The San Francisco 49ers finished their Week 1 preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys winning 17-9. For NFL preseason Week 2, they will fly to Denver for a Monday night brawl against the Broncos. As the date of playing nears, there are a few areas of focus to keep tabs on.
3. Players stepping up in the wake of injuries
The 49ers’ injury luck has been anything but lucky. Following a season where their quarterback and running back both went down with ACLs by the mid-way point or before, the 49ers continue to struggle with injuries. No. 2 overall pick and edge rusher Nick Bosa won’t be playing in the preseason with a high ankle sprain, cornerback Jason Verrett suffered the same injury, running back Jerik McKinnon (who’s returning from an ACL) may start on the injured reserve, and swing tackle Shon Coleman went down four snaps into preseason Week 1.
The four previously mentioned don’t do due justice to their injured roster. Trent Taylor, Weston Richburg, K’Waun Williams, and Garrett Celek are dealing with their ailments.
In the wake of the injuries, the 49ers will be looking for depth members to step up. To replace Bosa is a bevy of either undrafted, journeyman, or simply depth talent. For Coleman, rookie Justin Skule will fill in. Marcell Harris and D.J. Reed will continue to see snaps for Verrett. As for McKinnon, the 49ers pride themselves on their running back depth. In culmination, a jumble of unknowns will see time in the preseason to fill in.
2. Wide receivers, specifically, the young ones
We can cut Marquise Goodwin out of this conversation; he’s a proven commodity. With that logic, Jordan Matthews can join him. Because what 49ers faithful and the organization are looking for is a standout from a young litter of receivers they’ve invested heavily over the past three offseasons. Six of them will be watched meticulously, including
- Trent Taylor – 2017 fifth-round pick
- Kendrick Bourne – 2017 undrafted signing
- Dante Pettis – 2018 second-round pick
- Richie James – 2018 seventh-round pick
- Deebo Samuel – 2019 second-round pick
- Jalen Hurd – 2019 third-round pick
One of the six mentioned will likely start week one as a Z-receiver, or even X, alongside Goodwin. The likeliest bet to do so is Pettis; as he did last year and recorded 467 yards and five touchdowns in the process. But Samuel is knocking at his door after an impressive NFL debut in Week 1 — as he tallied two catches for 61 yards. As for Hurd, he currently stands as a gadget with sky-high potential; as an uber-athletic former running back to receiver convert.
Factoring in Goodwin and Mathews’ nearly locked in status on the roster, all six may not make it. Pettis, James, Samuel, and Hurd should be safe; considering the 49ers recently drafted them. But Taylor and Bourne, not so much. So, there is more than a depth positioning battle to watch; there is also one to make the roster.
1. Jimmy Garoppolo
Jimmy Garoppolo didn’t play in the Week 1 preseason game. But, head coach Kyle Shanahan mentioned that he would see time against Denver. Though he’ll likely see limited snaps playing a vanilla offense, all eyes will be on Jimmy G; as is the nature of a starting quarterback in the NFL.
49ers faithful and their critics will be watching Garoppolo with a watchful eye. The former New England Patriot was a revelation in 2017; looking the part of a franchise quarterback then receiving a contract that solidified it. In 2018, he tore his ACL, ending his season quickly as crushed dreams of a playoff appearance followed.
The 49ers will live and die by Garappolo’s hand. It’s that simple. Due to that, he’s undoubtedly an area of focus alone.