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5 49ers to Watch Against the Kansas City Chiefs

Brian Renick
Aug 10, 2021 at 10:32 AM

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The 49ers will play their first preseason game in a little over two years when the Kansas City Chiefs come to Levi's Stadium on Saturday, August 14th for a 5:30 pm kickoff.

Here are five players to keep an eye on during the game.

WR Trent Sherfield

There was little fanfare when the team signed Sherfield this offseason. Most reports labeled him a special teams ace, who had made a name for himself in Arizona as a gunner on kick coverages. However, the 49ers signed him to a deal with some guaranteed money, so it stands to reason that the front office saw more in his game than just a special teams contributor.

Through the first two weeks of camp, Sherfield has displayed some considerable receiving chops and has been a favorite target of both Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance. The 49ers need to find a player to replace the WR3 production that departed when Kendrick Bourne signed with the Patriots.

Reports out of camp have highlighted the return of a healthy and motivated Mohammed Sanu, the ever-present shadow of uber-talented, but oft-injured Jalen Hurd, and 2020 7th-round pick Jauan Jennings' return from the COVID-19 list. However, Sherfield has started to rise above the pack with his play in camp and it will be exciting to see if his camp production will translate to the field against the Chiefs.

RB Elijah Mitchell

Elijah Mitchell is an exciting rookie running back who the 49ers drafted in the 6th round of the 2021 draft out of the University of Louisiana. He is an intriguing prospect due to his straight-line speed, clocking a 4.33 40-yard dash at his pro day. He was also extremely productive in college, racking up 3267 yards, and 41 TDs with a 6.2 yard per carry average during his four years in the program.

The interesting note about Mitchell is that his playing weight at Louisiana was around 215 pounds, and he looked the part of a strong, bruising back. Before his pro day, he dropped down around 200 pounds to increase his time in the 40-yard dash, which was effective due to his 4.33 time. However, according to running backs coach Bobby Turner, Mitchell has brought his weight back up to 211 pounds but hasn't sacrificed any of that speed in the process. That combination of speed and power should translate well to the field and the 49ers run scheme. Mitchell is likely battling 2nd year RB JaMychal Hasty for the final spot in the RB room, so his play during the preseason will bring clarity to that decision.

QB Josh Rosen

We have heard, ad-nauseam, about the quarterback play of Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance this offseason. It is well known that those two will be QB1 and QB2 on this roster, leaving Nate Sudfeld and Josh Rosen to battle it out for the QB3 position. This may seem like an inconsequential battle, but there are actually some significant future ramifications to consider. No matter how this season turns out, this is likely Jimmy Garoppolo's last season in San Francisco. That means that the QB3 battle is probably a battle to serve as Trey Lance's backup in 2022 (or 2021 if Garoppolo is traded before or during the season).

Rosen started camp well but has seen some recent struggles. On August 8th, Shanahan had this to say about the quarterback's play so far: "I think he started off real well. I think he's taken a couple steps back the last few practices." Outside of rookie Trey Lance, Rosen is arguably the most athletically gifted quarterback on the roster. He throws one of the prettiest balls I've ever seen in person, and he has the arm strength to make any throw on the field. Rosen's problem has been, and is, between the ears. His decision-making is suspect, and at times he seems to try too hard to make something happen, rather than checking down or throwing the ball away and live to see another down.

Rosen may be playing for his NFL career at this point, and I for one hope he shows up and plays well against the Chiefs.

LB Jonas Griffith

Jonas Griffith was signed by the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2020 out of Indiana State and spent the season on the team's practice squad. He came into camp with an uphill battle to make the final roster but has made some noise in camp at the WILL linebacker position and on kick coverage units.

Griffith has the honor of being the first player to intercept Trey Lance in camp and has worked his way up to getting reps with the first-team defense in the wake of the injury to fellow LB Azeez Al-Shaair.

Griffith's play in preseason games will likely go a long way towards earning a spot on the final 53-man roster, and I'm excited to see him against the Chiefs on Saturday.

IDL Maurice Hurst

Defensive line is by far the deepest position group on the roster. The majority of that depth is on the interior of the line, boasting nine players with NFL game experience. Maurice Hurst is one of those nine players, having signed with the team this offseason after his release from the Las Vegas Raiders. Hurst has impressed in 1-on-1 pass-rushing drills, as well as dominating against the 2nd and 3rd team offensive lines.

The 49ers typically keep nine or ten defensive linemen on the 53-man roster, so there will be some hard decisions made at the IDL spot. Many of the players who don't make it through final cuts will likely be signed by other teams. Barring injury, the current locks to make the roster are:

DEs Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Samson Ebukam, and Arik Armstead

DTs Javon Kinlaw, D.J. Jones, Kevin Givens, Zach Kerr

This leaves Hurst, Kentavius Street, and Darrion Daniels to battle it out for the final IDL spot. Street and Daniels are both homegrown players for the 49ers, so Hurst will have to force the front office and coaching staff to overlook their familiarity with those players through his play on the field. The Chiefs, a familiar foe from his time in the AFC West, will be his first opportunity to show out.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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