Week 3 of the preseason most closely resembles a regular season game and the 49ers are using their third preseason game as a dry run all the way around. Head coach Kyle Shanahan said that the team is using a regular season schedule this week for everything from the number of practices to the travel itinerary. The 49ers take on the Colts Saturday in Indianapolis, here is what to expect from the offense.
Kyle Shanahan said, in his Tuesday press conference, that he expects the starters to play the entire first half, which means that Garoppolo should get plenty of work. One thing that gets lost in all of the excitement around Garoppolo is just how little NFL game action he has under his belt, and as well as Garoppolo played last week Kyle Shanahan sees areas where the quarterback can improve, particularly when it comes to going through his progressions more quickly, building on his two drives last week and continuing to work on his timing with Pierre Garçon and Dante Pettis, which will be key this week.
C.J. Beathard suffered a sprained foot in the second preseason game and his status for preseason Week 3 has yet to be determined (as of this writing), and if the team determines that it is better to have Beathard one hundred percent for the season opener then Nick Mullens will have a chance to show what he can do against some better competition. Mullens has been the talk of the preseason after leading a fourth quarter comeback against the Cowboys and leading a drive to give the team a late fourth quarter lead against the Vikings. Mullens is unlikely to unseat Beathard as the number-two quarterback on the depth chart, but a strong performance this week could make the decision tougher than anyone would have thought coming into camp.
This week the 49ers plan to re-boot ALF. Not the late eighties sitcom, but veteran running back Alfred Morris, whose best seasons came when Kyle Shanahan was his offensive coordinator with Washington in 2012 and 2013. At five-ten, 224 pounds, Morris adds size that none of the other running backs on the team has; without the top two running backs on the depth chart there will be plenty of opportunity for carries in this game and it will be worth keeping an eye on how they are divvied up. Raheem Mostert has all but earned his spot on the roster and Jeremy McNichols has helped himself, too. Undrafted free agent Jeff Wilson saw his first action of the preseason and averaged five yards a carry; will he see a larger workload this week?
This is the position group to keep your eye on in this game. The much-talked-about battle for the starting right guard position officially got underway last week as Joshua Garnett and Jonathan Cooper finally made their preseason debuts. Ideally, this position would have been settled already so that the starting offensive line could get some semblance of continuity before the regular season starts, however, the position remains unsettled and the 49ers will rotate guys and see if anyone can assert himself. Who gets the start at right guard and who works in with the starters will certainly be worth keeping an eye on during the game.
This is the deepest position group on offense and the 49ers are going to have to make some tough decisions on who and how many to keep. Marquise Goodwin, Pierre Garçon, Trent Taylor and Dante Pettis are locks to make the roster, that leaves Aldrick Robinson, Kendrick Bourne, rookie Richie James and special teams ace Aaron Burbridge competing for what will most likely be two spots. Richie James’ playing time will be something to keep an eye on; if James is played sparingly on Saturday, it could be an indication that the team is going to try and sneak him on to the practice squad, but is it worth losing James to another team to put him on the practice squad?
This Saturday’s game against the Colts could give several clues about the make up of the final roster. Does Alfred Morris show enough to force the 49ers to keep four running backs? Who takes control of the battle for the right guard spot? Does anyone? Can the 49ers establish some kind of running game, especially with the starters? Do the 49ers decide to keep seven wide receivers instead of six? All these things will be worth keeping an eye on Saturday.
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