Top 10 49ers to watch in preseason finale vs Chargers
Show me what you got
It’s the final week of the exhibition season, and that means it’s time for most of the 49ers starters to step aside and focus on preparing to face the Minnesota Vikings in the regular-season opener on Monday, Sept. 14. The 49ers have to make roster moves to go from 75 players to the regular-season maximum of 53. For some players, the game Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers is the final opportunity to show the 49ers – and the rest of the league – that they belong in the NFL...
10) Shayne Skov, LB
The Stanford product has put himself in position to win a spot on a 53-man roster – with the 49ers or some other team. He has played very well in extensive action this summer. While Skov is not likely to be one of the 49ers’ top three inside linebackers, it’s imperative that he asserts himself on special teams with his ability to run down the field on the coverage units.
9) Brandon Thomas, G
He was not moving well after coming back from missing all of last season due to ACL surgery. But Thomas appeared to be making strides after a rough offseason program. At around the same time Thomas began looking good at right guard, the 49ers moved him to the left side. Jordan Devey was named the starter at right guard. Does Thomas have what it takes to be a starter in the future? A strong showing could impact the team’s three-year plan.
8) Philip Wheeler, LB
The seven-year veteran has not been a factor during training camp due to a leg strain. It’ll be next-to-impossible to break into a top-three that includes NaVorro Bowman, Michael Wilhoite and Nick Moody. The 49ers have really not had a chance to see what he can do, so this might be Wheeler’s only opportunity to prove he is worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster.
7) Blaine Gabbert, QB
Colin Kaepernick is not expected to see much (if any) action, so this will serve as another chance for Gabbert to show how much progress he has made from a year ago. Gabbert has out-produced Kaepernick and undrafted rookie Dylan Thompson. He has completed 23 of 28 passes (82.1 percent) for 203 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. The 49ers feel they have a reliable No. 2.
6) Shareece Wright, CB
The four-year veteran came to the 49ers as the favorite to win the starting job opposite of Tramaine Brock. And while Wright is still in the competition, he has not exactly distinguished himself during the first three exhibition games. Wright has to make plays or the young cornerbacks on the 49ers will effectively push him to the sideline – or, perhaps, off the team.
5) Bruce Ellington, WR
He is not quite healthy after being bothered during the offseason program and training camp by a hamstring strain. But Ellington looked good on Saturday in his exhibition debut against the Denver Broncos. He will likely get a chance to return punts against the San Diego Chargers. He also has a chance to capture the team’s job as the No. 3 wide receiver.
4) Arik Armstead, DL
The 49ers’ first-round draft pick has been up and down in the exhibition season. He flashed against Dallas two weeks ago, but had problems on Saturday against the Broncos. Armstead’s spot on the roster is set, but now he’s competing for a role in the team’s defense. He can prove to the coaching staff he’s worthy of playing time in the regular season with a strong showing.
3) Kendall Hunter, RB
Hunter on Saturday played his first game since the NFC Championship game in Seattle in January 2014. And it showed. Hunter did not look confident with the ball in his hands, as he gained just 15 yards on seven rushing attempts. The 49ers like Hunter, but the backfield is crowded and his spot is not guaranteed. He might have to run with more confidence to earn his spot.
2) Jimmie Ward, DB
The 49ers’ first-round pick of 2014 opened his rookie season as the team’s nickel back. But his slow return from a fractured foot has put him far behind in his quest to recapture that important role. Backup safeties L.J. McCray and Jaquiski Tartt have impressed with hard-hitting play. Ward’s exact role is still in question. A strong performance could be the first step toward winning the assignment of covering the slot receiver.
1) Jarryd Hayne, RB/RS
All eyes in Australia – and quite a few in the U.S., too – will be focused on the story of 49ers camp. Hayne leads the 49ers in rushing during the exhibition season with 117 yards on just 15 attempts. Despite those numbers, he is not a polished runner as he makes the transition to the NFL from being an Australian rugby league star. Hayne will be aiming to solidify his role as the 49ers’ top return man. He averaged 20.0 yards on six punt returns in three games. He also must exhibit solid decision-making in that role.