Top 10 49ers to watch in preseason opener at Texans
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Jim Tomsula's 49ers open their exhibition slate Saturday night in Houston. Keep an eye on these 10 players...
10) Blaine Gabbert
The 49ers’ backup quarterback struggled during the exhibition season a year ago. He did well in practices once the regular season began, but the 49ers would like to see him gain confidence in the exhibition season, just in case he is needed for games that count in the standings. “I’m a believer in Blaine Gabbert,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said.
9) Keith Reaser
After spending his entire rookie season rehabbing from two ACL surgeries, Reaser has a chance to carve out a role in the 49ers’ defense. It’ll be his first time in a game since October 2013. He should get extended playing time.
8) Lawrence Okoye
The former British Olympic discus thrower believes he has put himself into position to play in the NFL this season. He will have an opportunity to impress teams around the league – in case he is unable to stick on the 49ers’ deep D-line group. Watch for him on special-teams, too.
7) Marcus Martin
He started at center last season after Daniel Kilgore’s injury. Now he is at right guard, where he has experienced plenty of ups and downs during the first two weeks of training camp. He can take a step toward solidifying the starting job.
6) Joe Looney
Looney has worked almost exclusively at center during training camp. He and Martin need to build chemistry to hold onto their jobs. The other three spots on the offensive line appear set with Joe Staley, Alex Boone and Erik Pears.
5) Vance McDonald
The second-round pick in the 2013 draft is not guaranteed a roster spot this season. He needs to put together a productive exhibition season to reclaim his hold on the backup job behind Vernon Davis. He faces a lot of stiff competition from a deep and talented group.
4) DeAndrew White
The undrafted rookie from Alabama has opened eyes with his ability as an outside receiver. But it might be his play on special teams that helps him win a job. White will handle kickoffs and punts, and he will also get some chances as a gunner on punt coverage.
3) Nick Moody
The leg strain that kept Michael Wilhoite out of action for the first two weeks of camp has opened the door for Moody. With a strong showing, Moody can put himself into a favorable position to break camp as the starter alongside NaVorro Bowman.
2) Colin Kaepernick
The 49ers’ quarterback will not play very long, but every snap and every pass attempt will be scrutinized after his offseason work with Kurt Warner in Arizona. The 49ers’ QB needs a solid preseason to begin gaining momentum for the regular season.
1) Jarryd Hayne
Hayne left behind a stellar career in Australia’s National Rugby League to attempt to play in the NFL. The big question is whether he can play with the low pad level required to succeed in this sport. He’ll get plenty of action on offense and special teams.