pittsburgh, McCloud has shown the ability to make plays at every level during his short time in San Francisco. 

Behind this group, we find veteran options such as Malik Turner, Marcus Johnson, KeeSean Johnson, Willie Snead IV, and rookie Tay Martin fighting for the sixth and final roster spot. 

Things to look for: Will McCloud’s strong camp carry over to the game? Can Jennings and Gray make a play? Who makes the best case to be on the final roster?

Drake Jackson

The 49ers top draft pick has impressed with his explosiveness and ability to bend the edge. Not to mention the backflip the 270-pound defensive end pulled off before practice last week. Can he carry the strong camp into a game? 

This article has 2 Comments

  1. Thanks Jack.
    While I’m excited about the 49ers getting back on the field, I want to see Shanahan be smart with his starters. As you noted the Brendel, Brunskill is a competition that is ongoing. Tonight could serve as a good window to see where they are in the pecking order.

    Under the radar players could possibly get a chance to shine as well. And this is the reason why I enjoy the preseason games.

    But the last thing I want to see tonight is Trey having to run out of the pocket for lack of protection. This is why I said that Shanahan has to be smart with his starters.

    Jack, looking forward to your insight tomorrow.

  2. I really want to see Mason given chances. He is on the bubble and may get chosen by another team if even if he goes on the PS. Let us give him a good look. Several players are in this category. Also, want to see Purdy work.

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