Yesterday I put together a post looking at some of the recently impacted defensive position battles and defensive players we'd want to watch on Sunday against the Colts. All three were impacted in some manner by the recent injuries and other insanity. At the end of the day though, there are a lot of interesting players and matchups to watch on Sunday.
In a not so surprising fashion, the same impact has been felt by the offense. We have a variety of important battles that will begin playing out on Sunday, but they've already felt the impact of injuries. We've got numerous offensive position battles, with the following
Left Guard: Mike Iupati vs. David Baas
Backup Running Back: Glen Coffee vs. Anthony Dixon vs. Michael Robinson
5th/6th wide receivers: Brandon Jones vs. Kyle Williams vs. Dominique Zeigler
Battles like fullback, right tackle, and swing tackle are all up for battle as well. However, as this week has shown, the three above have been turned a bit on their ear. The left guard battle wasn't directly hurt by injury because Mike Iupati was moved ahead of David Baas to the first string offensive line without injury issues. It didn't sound like Iupati was officially locked in, but the recent injury to Eric Heitmann has had a ripple effect. Baas has moved over to battle for playing time at center and I don't see a guy like Brian de la Puente surpassing him. And Tony Wragge is a decent enough back-up, but given his already existing battle for the center position, he's a bit tied up.
The backup running back battle went fairly crazy yesterday with the retirement of running back Glen Coffee. Coach Singletary indicated they would look to potentially bring in another running back if somebody was out there. Until that happens we're looking at Dixon and Robinson splitting all sorts of carries. Earlier this week Maiocco put together a depth chart that featured Dixon ahead of Robinson. Since the retirement of Coffee we've heard that Dixon isn't ready, but then we've also seen some tweets about Dixon needing to be ready sooner rather than later. I'd imagine Robinson has the trust of the coaches, but Dixon is the guy they really want to emerge as soon as possible.
More on these battles and particularly the running backs after the jump.
The wide receiver battle has seen all sorts of upheaval strictly because of strong performances by some and weak performances by others. That's the kind of roster upheaval that you like. Players performing well and being promoted because of their strong performances, and not because somebody retired or was lost to a long term injury. As Ninjames has been psyched to discuss, Dominique Zeigler appears to finally have done enough thus far to put him in position to win a roster spot. We'll see how it translates to on-field production over the four preseason games, but if I was a betting man (which I am), I wouldn't bet against Zeigler.
What has really been interesting is that while Brandon Jones has probably been surpassed, even Jason Hill has potentially been surpassed by some of these guys. Jones is in his second season with the 49ers, while Hill is entering his fourth season. Hill has shown some flashes but some injuries have slowed him in camp. All in all, Hill and Jones have slid far enough that they could be battling for their roster lives. Of course, considering the 49ers kept six wide receivers to start last season, it's possible Hill or Jones ends up on the roster.
Looking ahead to Sunday
As with the defensive side of the ball, the offense has a variety of intriguing players taking the field tomorrow. I think the guy most folks are looking forward to watch on Sunday is Kyle Williams. The former Arizona State wide receiver has showed some flash and impressive skills both in college and in training camp. He'll be looking to make a statement in this first game of the preseason, whether it be as a wide receiver or returning punts.
The wide receivers as a whole are an interesting group of players to watch on Sunday. They'll be receiving passes primarily from David Carr and Nate Davis, with some Alex Smith, and maybe a little Jarrett Brown mixed in. Lord only knows how that will play out for guys like Hill and Jones desperate to show something (if they even play).
Anthony Dixon is the other guy a lot of us want to see. In fact, since yesterday's stunning Coffee news, Dixon might have surpassed Williams as the guy to watch on the offensive side of the ball tomorrow. Michael Robinson will get his fair share of carries, but Dixon would seem to be the guy who is really on the spot. Robinson is a great special teams player, but we more or less know what kind of running back he is. We want to see where Dixon is out in his development.
I realize we've also got the fullback and third string tight end battles, but I personally won't be glued to my tv for those. I suppose the fullback battle will be of interest, but the battle between Joe Jon Finley, Nate Bynham, and Tony Curtis will probably not captivate me all that much. Sorry to burst some bubbles.
So, which offensive player are you most excited and/or intrigued to watch on Sunday?