Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports


5 things to watch for in 49ers preseason opener

Aug 10, 2019 at 7:59 AM


The San Francisco 49ers open their preseason campaign on Saturday when they host the Dallas Cowboys at Levi's Stadium.

Multiple starters will not feature, but there are still numerous storylines to monitor as the 49ers try to settle on what their 53-man roster will look like come Week 1.

Here we look at five things to watch out for as 49ers football makes its return.

Who sits out?


Jimmy Garoppolo will be watching from the sideline in the opener and, with Nick Bosa and Jason Verret having suffered injuries that will keep them out of preseason, it will be interesting to see who else is held out as the Niners look to avoid further setbacks.

It is easy to forget that George Kittle's record-breaking season may not have happened had his shoulder injury suffered in last year's preseason opener with the Cowboys been more serious, but the 49ers will most certainly be wary of risking big blows to key players in a game that means nothing.

The most likely position to see players rested may well be running back. Jerick McKinnon is battling to be healthy for Week 1 because of a setback in his recovery from an ACL tear and the 49ers may be more keen to protect Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida as a result. Given the importance of the running game and play-action to the Niners offense, Raheem Mostert and Austin Walter could take on the bulk of the preseason workload with Coleman and Breida kept in bubble wrap.

Can receivers find consistency?


The 49ers have a lot of young talent at wide receiver, but Kyle Shanahan has sounded a touch frustrated at how this group has performed so far in training camp.

Shanahan has been disappointed with a lack of consistency from his wideouts, though rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd have impressed in recent practices and Kendrick Bourne has been the recipient of significant praise from Shanahan, who said the third-year receiver is having "a hell of a camp".

The Niners cannot afford for their receivers to continue to have consistency issues if this offense is to reach its full potential in 2019. San Francisco needs to be able to rely on other targets beyond George Kittle and, though there is nothing riding on Saturday's game, it is a great opportunity for the wideouts to state their case that they can be depended on.

Ross Dwelley's rise


With Garrett Celek still on the shelf and seemingly set to start the season on the PUP list, the No. 2 tight end spot behind George Kittle is up for grabs, but Ross Dwelley appears to already have a decent grip on it.

The 2018 undrafted free agent has enjoyed an excellent training camp, developing a rapport with his quarterbacks and earning plaudits from Shanahan, who, per The San Francisco Chronicle, said of Dwelley: "He's a legit NFL player and he's going to help us."

Shanahan places little value on preseason but how Dwelley performs in the exhibitions may help decide to what extent he helps the Niners. Two-tight end sets are a huge part of the San Francisco offense and, if he delivers in the preseason, Dwelley could secure a spot on the field alongside Kittle in such personnel groupings.

Dre Greenlaw's growth


The rapid development of Dre Greenlaw has been one of the stories of camp, with the fifth-rounder the top rookie performer aside from Bosa.

Greenlaw has flashed his skills in coverage and made plays on the ball while also demonstrating the ability to knife into the backfield and stop runs for negative gains.

He has consistently received first-team reps and the former Arkansas Razorback has the chance to win the starting Sam linebacker job, with Fred Warner and Kwon Alexander locked in at Mike and Will, respectively.

The Niners saw Warner develop into an integral part of the defense last season after taking him in the third round and Saturday could be the first in-game steps that Greenlaw takes towards becoming a player of similar importance to Robert Saleh's unit.

Can Moore make his mark?


With Jimmie Ward sidelined once again, Tarvarius Moore has been given first-team reps at the pivotal position of free safety and has impressed with his range when playing the deep middle and physicality when deployed down in the box.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said Moore is making the competition for the free safety role "very close" and Saturday gives him the chance to put himself in the lead for when previously presumptive starter Ward returns from a fractured collarbone.

The 49ers spent a third-round pick in Moore and need to start seeing a return on that investment in year two. Free safety is the perfect position for a player of his athletic gifts and Moore could go a long way to making it his own against the Cowboys.
The views 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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