Top 10 49ers to watch in preseason game No. 3 at Broncos
First cuts loom
The third week of the exhibition season has already been a big one for the 49ers, who spent Wednesday and Thursday practicing against the Denver Broncos. The work week continues on Saturday night in Denver when the teams meet three days before the deadline for the first round of cuts. “Our guys will play a little more this week than they have in the last couple of games,” 49ers coach Jim Tomsula promised. Here’s a look at 10 players to watch in Saturday’s game.
10) Blake Bell, TE
Vance McDonald’s spot as the No. 2 tight end is up for grabs, and Bell has a chance to make his case to be Vernon Davis’ backup. McDonald is out indefinitely with a left ankle sprain, and Bell gets his chance to move up the depth chart after the 49ers last week traded away tight ends Derek Carrier and Asante Cleveland. Bell has three receptions for 20 yards in the first two exhibition games.
9) Ian Silberman, RG
Silberman, a sixth-round draft pick, got his chance during practices this week to work with the first-team offense, and at times it was rough. The 49ers’ offensive line is still unsettled, which is why the 49ers are taking a longer look at Silberman. If he shows he can make the adjustments after a couple of days and correct some of his mistakes, it could bolster his chances of winning a spot as a rookie.
8) Dontae Johnson, CB
The 49ers continue the cornerback carousel with the second-year pro getting his first chance to work with the first-team defense. Shareece Wright and Keith Reaser started the first two exhibition games opposite of Tramaine Brock. It’s likely Brock will not play after sustaining a minor hamstring pull during individual work in Thursday’s practice. Brock will be a starter when the regular season opens. The starting spot on the other side remains up for grabs.
7) DeAndrew White, WR
The 49ers do not have an obvious No. 3 receiver, but White has made more plays than any wideout in training camp. The undrafted rookie from Alabama had a very strong day of practice on Thursday against the Broncos with two long touchdown receptions. Quinton Patton has left the door wide open for someone else to come in and take this job. Bruce Ellington has not been healthy, so he really has not been involved in the competition. White also has proven to be a solid special-teams player.
6) Eli Harold, OLB
The rookie has put together a strong training camp. And, now, he has to ramp it up even further with the possibility that Ahmad Brooks could be sidelined for a while as he faces a charge of misdemeanor sexual battery. Aaron Lynch looks like a starter on one side, and Harold has put himself into position to carve out a significant role in the defense after landing with the 49ers as a third-round draft pick.
5) Marcus Martin, C
He spent the first two games of the exhibition season at right guard. Now, he’s working at center. It’s a little late to be moving players around to other spots, but the 49ers feel as if they have no other choice because of the spotty play of the first-team offensive line. Martin started eight games last season at center in place of Daniel Kilgore, who appears likely to open the season on PUP. If he nails down this job, the 49ers still have to find someone for right guard.
4) Jarryd Hayne, RB/RS
The former Australian National Rugby League star has also been the biggest star of the 49ers’ exhibition season with his exciting plays as a running back and on special teams. While Hayne has not completely solidified his role with the team, he has made a strong case for himself. If he continues to be sure-handed and demonstrate game-breaking ability, he should have a strong chance to open the season as the 49ers’ return specialist. He averaged 21.6 yards on five punt returns in the first two games.
3) Colin Kaepernick, QB
The practices against the Broncos were up-and-down on Wednesday and Thursday. Kaepernick showed some flashes, but now the 49ers want to see more consistency from their first unit. It certainly will not be easy, as the 49ers go up against one of the league’s top defenses. If Reggie Bush plays, look for Kaepernick to work on the short-passing game and the return of the screen game. The 49ers would like Kaepernick to build his confidence, especially in the red zone.
2) Corey Lemonier, OLB
In two full NFL seasons, Lemonier has recorded just one sack. The 49ers need Lemonier to produce, and he will get that opportunity for as long as Brooks is out of action – perhaps until his legal case is adjudicated. The 49ers selected Lemonier in the third round of the 2013 draft. He will line up with the first-team defense, but he must show more or Eli Harold stands a good chance of replacing him.
1) Kendall Hunter, RB
Hunter has yet to play in an exhibition after missing all of last season with a torn knee ligament. He had two good practices against the Broncos. “Kendall out there the last two days has been really nice,” Tomsula said. The 49ers plan for Hunter to play Saturday night. He is fighting for a roster spot after averaging 4.6 yards per rushing attempt in his first three NFL seasons while serving as a backup to Frank Gore. Hunter enters into a competition at running back that includes Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush and fourth-round draft pick Mike Davis, along with Jarryd Hayne.