The San Francisco 49ers had a rough preseason debut, losing to the Las Vegas Raiders 34-7. Though there weren't too many bright spots in the loss, especially since the 49ers prefer seeing their players in joint practices, some players have managed to shine.

The 49ers are especially seeing some players step up in the secondary. The secondary has typically been the weak link of the 49ers defense the past 10 years while the defensive line and linebacking corps flourished for the red and gold. With key players emerging and the arrival of defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, who has previously specialized as a defensive backs coach, the secondary could legitimately take several steps forward.

Third-year cornerback Ambry Thomas is one player stepping up this preseason after having a couple of pass breakups in the loss. The former third-round pick out of Michigan has been designated to a limited role his first two seasons, but Thomas is looking to increase his playing time. With CB Isaiah Oliver floundering as of late, Thomas gets to try out the outside cornerback role while Deommodore Lenoir heads back to the nickel.

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“The move puts Lenoir in the nickel spot the team originally envisioned for him and rewards Thomas for a strong offseason. He’s been a favorite of defensive coordinator Steve Wilks since the spring and is showing more confidence than he did a year ago when he fell behind in the cornerback competition and barely got on the field,” per Matt Barrows of The Athletic.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan has also taken notice of Thomas's strides this offseason.

“He’s come back a different player than he was last year,” Kyle Shanahan said. “And it looked like that from the sidelines. I thought he flew around, made a couple of tackles, and I’m excited to watch him on (film) on the plane,” via Barrows.

Also flashing in the secondary is 2023 third-round pick safety Ji'Ayir Brown. Brown was the 49ers first draft pick this year and is currently projected as the third safety on the roster behind Tashaun Gipson and Talanoa Hufanga.

Brown had three tackles in his first preseason game, but will likely become a rotational player for the 49ers this season. DC Steve Wilks has been a big fan and advocate of the 49ers drafting Brown, which only adds to his growing stock.

“His tape just jumped off at you. He just makes plays,” Wilks said. “He just started growing on me, the conversation that we're having, his dedication to the game, he's mature, he sees it with a different lens and I said, this guy right here can be the future for us, so I was excited about it and I'm glad we got him,” via Jose Luis Sanchez III of Sports Illustrated.

On the offensive side of the ball, second-year running back Tyrion Davis-Price continues to climb the running back depth chart. Though Davis-Price only had 29 yards on nine carries in the preseason opener, it's a good sign to see him get the bulk of the carries. Though Elijah Mitchell will likely remain the second back behind Christian McCaffrey, Davis-Price could easily see an increased workload if Mitchell isn't back healthy.

Kyle Shanahan spoke of the improvement he's seen from Davis-Price heading into his second year earlier in training camp.

“I mean I think he’s taken a huge jump since last year. I mean just the conditioning that he put in in phase one and two, what he did these 40 days away. Just how good he was the first day we saw him in terms of his stamina, how he’s running, understanding the offense, and what we want out of him more. I thought he had a great OTAs and he’s come back and he’s even having a better training camp,” via Kyle Madson of USA Today.