On Saturday 8PM ET, the annual preseason battle of the bay will commence, and I as a 49ers fan, cannot wait to see how the 49ers improve (or do not improve) from their last preseason game.
After the jump are 10 things that I will be watching closely during Saturday’s game.
1. O-line play - anybody who watched the 49ers O-Line play in the game against the Saints knows that something wasn’t right. The Saints were sacking the 49ers QBs left and right with the 49ers seeming to have no answer. Already proven players like Joe Staley and Mike Iupati had troubles holding their blocks and both centers looked pretty bad, getting pushed into the QB on a substantial number of plays. Greg Roman said in an interview that the best 5 offensive linemen will play, so I will also be checking who comes into the game and who plays where. Will Adam Snyder beat out Chilo Rachal at the right guard spot? Who will get the 1st-team snaps at center, Adam Snyder or Jonathan Goodwin? These are just some of the questions regarding the 49ers O-line.
Harbaugh’s praised offensive scheme has no chance to flourish if the 49ers O-line can’t protect the passer, so this aspect of the game is key. How will the O-line far against a lesser Oakland pass-rush.
2. Will training-camp stars star come game-time? – Yesterday HC Jim Harbaugh praised a number of players for their outstanding training-camp play, including Ahmad Brooks, Chilo Rachal and Donte Whitner. Will these players play as well as they did in practice come Saturday, or will some of these players disappoint? Other training camp stars to watch during the game – Kyle Williams, Tremaine Brock and Konrad Reuland.
3. How will the rookies perform? – Some 49ers rookies had great debuts, while others had weak ones, who will play well this time around? The Aldon Smith hype train has long left it’s station, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop any time soon. Not only has Aldon received praise from countless veterans in training camp, he also had an exciting debut, with 1 sack, 4 tackles and 1 forced fumble to his credit. Will Aldon Perform as well in his second game?
4. The wide-receiver battle – Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree have a firm grasp on the #1 and #2 spots on the depth chart, but after that, the depth chart is very unclear. On one hand, you have the veterans in Joshua Morgan and Ted Ginn Jr., on the other hand, you have the young WRs in Kyle Williams and Ronald Johnson. Not to mention the guys just trying to make the roster in Lance Long and Kevin Jurovich.
There are only so many WRs the 49ers can keep on their roster, and at this point, it’s a free-for-all for the #3 spot and downwards.
5. The quarterback play – Last game we only got a chance to see Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick play, both with mildly disappointing results. How will the quarterbacks fare this week? Will we get to see any other quarterbacks in the game, such as Jeremiah Masoli and newly signed quarterback Josh McCown? The quarterbacks play is a direct result of the O-line’s play, so if the O-line plays extremely poorly the most important point to evaluate is how the quarterbacks handle the pressure. Have they noticed and called out all blitzes? Do they audible into a check-down or a screen when they see the heat is coming? Do they completely ignore the heat?
The 49ers arguably have a great team in their hands, but in the end as in previous seasons it all comes down to the quarterback. Can Alex play well in his 7th time around with the 49ers?
That's what I'll be watching Saturday.