For a team like the 49ers, starters are using the preseason game to get in tune and ready for the regular season, but the backups have more to gain in the big picture. Most of the 49ers starting lineup is set, so backups are battling for the scraps of playing time, or just a chance to make the roster. I thought each week we'd take a look at the five non-starters who increased their stock the most.
49ers outside linebacker Eric Bakhtiari tops the list thanks to his two sacks and four total tackles. He got some snaps in the second quarter, but did most of his damage in the second half. He entered the game competing primarily with Cam Johnson for the fourth outside linebacker role behind Parys Haralson.
Now that Aldon Smith is likely out for this weekend's game against the Texans, and could potentially get even more rest over the remaining preseason games, Bakhtiari is in prime position to build on his strong performance. The starting OLBs for next Saturday will likely be Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson. This would seem to mean Bakhtiari is going to potentially get in fairly early, even if the starting defense gets most of the first half to play. This is a big opportunity for the journeyman linebacker.
I would argue that Brandon Jacobs did a lot to boost his stock, at least in the eyes of fans. We have not been able to see his work in training camp practices, so seeing him bulldozing for first downs was huge. The 49ers were bulldozing the Vikings across the board with the run game early on, so I suppose we can take it with a grain of salt. But given some of the dancing concerns, it was nice to see him running with purpose. Some considered him a bubble guy, but he did a good job moving away from the bubble. Now he just needs to keep it up.
Of all the receivers, Chris Owusu might have been the most impressive. He finished with three receptions for 35 yards, but it was really his moves once he had the ball in his hands that really impressed me. He was able to make defenders miss and looked like a veteran at times. He is in a tough fight for a roster spot, and seems more likely to be looking at the practice squad. However, if he continues to impress, it might be tough to slip him through waivers.
While the 49ers quarterback put together impressive numbers against less than stellar opposition, he did enough to at least justify trying to get him some more opportunities. It remains to be seen how much time he'll really get with Colin Kaepernick getting the time right behind Smith, but it seems valuable to see what he can do against better competition. He looked great against the 49ers last preseason with the Chargers, but again, that was against less than stellar parts of the depth chart. I do think he's earned some kind of opportunity to show more.
I'm almost tempted to say he didn't necessarily gain, given how strong a preseason he had last year. Dobbs was fairly quiet in his tight end work, but he was once again a beast on the defensive line. He has done nothing but impress in his five career preseason games, which only bodes well for his roster chances. Barring a performance meltdown in the next three games, I would be stunned if he was not on the team.
The question now is if he can work his way into more rotational work. Ricky Jean Francois gets the snaps behind the starting defensive line, but if the 49ers can find a way to work Demarcus Dobbs into the rotation and find success, this defensive line becomes that much more filthy.