Preseason football has come and gone, and the San Francisco 49ers are officially on to the regular season.
Following Thursday night’s preseason finale, where the 49ers lost to the San Diego Chargers 27-24, the regular season is just about underway. Final roster cuts are only a couple of days away, and Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch will work with their coaching staff to determine the team’s final 53-man roster for Week 1.
Every week there seems to be more clarity regarding how position battles will turn out. Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Chargers was an important game for players on the roster bubble, with some taking advantage of one last opportunity.
It seems like Nick Mullens has won the backup quarterback job
C.J. Beathard started the game at quarterback Thursday night, with Jimmy Garoppolo held out as expected. Nick Mullens has out-performed Beathard throughout the preseason, and despite what Kyle Shanahan has been saying about the two being neck-and-neck, it seems clear Mullens is in line to win the backup job.
With Beathard starting in the preseason finale and playing the entire first half, Thursday night was one last showcase before roster cuts on Saturday, a day where Beathard may end up being third in line, or on the outs.
Nearing the end of the first quarter, Beathard put together a seven-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a 41-yard touchdown by running back Jeff Wilson Jr. A solid drive from Beathard was capped by the quarterback himself laying a great block on the scoring play.
Beathard was replaced by Mullens in the third quarter. Only playing one series, Mullens was then replaced by fourth-string quarterback Wilton Speight, who finished the game.
The final line for Beathard: 6-for-9 passing, 58-yards, and a touchdown.
Following Thursday nights loss to the Chargers, Beathard was asked about how he felt tonight, a game that may have just decided his fate.
“I felt good. It felt good getting out there, just running the offense and getting guys in there. Just getting the flow of a start and throughout the whole half felt good.” [“Did it feel nice to finally get that full rhythm?”] “I can’t remember the last time i started, but it’s been a while since i got to start a game. It felt good to do that and to just kind of go quarter-to-quarter and finish the whole first half. It gets you a little two-minute drive in there.”
Deebo Samuel should start Week 1
The rookie, second-round pick Deebo Samuel has shined throughout the preseason thus far. Catching impressive deep balls downfield, breaking off long runs on end-around’s, and thriving on slant routes, Samuel has out-performed every other receiver on the team, and might just start Week 1.
With Shanahan’s recent call to action for Dante Pettis, his role on the team is up in the air. Veteran Marquise Goodwin is expected to earn a starting role, and he might just find himself across from Samuel instead of the struggling Pettis. Samuel was limited in playing time Thursday, as the 49ers seem to already know what they have with the rookie. Playing just a couple of drives, Samuel had two catches for 16 yards.
Samuel’s preseason numbers: six receptions for 104 yards, two rushes for 59 yards.
Dre Greenlaw might just be the real deal
The 148th overall pick in this year’s draft, Dre Greenlaw has impressed since day one of training camp. An undersized linebacker, Greenlaw has turned heads and made plays constantly throughout the preseason. With the recent release of former Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith, it’s clear that Greenlaw should have a legitimate role on this team.
A linebacker group that should consist of Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, and Greenlaw, with two or three others in the mix, Greenlaw will see plenty of snaps early on in the season. Defensive Coordinator Robert Saleh will see first-hand how his rookie linebacker looks against first-team defenses, which he has not seen a lot of this preseason.
Greenlaw’s preseason numbers: 10 tackles, four assists, one sack.
Kendrick Bourne on the outside, looking in
A telling sign as to where the 49ers are in deciding which wide receivers make the final roster, was Kendrick Bourne‘s availability in Thursday nights game. Bourne, as well as Richie James Jr., and Jordan Matthews are all fighting for final spots on the roster. In the second quarter, Bourne was on the field, while both James and Matthews were on the sideline with helmets in hand. In week four of the preseason, you want to rest your starters, and players who are expected to hold significant roles on the team. Bourne getting plenty of playing time is a sign that he’s out there trying to prove himself one last time.
