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49ers 15 - Vikings 10: Bubble players stepping up

A big part of yesterday's game was meant to see if the offense could get things going behind Alex Smith. His preseason debut the previous week against the Colts was less than stellar, so he definitely needed to show some improvement this week. And of course we did see improvement this week. The team managed a nice touchdown drive on the opening drive in which Smtih was huge on 3rd downs. It would have been nice to get some more points from Smith, but we'll take the positives as they come.

However, for many of us, the preseason is the opportunity to see what our favorite bubble player can do to make the roster. It's where we truly can enjoy our guilty pleasure players, along with guys who have a legitimate shot at making the roster if they can only prove themselves in game action.

Yesterday morning I put together a post asking which bubble player would make the biggest impact in last night's game. In a game that was filled with all sorts of action, several bubble players seemed to really step up and give the coaches a reason to keep them around. My prediction was Travis LaBoy, and while he may not have made the biggest impact, he definitely stood out with a few other players.

Travis LaBoy: He finished with a single sack, but he was all over the field and always seemed to be getting a hand on the quarterback as he finished with 3 QB hits. The 49ers find themselves in a bit of a pickle because of Ahmad Brooks' injury and the potential of LaBoy and Diyral Briggs. Last season the 49ers only kept four outside linebackers after the final cuts. How do they handle that this year? Briggs has been solid to date, and LaBoy looked right at home in the pass rush yesterday.

Phillip Adams: Seventh round picks often find themselves in a battle to stay off the practice squad. At this point, Adams may have done enough to earn a roster spot. Adams showed his special teams and cornerback versatility, finishing with a team-leading four tackles and three pass deflections. Like LaBoy he really seemed to be all over the field whenever he was given playing time. The 49ers brought in some veterans corners in Will James and Karl Paymah, but if they think Adams can be an all-around contributor, he will likely nudge one of those two out of the picture.

Nate Byham: The 49ers have a battle going on for their third tight end position that is made all the more intense because the team elected to go with only two tight ends in 2009. At this point, if the team elected to keep a third tight end, Nate Byham would seem to be the guy emerging from the pack. He had another solid game this week, as he's found himself to be a favorite target of Nate Davis and David Carr (last week). However, he's also proven his versatility on special teams and in an H-back/fullback sort of role. If you're not one of the first 30 or so guys on the roster, versatility is the key to sticking around. Byham is showing versatility each week, which could be huge for his roster chances.

Jason Hill: Consider this the anti-impact guy who seems to be rolling with some serious negative momentum. While some folks have stepped up, Jason Hill really seems to be shrinking from the spotlight at this point in time. I really thought at some point he'd step up, but with Crabtree getting healthy and Zeigler stepping up, the reps will not really be there in next week's game against the Raiders. At this point, I'd be fairly surprised if Jason Hill was on the 53-man roster come week 1.

Some folks I didn't pay close enough attention to were the backup offensive linemen. It's a bit difficult because we see the starting offensive line play a huge chunk of the game. Do we have any opinions on Alex Boone's performance in particular?