Maiocco's 10 49ers to watch vs. Denver
Ten 49ers Players to Watch
The 49ers officially move into Levi’s Stadium on Sunday with their second exhibition game of the summer. The 49ers play host to the Denver Broncos at 1 p.m. While there will be a lot of attention on the new building, there are plenty of 49ers who must impress the team's decision-makers to solidify their roles. Here’s the Top 10 Players to Watch....
10. OLB Aaron Lynch
The rookie saw his draft stock plummet from a monster freshman season at Notre Dame to his lackluster final season at South Florida. But there's no question he has the talent. Lynch has a chance to earn a role as a pass-rush specialist.
9. DT Tank Carradine
After missing all of his rookie season as he rehabbed from a knee injury sustained in college, Carradine showed a lot of good things last week in his first game with the 49ers. He has a chance to earn significant playing time as part of the D-line rotation.
8. WR Bruce Ellington
The fourth-round draft pick was the 49ers’ top receiver against the Baltimore Ravens. But Ellington’s route to earning a role in the regular season might hinge on how he performs on special teams. He must be more reliable handling punts to challenge LaMichael James.
7. DB Jimmie Ward
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is expected to play more than 20 snaps. Receiver Wes Welker will be on the field with the first unit. And Ward will line up against him in the slot. This will be a big test for Ward, who has seemingly strengthened his grip on the nickel position.
6. OT Jonathan Martin
Martin has experienced his ups and downs through the first three weeks of training camp. Currently, Martin is the 49ers’ swing tackle – the top backup on both sides of the line. He gets another start with Anthony Davis still out as he rehabs from shoulder surgery.
5. LB Michael Wilhoite
Wilhoite opened camp as the starter, along with Patrick Willis. But, now, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said the competition between Wilhoite and rookie Chris Borland is too close to call. The onus is on Wilhoite to clearly outplay Borland, a promising third-round draft pick.
4. OG Joe Looney
The 49ers must assume Alex Boone will not be available at the start of the regular season. Boone does not plan to report without a new contract. And the 49ers are determined not to negotiate with Boone until he reports. In the meantime, there’s a lot of pressure on Looney to pick up the slack.
3. OLB Corey Lemonier
Lemonier was solely a nickel pass-rusher last season when Aldon Smith was out for give games. With Aldon Smith expected to miss some time at the beginning of this season due to a likely NFL suspension, Lemonier is out to prove he can play base downs, too. He played 70 snaps in the opener against Baltimore. He needs to improve his run defense.
2. QB Josh Johnson
The 49ers cut Johnson before the final cuts of 2012. After spending the past two seasons in Cleveland and Cincinnati, Johnson is back for another chance with the 49ers. He must leave no doubt that he’s the 49ers’ best option as the No. 2 quarterback to win the job behind Colin Kaepernick.
1. QB Blaine Gabbert
The 49ers have a lot invested in Gabbert. They sent a sixth-round draft pick to Jacksonville AND they picked up his guaranteed $2 million salary for this season. Gabbert would have to struggle miserably in order to lose the backup job. So it’s up to him to improve on his performance last week against the Ravens.