Welcome to the first edition of my weekly column -- Friday Morning Huddle. I'll be publishing this every Friday morning, previewing the next week's matchup, giving you the complete breakdown.
The San Francisco 49ers will play their first home game of the season this Saturday. The game kicks off at 7:00 PM PST at the location of Super Bowl 50, Levi's Stadium. The Super Bowl 50 champion Denver Broncos are coming into town. The teams are doing two joint practices on Wednesday and Thursday in preparation of this game.
Let’s take a look at some things to keep an eye on in this preseason week two match up.
49ers' RT Trent Brown vs Broncos' OLB/DE Von Miller.
Last season when the Broncos and the 49ers had a joint practice, OLB Von Miller spoke very highly of
RT Trent Brown. They won’t be going against each other on every snap, but they will see plenty of each other in this game. Miller is known as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, but he is also very good at setting the edge against the run. Can Trent Brown stop Miller from making plays on the Edge? Brown has always been much better at pass protection than in the run game. If he is going to have a successful career in red and gold, he will need to improve against the run.
49ers CB Rashard Robinson vs Broncos' WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
Robinson got burned on the very first snap of the game last week vs. Chiefs' speedy WR Tyreek Hill. This week he will be facing a physical wide receiver in DemaryiusThomas. Thomas wins in a very different way than Hill in Kansas City. How will Robinson try to contain Thomas, out-physical him, or try to contain him some other way? Emmanuel Sanders on the other hand is a quick, get up field and win deep, kind of receiver. Robinson will be leaned on to be the team’s best cornerback this season. He needs to step up his game this week.
Who is the second quarterback in the game for the 49ers?
In Week 1, QB Matt Barkley was the second guy in the game after QB Brian Hoyer. It can be argued that current third-string QB, C.J. Beathard, had a better game in Week 1. He had two drives that ended in a touchdown, one being the eventual game winner. Word out of camp is that Beathard is getting more and more run with the second-team offense. If he is the second guy in the game, it could spell a short lived career in San Francisco for Barkley. The coaches will want to see how Beathard does against better quality players, I think we will see him early.
49ers' wide receivers vs Broncos' secondary
The no-fly zone, AKA the Broncos' secondary, is one of the best units in the NFL. Outside of WR Jeremy Kerley, new GM John Lynch has brought in an entire new crop of receivers this season. One thing the receivers on this team lack is size. Can these smaller players win with quickness and solid route running? WR Pierre Garcon is a seasoned veteran who knows how to get open and WR Marquise Goodwin is one of the fastest players in the NFL. One thing HC Kyle Shanahan knows how to do is get guys open, especially speedy receivers. There will be some wide open receivers for the quarterback to throw to at times in this game.
Will DL Solomon Thomas start with the first-team defense?
Last week first-round pick Solomon Thomas was playing deep into the 4th quarter. He showed over and over why he was such a high pick. He has an elite NFL motor and never gives up on a play. Thomas was very disruptive, forcing the QB into bad decisions and sacks. He also had a big impact on the run game, making key third-down stops more than once. In my eyes he has earned a spot with the first-team defense. His fellow rookie running mate LB Reuben Foster is already running with them and Thomas won’t be far behind.
Who is starting at Free Safety?
With the injury to FS Jimmy Ward, the team turned to undrafted rookie FS Lorenzo Jerome last week to play the all-important free safety role. The team was beat for a few long passes, and it is hard to tell whose fault that really was. Did the corner not do his job at the line of scrimmage or was the high safety just late? They have been using CB Adrian Colbert as a free safety in practice. I think Jerome gets the start, but Colbert will be in the game very early.
Will the RB Matt Breida Hype train continue?
RB Matt Breida had a lot of hype surrounding him going into preseason week one, and he delivered. The undrafted rookie seemed to play more like a veteran in HC Kyle Shanahan's offense. As he gets more and more snaps on the team, it will be interesting to see if his success continues. I hope to see him getting a few snaps with the first-team offense. Shanahan’s offensive philosophy has always been to pound the rock and work play action off of that. Breida will be a key part of pounding the rock on Saturday.
The 49ers are coming off of a road victory last week in Kansas City. Yes it’s just a preseason game, but this young team needs to learn how to win. The game winning drive last week sure help a guy like C.J. Beathard and his confidence level going into his first season. Winning is something this team hasn’t been doing a lot of over the last 2 seasons. Does the team come out and match that intensity against a very strong AFC opponent? We will see this Saturday.