Maiocco's Ten 49ers to watch vs. Chargers
49ers' Dress Rehearsal
The 49ers play their penultimate game of the exhibition season on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers at Levi’s Stadium. The third game is typically when teams play their starters the most heading into the regular season. So with the first round of cuts is scheduled to be made by Tuesday, here’s a look at Ten 49ers to Watch:
10. QB Colin Kaepernick
The 49ers have moved the ball with multiple first downs in each of Kaepernick’s three series during the exhibition season. But the 49ers have not put the ball in the end zone. Period. Kaepernick played three possessions in the 49ers’ third preseason game a year ago. It’s time for him to work on his chemistry in a game situation with the mainstays, as well as some of the newcomers.
9. CB Kenneth Acker
The sixth-round draft pick came on strong in practices and last week’s game against the Denver Broncos. He is still considered on the bubble for a roster spot, but another good showing will present the 49ers with a dilemma: Keep him on the 53-man roster or run the likely risk of losing him -- like Marcus Cooper a year ago.
8. C Daniel Kilgore
Kilgore is far ahead of rookie Marcus Martin for the starting job, but Martin might have closed the gap with a nice performance last week. Kilgore is slated to take over for Jonathan Goodwin, the starter of the past three seasons. With the first offense slated for its most playing time, Kilgore has to keep everyone on the same page – especially right guard Joe Looney, who continues to fill in for holdout Alex Boone.
7. NT Ian Williams
Williams regains the starting job he earned a year ago to open the regular season. He is back after sustaining a season-ending broken lower leg in Week 2. He underwent four surgeries, and coach Jim Harbaugh said Williams looks better now than he did prior to his injury. He should make his return to the playing field against the Chargers, and he’ll be matched against veteran center Nick Hardwick.
6. RB LaMichael James
James is scheduled to play in his first exhibition game of the summer after sustaining a dislocated right elbow four weeks ago in practice. He figures to regain his role on punt returns, as rookie Bruce Ellington has been a little shaky in that role. James is also trying to earn his way into a larger role on offense as a change-of-pace back.
5. DE Tank Carradine
Carradine has gotten plenty of work in the first two exhibition games, as the 49ers’ defensive line has been short-staffed. With the starters back, Carradine is now fighting to get on the field and find a way to contribute. He needs a strong showing to earn a role in the rotation behind starting defensive ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald.
4. QB Blaine Gabbert
Yes, we’re talking about the backup quarterback. Gabbert entered camp as the No. 2. And he’s still the No. 2, despite doing very little to hold onto the job. Gabbert needs to have a steady game with no turnovers. If he can do that, he can virtually nail down the role. The 49ers might keep only two QBs on their 53-man roster, and Gabbert’s $2 million fully guaranteed salary makes him the guy the 49ers want to keep around behind Colin Kaepernick.
3. LB Chris Borland
The rookie from Wisconsin is still very much in the mix for a role with NaVorro Bowman expected to miss at least the first six games of the season while rehabbing from his knee injury. Perhaps, Borland is best-suited to play on base downs with Michael Wihoite playing in pass situations. Last week, Borland bit hard in coverage, creating an easy pitch-and-catch for a Denver touchdown in his unoccupied space. He must win the trust of the coaching staff and stay true to his assignments.
2. WR Stevie Johnson
The 49ers acquired Johnson in a trade to provide Colin Kaepernick with a reliable No. 3 receiver. Johnson has not been a consistent factor on the practice field. He and Kaepernick have tried to work the back-shoulder throws without a lot of success. These two need to get on the same page, and gain confidence and trust in each other. A third-down completion or two would go a long way toward building momentum heading into the regular season.
1. S Jimmie Ward
The first-round draft pick appears to be holding onto the job as the team’s starting nickel back. He will also get a long look at the safety position. Veteran Antoine Bethea will not play, as the 49ers want to give him more time to rest after he sustained a concussion. Craig Dahl was the first safety off the sideline last week. It’s not clear who will start alongside Eric Reid against San Diego, but Ward’s bid to be the backup could hinge on how he and Dahl perform in this game.