Dropping a sideline pass from Beathard in the second quarter, Bourne was not off to a great start, that is until he made a diving touchdown catch to give the 49ers their second score of the game.
The 49ers receiving corps was riddled with injuries in 2018, a season in which George Kittle stole the show in the passing game, Bourne surprisingly led all 49er wideouts in yards (487). Known for his high-energy on and off the field, Bourne missing out on a roster spot is very possible, and increasingly likely given his inconsistent play this preseason. Despite the few drops this preseason, Shanahan remains confident in Bourne’s catching ability.
“That’s not the most consistent right there, but drops from Bourne haven’t been too much of a problem. I do consider Bourne having some of the better hands on our team. So, that’s definitely one that he should’ve had and hurt a drive. I think we went three and out on that drive. He’s earned a little but more with that in terms of how good his hands are.”
Bourne’s preseason numbers: six receptions for 87 yards, two touchdowns.
With Jerick McKinnon out, the backfield will be just fine
News broke this week that 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon has had yet another setback in his recovery from a torn ACL. With deadline day looming, it’s clear that McKinnon will not be ready for Week 1, and will likely miss significant time. That means that the 49ers three-headed monster at running back will now be just two-headed. Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida will split time as the lead back, with solid backups ready to contribute.
Both Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. have had success in Shanahan’s offense, while each impressed last season while filling in for Breida. With a fantastic night from Wilson (21 carries, 100 yards) as the 49ers lead back, the running back group is pretty much set at this point. If anything were to happen to either Breida or Coleman, Wilson and Mostert will provide plenty of stability in a deep 49er backfield.
Wilson Jr.’s preseason numbers: 42 rushes for 178 yards, four touchdowns and two receptions for 16 yards.
A steller night from Wilson began with an exciting 41-yard touchdown run in which Beathard blocked the last defender after Wilson reversed around the field. Wilson discussed that play, and how Beathard block speaks to his character.
“It was just like a feel thing. I just felt the way the defense was flowing. They were flowing really heavy. I saw the defensive end on the back side, who was almost on the other side or in the center almost. I just made my decision to stick my foot and go backfield. To see the cornerback sitting there, then to see C.J. behind me and for him to take off just gave me that extra power. I was like, i have to put it in now. If C.J. comes out there and blocks for me in the fourth preseason game. That speaks to his character, i was just trying to make his block that much better.”
The 49ers survived the preseason and managed to stay relatively healthy, despite a couple of injuries. A foot injury to Trent Taylor will likely keep him out Week 1, while a season-ending ankle injury will cost swing tackle, Shon Coleman the entire season. As the team wraps up a loss to the Chargers to finish the preseason with a 3-1 record, they will soon head to Tampa Bay to open their 2019 season against the Bucs on Sunday, Sept. 8.
- Post-game, Shanahan was asked about the absence of second-year tight end Ross Dwelley. He said that Dwelley has shown enough to make the 49ers 53-man roster.
- Rookie wide receiver Jalen Hurd has been dealing with a back injury after he began to turn heads with his two-touchdown performance in preseason Week 1. Shanahan gave an update on Hurd, who may be missing some time.
“Yeah, it’s a little more serious than we thought. Still don’t know for sure, but we thought we would have a better chance at [him playing at] Tampa and now that’s not looking as good.” [Is that something where you have to consider a list for him?”] “I don’t think we’ll have to consider a list, but we’re not as confident he’ll be available Week 1 now. Still we aren’t for sure, but I was a lot more optimistic about that two days ago.”
- Safety Adrian Colbert left Thursday’s game with a hamstring injury. Shanahan said that it does not appear to be serious.
- The wide receiver battle will likely come down to the last minute. Shanahan was asked if anything in regards to the wide receiver battle was solidified Thursday night.
“It’s not. There’s a lot of things up in the air, especially with some of these injuries that have been a little more serious that we’ve found out over the last week than we thought previously. It still is up in the air. We’ve got to decide on whether we’re going to go with six, whether we’re going to go with seven and it’s something we are going to be looking into hard over these next 48 hours.”