Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports


49ers vs. Cowboys Week 1 Preseason Preview: The Top Battles to Watch

Matt Andruscavage
Aug 9, 2019 at 9:45 AM


When and Where: Saturday, August 10, 2019 - 6 pm PST (9 pm EST) at Levi's Stadium

Watch or Listen: How to watch or listen to Cowboys at 49ers

Synopsis


If you've paid attention to 49ers' news in the last 48 hours, then you know that the team heads into the preseason less healthy than it was at the start of the week. The big news right now is the injuries which will prevent several players from playing at all this preseason. That said, the first week was not going to be a likely opportunity to showcase many of the starters, regardless of health.

Below are the top battles going into the game.

1) Backup Quarterback Competition


C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens will likely each play a half. As of now, it appears Beathard will get the start, but nothing has been made official. Both quarterbacks headed into training camp with a chance to prove why they deserve to be the primary backup and this preseason will feature them both equally, minus a few series in the team's second and third games to allow starter Jimmy Garoppolo to build his confidence and generate rhythm.

2) The Battle for the Final Spot at Wide Receiver


It's no secret that four or five spots are spoken for on the 53 man roster at wide receiver. Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis, and rookies Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd will make the team. Trent Taylor looks healthy and appears to be a lock as well. The final spot (it is unlikely the 49ers keep more than six receivers unless Hurd is listed as the third tight end) will come down to Kendrick Bourne, Jordan Matthews, and Richie James.

Bourne, at this point, has the inside track as he led all wide receivers in receptions and receiving yards in 2018 and has continued to impress in the offseason. Matthews has some experience and the size that the coaches are looking for, but appears to be a long shot at unseating Bourne. James has also looked good in camp but could be a candidate to be featured in the preseason as an audition for another team in a potential trade. There is only so much room on the roster, despite the talent.

3) Rounding out the Defensive Line


Nick Bosa will miss the preseason with a high-ankle sprain. Arik Armstead's status is day-to-day with a hamstring injury. Dee Ford will not play until the second or third preseason game. DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas will get limited reps, though we could see more of Thomas due to injuries.

Expect to see a lot Kentavius Street, Sheldon Day, Damontre Moore, Kevin Givens, Jeremiah Valoaga, and Julian Taylor on Saturday. Ronald Blair is another player who is in the mix but has a groin injury which could sideline him against the Cowboys.

4) Who Will Shine at the Sam Linebacker Position?


Fifth-round draft pick Dre Greenlaw has impressed in camp both in pass coverage and against the run. He is aggressive and could be exactly what the 49ers need at this position. Malcolm Smith went into the offseason as the favorite to start, but unless he plays a lot and very well in the preseason, Greenlaw could run away with the job. We will see what happens, but my money is on Greenlaw.

5) Cornerback Depth


Richard Sherman is healthy, but will likely see only a few reps in preseason games. Jason Verrett has looked good but has an ankle sprain which will keep him out of the preseason altogether.

Ahkello Witherspoon looks good, but will likely have a limited role as he is a lock to make the roster. Nickel defensive back K'Waun Williams is also injured and will miss the preseason. This gives seventh-round pick Tim Harris, Greg Mabin, and Dontae Johnson a lot of opportunities to shine and make the roster. At nickel back, D.J. Reed and Emmanuel Mosely will have their chances to turn heads in these four games.

6) Who Will Start at Free Safety?


Jimmie Ward is still working his way back from the fractured collarbone he suffered in May. Tarvarius Moore appears to be in the lead, but Adrian Colbert will have a big opportunity to make a push for the starting job. Expect this to be one of the best competitions of the month, especially if Ward comes back.

There are obviously other battles between veterans and rookie free agents who will have playing time and an opportunity to make the squad, but these six competitions will showcase the players who have the best chances to move up on the depth chart and be a part of the 53 man roster.

As always, we want to see a victory, but in the preseason, the most important things are to see the players walk away from the game healthy and for the coaches to evaluate the talent to construct the best game-day roster possible.

Other Notes


  • Running back Jerick McKinnon had soreness in his knee, so the team will be cautious with him, making it likely that he misses the preseason. We will see Raheem Mostert, Austin Walter, and Matt Breida the most as Jeff Wilson is still sidelined with a calf injury.
  • Guard Joshua Garnett will miss Saturday's game after having surgery on a dislocated finger. His timetable for a return is unknown.
  • The hope is that center Weston Richburg will be ready by the season opener. Ben Garland will likely take his place until then.
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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