The San Francisco 49ers open the home portion of their preseason slate Saturday evening when they take on the Denver Broncos at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. Coming off a 34-7 loss to the Raiders in their preseason opener, the 49ers will look for improved performances from several players in their second practice game.
Here is what to watch for Saturday evening against the Broncos.
According to Shanahan, there is a possibility of quarterback Brock Purdy making his preseason debut. For this to happen most of the 49ers starting offense will also be on the field.
If Purdy and the starters get on the field expect them to play about a series, maybe two depending on how many plays they get in.
Trey Lance got the first half against the Raiders with Sam Darnold coming in for the third quarter. This will be flipped against Denver on Saturday night.
The battle to back up Brock Purdy is tight. Darnold looks better, he’s smoother, but the results so far haven’t been much different from those of Lance. A longer look at the veteran should provide a clearer view of where the two are.
Jordan Mason vs Ty Davis-Price
With Elijah Mitchell battling injuries once again the door is open for Mason or Davis-Price to step up and take the second running back role.
Mason has looked solid during camp with several nice runs. More importantly, Mason has shown himself to be the more capable back in pass protection. The former undrafted free agent is not afraid to square up defenders when it comes to protecting the quarterback.
The same cannot be said for Davis-Price. The former third-round pick had a poor showing against Las Vegas, diving or simply throwing a shoulder at the oncoming blitzers.
San Francisco spent a third-round pick on the former Alabama tight end and so far the investment is not paying off. Latu has struggled to hold on to the ball throughout camp. He’s dropping passes on a consistent basis, and when he does make a catch like he did against the Raiders, he fumbles.
With the drafting of Latu and Brayden Willis it is clear the 49ers are looking for upgrades behind George Kittle.
Willis has proven to be the better pass catcher of the two, but he’s not yet the blocker Latu or veteran Charlier Woerner are. On the other hand, Ross Dwelley is one of the best receivers on the team and is doing everything he can to improve as a blocker.
Latu’s drops could lead to some very tough decisions at this position come cut down.
San Francisco added Isaiah Oliver to be their slot corner during free agency.
Following a rough performance against Las Vegas, Kyle Shanahan said of Oliver “he isn’t a guaranteed starter. He has been doing that spot a lot, but there’s a lot of competition the re.”
The competition ramped up during practice this week with Deommodore Lenoir, A.J. Parker and rookie D’Shawn Jamison getting several reps inside.
Rookies Jalen Graham and Dee Winters are pushing veterans Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Curtis Robinson for roster spots behind Fred Warner, Dre Greelaw and Oren Burks.
Against the Raiders, Graham finished with six tackles, tying him for the team lead with second year linebacker Marcelino McCrary-Ball.
Graham’s background as a safety-linebacker hybrid in college is like that of Fred Warner. Like the 49ers All-Pro linebacker, Graham has shown the ability to move well in coverage while also attacking the line of scrimmage against the run.
The 49ers starters are set along the offensive line. The key question is who fills the three positions behind Trent Williams, Aaron Banks, Jake Brendel, Spencer Burford and Colton McKivitz.
Jon Feliciano is about as sure a thing as the five starters. The veteran started at center against Las Vegas and can play all three positions along the interior of the offensive line.
Swing tackle is up for grabs with Jaylon Moore and Matt Pryor competing. Moore, a fifth-round pick of the 49ers in 2021, appears to have the edge due to his ability to play both sides while Pryor is much better on the right side than left.
The eighth and likely final spot on the active roster is a tough call. Nick Zakelj, a 2022 sixth-round pick has been up and down throughout camp. The same can be said for another second-year player, Jason Poe.
Undrafted rookie free agents Ilm Manning and Joey Fisher drew praise from offensive line coach Chris Foerster for their play late in the game on Sunday.
Robert Beal Jr.
San Francisco used a fifth-round pick on the defensive end out of Georgia. Beal was held out of the preseason opener due to injury and is expected to make his preseason debut against Denver.
The 49ers were drawn to Beal for his explosiveness off the snap. Something he showed off during one-on-one reps with the offensive line during practices this week.
Moody gave plenty of ammo to fans who felt the 49ers made a mistake by taking the kicker in the third round when he missed both of his field goal attempts, wide left from 40 yards and wide right from 58 yards, against the Raiders.
The rookie was very good in practice this week with his only miss coming on a 61 yard attempt Tuesday afternoon.