49ers preseason schedule 2014: Looking at the early camp storylines

Peter Aiken

The 49ers preseason schedule arrived on Wednesday. We take a look at some of the many storylines we'll be following in August.

The 2014 NFL preseason schedule was released Wednesday afternoon, and the 49ers find themselves with an interesting mix of matchups in August. They will face only AFC teams. They will face two regular season opponents. They will face the Baltimore Ravens for the first time in preseason play. And of course, that 49ers-Broncos preseason matchup will be billed as a potential Super Bowl preview. Here's the full schedule:

Preseason Week

Time (PT)

Opponent

Network

Week 1 - August 7th

4:30 p.m.

at Baltimore

KPIX 5

Week 2 - August 17th

1:00 p.m.

vs. Denver

NBC/KPIX 5

Week 3 - August 24th

1:00 pm

vs. San Diego

FOX

Week 4 - August 28th

5:00 p.m.

at Houston

KPIX 5

The 49ers will have a vast assortment of position battles to figure out, with a limited number of starting positions up for grabs, but a whole bunch of depth roles on the line. We won't know the full extent of those competitions until after the draft, but in the meantime, there are still a variety of interesting storylines to consider for the preseason. This is not going to include things like Colin Kaepernick and the offensive development, but things from which I think we'll draw a little more substance in the preseason.

Harbowl III

Preseason matchups generally have little to no meaning given that starters don't play entire games. And yet, this will be the second straight year the 49ers will travel somewhere with an interesting "human interest" storyline. Last year, the 49ers traveled to Kansas City and faced recently traded QB Alex Smith. This year, they travel to Baltimore and pit Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh. This game means a little bit less than the Super Bowl or the Thanksgiving game, and yet, would it surprise anybody if this turned into a competitive affair late in the game? Potentially the most competitive preseason game in NFL history?

Chuck Jacobs

The 49ers wide receiver put together a fairly exciting body of work last preseason. It came mostly late in the game, so we'll see if he has potentially earned more time earlier in the game. The 49ers are looking for receiving options to complement Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin. Quinton Patton is the front-runner, and the team very well could add one or two wide receivers in the draft. And yet, I find myself circling back to Jacobs. He spent the season on the practice squad, and has a full year learning the offense. No matter how talented a receiver the 49ers draft in May, Jacobs has that one specific advantage.

Lawrence Okoye

The 49ers signed Okoye as an undrafted free agent who had never played the game of American football at an organized level. He got some playing time in the preseason before a knee injury put him on injured reserve. He looked like a guy who had never played football, but with that kind of size and athleticism, it's well worth the minimal risk. He's got an entire offseason to learn more about being a football player, including extensive time with Jim Tomsula. This year, I think he ends up on the practice squad, with the mind-blowingly awesome best case being one of the last spots on the 53-man roster.

Nose tackle battle

The 49ers will likely add some defensive line talent in the draft, but at this point, I don't see how this is not a competition between Glenn Dorsey and Ian Williams. The 49ers started the season with Williams as their nose tackle, and Dorsey as the primary utility defensive lineman. He suffered a broken ankle the second week of the season, and Glenn Dorsey replaced him. This also moved up Tony Jerod-Eddie and Demarcus Dobbs into backup roles.

Williams looked great in the preseason, and Dorsey looked good after he replaced Williams. Dorsey has more versatility than Williams, so if they end up in a close competition, it makes sense for Williams to get the starting nod.

Inside linebacker

Part of this is seeing where NaVorro Bowman is in his rehabilitation. Will he be at a point where the 49ers could include him on the 53-man roster out of camp and hope he just misses a couple games? Or will he still be looking at a PUP spot? Either way, the preseason will provide an opportunity to see if Michael Wilhoite is getting those first team reps, and what the team might have in store for Nick Moody.

Offensive linemen

We know with 100 percent certainty what 4 of the 5 starting OL spots will look like. Center is not 100 percent certain, but Daniel Kilgore is likely the early front runner. We may see some competition there, but after that, the reserve spots could be fairly wide open. Will Jonathan Martin get some time at guard, or will he strictly focus on tackle? Luke Marquardt and Carter Bykowski will challenge Martin and Snyder for reserve spots, after spending the 2013 season on the NFI list and practice squad, respectively. Moving inside, where does Joe Looney fit in the rotation alongside Adam Snyder? Al Netter has been on the 49ers practice squad for parts of the last two seasons. Will he make any kind of leap this year?

Player X Was Our Future

You absolutely know it's coming, but we just don't know who it will be. Without fail, every preseason a player emerges as the guy most people absolutely love. He's at the bottom of the roster, and is likely looking at no more than the practice squad. But, he will wow and amaze us, and much like Halley's Comet, he will then disappear forever!

There are just a few of the many storylines that will emerge in the preseason. We'll have plenty more when rookies arrive, but in the meantime, what are you looking forward to this preseason?

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