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10 49ers to watch in second preseason game vs. Chargers

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The 49ers got in two good days of practices Thursday and Friday against the Los Angeles Chargers, so coach Kyle Shanahan has the option of sitting a bunch of the team’s top players.

Of course, the quarterbacks again will be the major topic of conversation once the game begins. But after this sentence, you will not read the names Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance in this piece.

Here the 49ers’ top-10 (non-quarterbacks) to watch Sunday evening in exhibition game No. 2 of the summer:

10. G Colton McKivitz

McKivitz, a second-year player, saw some meaningful action last season at right guard late in the season. He has been working with the second team at left guard.

Teams are allowed to suit up three backup offensive linemen for regular-season games, and McKivitz’s versatility places him squarely in the mix for one of those spots.

He is coming off a strong preseason opener, as he allowed just one quarterback hurry in 29 pass-blocking downs, according to Pro Football Focus. Continued strong showings could nail down his role for the regular season.

9. LB Marcell Harris

Harris is looking more and more like a good fit at linebacker after playing strong safety for a couple of years after the 49ers selected him in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. 

Harris and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles give the 49ers the experience in pass coverage as former safeties that makes them attractive as backups. Both also have good skills on special teams.

The addition of veteran Mychal Kendricks increases the urgency of 2020 starter Azeez Al-Shaair, as well as backups Harris and Flannigan-Fowles, to step up their games.

 

8. TE MyCole Pruitt

The 49ers generally keep four tight ends. Behind George Kittle, Ross Dwelley is a lock, and second-year player Charlie Woerner has made some noticeable improvements since last season.

Pruitt gives the 49ers a unique presence with his strong run-blocking abilities. He is out of the mold of Logan Paulsen and Levine Toilolo, both of whom had roles in previous Kyle Shanahan offenses due to their blocking.

7. WR/RS Nsimba Webster

One week before the opening of training camp, the Los Angeles Rams released Webster. The 49ers scooped him up.

Webster originally signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He appeared in 21 games and returned 32 punts for 203 yards along with 18 kickoff returns for 404 yards during his time with the Rams.

Webster is in direct competition with Richie James, who was the only player on the team to return a punt or kickoff during the Super Bowl season of 2019.

6. C Jake Brendel

Veteran Alex Mack does not need any playing time during the preseason, so this gives Brendel a longer opportunity to show what kind of value he brings to the team.

Brendel, a fourth-year player from UCLA, started last week’s game and he figures to do the same Sunday evening against the Chargers. He has put himself in position to win a roster spot after taking the COVID-19 opt-out a year ago.

5. RB JaMycal Hasty

Hasty had an impressive training camp last summer, and the 49ers were concerned another team might pick him up after he was waived.

He landed back on the 49ers’ practice squad and was called up early in the season. Hasty appeared in eight games before sustaining a fractured collarbone. He averaged 3.8 yards per carry on 39 rushing attempts. He also caught seven passes for 33 yards.

Again, Hasty finds himself in competition for one of the final roster spots. Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon are locks. Elijah Mitchell, a sixth-round draft pick, is out with a leg muscle strain. The final spot could come down to Hasty and veteran Wayne Gallman Jr.

4. S Talanoa Hufanga

Veteran Tavon Wilson has been running with the first-team defense since the opening of training camp. He still appears to be the favorite to open the season as a starting safety alongside Jimmie Ward.

But Hufanga still has a chance. He needs to tighten up his pass defense and lock into communication with his fellow defensive backs. Even if he’s not a starter, he should have a regular-season role as a core special-teams contributor. 

3. WR Jauan Jennings

Jennings plays hard. That’s what everyone around the 49ers likes most about him.

The 49ers selected him in the seventh round of the 2020 draft. He opened the season on the practice squad and would have likely been promoted at some point, but he sustained a severe hamstring tear.

Jennings does not have great speed, but his tough running ability after the catch makes him difficult for defensive backs to contain. His enthusiasm was on full display during practices Thursday and Friday against the Chargers.

 

2. CB Ambry Thomas

Thomas is competing for a primary backup role behind starting cornerbacks Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley. He still appears to be rusty after foregoing his final season at Michigan with a COVID-19 opt-out.

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Thomas is in competition against fellow rookie Deommodore Lenoir and veteran Dontae Johnson for the team’s top reserve at cornerback. The 49ers have high hopes for Thomas, whom they selected in the third round of the draft.

His biggest issue through camp has been holding the wide receivers he goes up against. He has to improve in that area or the flags will continue to fly.

1. LT Jaylon Moore

The original play upon the 49ers selecting Moore was to play him at guard early in his career. Moore was selected in the fifth round out of Western Michigan.

The coaching staff became convinced that Moore's best opportunity to make an impact is at offensive tackle. With a shortage of capable backup tackles, Moore was called upon. He has gotten first-team repetitions at left tackle in place of veteran Trent Williams, who will not play this week due to knee swelling.

Moore was tested during practices this week, and fared just fine. He and Shon Coleman are in competition for the role of the backup tackle.

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