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Victor Oladipo, Pacers

49ers: 3 biggest performances from the preseason opener

The San Francisco 49ers are viewing the 2019 season as a new era with Kyle Shanahan. Essentially, San Francisco is hitting the rewind button, hoping to recall the time before quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a season-ending injury in 2018.

Before last season, there was a sense of optimism for the 49ers with Shanahan set to have a full campaign with Garoppolo under center. Unfortunately, his season was cut short when he suffered a torn ACL against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 3.

After that, all of the built-up optimism turned into despair. The team was forced to turn to backup quarterback C.J. Beathard. He had a bumpy five games as the starter, losing all five. He threw eight touchdowns and seven interceptions in the process.

As a result of his struggles, Shanahan promoted Nick Mullens, an undrafted rookie, to the starting spot. Mullens gave life to the offense, going 3-5 as the starter. Comparatively, Mullens had 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Nonetheless, the 49ers are itching to get Garoppolo on the field again this preseason. They paid him $27.5 million over five years before the 2018 season. However, the 49ers could divorce him before the 2020 season.

This year, there are lofty expectations for San Francisco again. The 49ers began their journey on Saturday in their preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys. Here are the three biggest performances for the 49ers against Dallas.

3. Jeremiah Valoaga (2 Sacks)

Just two days before the 49ers faced the Cowboys on Saturday, the team signed Jeremiah Valoaga to a one-year deal. It didn’t take long for Valoaga to make an impression on the team; he managed to get two sacks in his 49ers debut.

Valoaga kick-started his career with the Detroit Lions after being signed as an undrafted rookie out of UNLV in 2017. With the Lions, Valoaga spent most of his time on the practice squad before being cut by them last September. Valoaga suited up in nine games with Detroit, totaling one sack and five hits on the quarterback.

The undrafted defensive end found a new home with the Miami Dolphins a few weeks after being released by the Lions. His stint with Miami was short-lived; he was released in May. After a few months of trying to get back into the NFL, Valoaga received a call from the 49ers.

By joining the 49ers, Valoaga will get a ton of reps in the preseason while they allow a few of their defensive linemen to return from injury. Starters Nick Bosa and Dee Ford are sidelined with injuries.

2. Deebo Samuel (2 Receptions, 61 Yards, 1 Rush, 14 Yards)

Among the players fans were anxious to watch, Deebo Samuel shined in his preseason debut with the 49ers. The rookie wideout caught two passes for 61 yards. He also carried the ball once for an extra 14-yard gain.

Samuel’s second and final catch of the game came on a 45-yard play in which the South Carolina product adjusted to an underthrown ball by C.J. Beathard and leaped over a defender to bring the ball down.

San Francisco took Samuel with the 36th overall pick in this year’s draft. Shanahan wants Samuel to become a reliable source of offense in the 2019 season.

The second-rounder is competing for the 49ers’ slot receiver position with Trent Taylor, Jordan Matthews, and fellow rookie Jalen Hurd. Unfortunately, Taylor is dealing with a broken foot, tilting the competition in Samuel’s favor.

1. Jalen Hurd (3 Receptions, 31 Yards, 2 Touchdowns)

Aside from Samuel, Shanahan is ecstatic about the potential Jalen Hurd has as a rookie. In his first game with the 49ers, Hurd showed his worth by getting three receptions, 31 yards, and two touchdowns.

After taking Samuel with the 36th overall pick, San Francisco selected Hurd with the 67th overall pick. Surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo with more playmakers was important to the 49ers this offseason.

At 6-foot-4, nearly 230 pounds, it seems Hurd will have an immediate impact for the 49ers in 2019. With being the 49ers tallest receiver, Hurd could be a red-zone option for Shanahan and the offense.

At his size, Hurd has also impressed as a blocker in the rushing attack. Being able to block as a receiver is valuable to any offense.