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On Saturday, the Denver Broncos (1-0) will host the San Francisco 49ers (0-1) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. The 49ers are coming off of a 24-13 loss against the Houston Texans. The Broncos are coming off of a 22-0 victory against the Chicago Bears.
For the second straight week, 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick will not play. He is recovering from a shoulder injury that has been described as "arm fatigue." Head coach Chip Kelly said on Thursday that the plan is to ease Kaepernick back into practices next week and get him ready to play against the Green Bay Packers on Friday, August 26. That could be the quarterback's last chance to climb back into the race for the starting job. Kelly has already emphasized that preseason evaluation will be very important in determining a regular season starter.
RELATED Colin Kaepernick won't play Saturday against Broncos
The team has been practicing this week with the Broncos in Denver. Wednesday's practice was described as underwhelming for the 49ers who were dominated by the Broncos defense during team drills. Thursday's practice reportedly boded much better for San Francisco.
One of the other storylines from practices has been OT Anthony Davis getting some work at right guard with the first-team offense. Previous to that, he had been practicing exclusively at right tackle with the second-team offense. It will be interesting to see if Davis gets some work at guard on Saturday. He told reporters that he volunteered to move to guard because Trent Brown has been doing such a good job at the right tackle spot. The offensive line lineups on display against the Broncos, who can really put pressure on the quarterback, will be something to keep an eye on.
Chip Kelly does an amazing job with his offense. Without game planning and even with planning his offense can present a lot of problems— Wade Phillips (@sonofbum) August 18, 2016
On Tuesday, the 49ers signed QB Christian Ponder to a one-year contract. On Wednesday, he spoke of the possibility of playing against the Broncos. "Yeah, I'd like to play," he said. "I think it won't be the full playbook, but hopefully we come up with a plan about what I can do in a game and go out and play. It will be fun to compete and get out there."
With Blaine Gabbert and rookie Jeff Driskel being the only other active quarterbacks, Ponder may see some snaps late in the game.
WR Bruce Ellington's ankle injury is expected to sideline him against the Broncos. That should give WR DeAndrew White a chance to play in the slot role. He has been practicing well in Ellington's place and last year's undrafted free agent out of Alabama hopes to continue turning some heads.
How will the 49ers offense perform against the reigning Super Bowl champion's defense? Against the Texans, the 49ers looked like a typical Chip Kelly offense putting up 302 yards of total offense with 161 coming on the ground and 141 through the air in the first half alone. The Texans would manage just 89 total yards with 65 rushing and 24 passing. The 49ers had 78 offensive plays against the Texans. That's the same amount they had in last season's overtime finale against the then-St. Louis Rams. 50 of the plays against the Texans occurred in the first half of play.
There are still a few competitions to watch on defense. DE DeForest Buckner looks to improve upon last weekend's performance and show that he is ready to start in his rookie season. Jimmie Ward looks to show that he is still the frontrunner for the cornerback position on the opposite side of Tramaine Brock. Finally, the three-man race to start alongside ILB NaVorro Bowman is heating up with Ray-Ray Armstrong impressing in his limited play against the Texans. Michael Wilhoite and Gerald Hodges are the other two involved in that battle.
For the Denver Broncos, Trevor Siemian will get the start at quarterback against the 49ers. Last week, Mark Sanchez started against Chicago. Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak said that he expects Siemian to play about a quarter and a half. Sanchez will follow and rookie Paxton Lynch will close out the game.
RELATED Recap: 49ers open preseason with 24-13 loss to Texans
Against Chicago, Siemian passed for 88 yards, completing 7 of 12 throws. Sanchez was 10 of 13 for 99 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Lynch was a near perfect 6 of 7 for 74 yards. The Broncos defense sacked Chicago quarterbacks seven times and intercepted QB Brian Hoyer en route to their decisive victory.
The Broncos placed DE Vance Walker on injured reserve. He tore his ACL during a 9-on-7 drill practicing this week. The eight-year veteran had been projected to start for Denver.
Saturday's matchup marks the 29th time the two clubs have met in preseason. Last season, the Broncos defeated the 49ers 19-12 in Denver.
5 49ers to Watch
QB Blaine Gabbert
Both Gabbert and Kelly described his performance against the Texans as "up and down." He had a rough start to the game but was responsible for the 49ers' only touchdown on a 43-yard scoring pass to Vance McDonald. He'll need a stronger performance against the Broncos to distance himself from Kaepernick in the quarterback competition.
RB Mike Davis
One player that was thought to be on the roster bubble heading into preseason was Davis, the team's fourth-round selection in 2015. During Sunday's loss to the Texans, a leaner Davis did all he could to try and prove that he belongs on the roster after rushing for 72 yards on five carries. He averaged 12 yards after contact on his five runs, and forced four missed tackles according to advanced statistics site Pro Football Focus.
TE Vance McDonald
McDonald has had a strong training camp and hauled in the 49ers' only score against the Texans last weekend. The 49ers are hoping that this could be the year that the 2013 draft pick finally breaks out. McDonald led the team in reception yards against the Texans with 54 yards on two catches, including the team's only touchdown.
ILB Ray-Ray Armstrong
Armstrong is one of three linebackers fighting for one open starting spot at inside linebacker. Armstrong, who played in just 15 snaps, did all he could in his limited audition against Houston. He finished as the team's highest rated defender last weekend, per Pro Football Focus. He had three run-stops on five running plays.
ILB Nick Bellore
The special teams ace proved that he can contribute on the team's defense too. "Fellow ILB Nick Bellore also had a productive night, earning above-average grades in run defense and as a pass-rusher due to his three total pressures and three defensive stops," said Pro Football Focus regarding his performance against the Texans.
Kickoff: Saturday, August 20 at 6:00 PM
Television: The game will be televised locally on KPIX5 (Check 49ers.com to see if it is local for you)
Bay Area Radio: KGO 810 AM and The Bone 107.7 FM (Other markets)
Spanish Radio: KKSF 910 AM
All-Time Preseason Matchup: Broncos lead series 18-11
Last Preseason Meeting: 8/29/15, Broncos win, 19-12, at Den.
Current Preseason Streak: Lost 3
49ers Schedule: View full schedule
Broncos News: Broncos news at Problitz.com
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