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New Kids on the Block: 49ers Rookies Showcase Ability

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The San Francisco 49ers added a lot of new faces to their franchise this offseason. Coach Jim Harbaugh has been gaining credibility already as someone with an eye for talent. There have been flashes of greatness from a number of 49ers newcomers this season, and at a variety of positions.

Saturday night's 17-3 win over Oakland was redeeming as Niners fan were able to get a second look at the type of players Harbaugh intends to build a dynasty around. To qualifiy, Harbaugh and Trent Baalke put an emphasis on versatility, intelligence, and a blue collar team-first mentality. The following players fit that description and are proving to be valuable additions to a team building an identity.

For this franchise, preseason games matter because this is a team in transition. With holes to fill, the final roster is more uncertain than the more established teams in the league. The fact that the Niners are spending more time on this evaluation process is good because it could lead to San Francisco having more talented depth than opposing teams. The defensive line, wide receivers, runningbacks and so on, all require backups to step in from time to time. These new additions could be valuable as backups in their first year, with the potential to perhaps grow into a starting role at some point.   

Demarcus Dobbs, DL: The 6'2, 281-pound former Georgia Bulldog has been making it difficult for coaches to let him go unnoticed. Dobbs doesn't have a swift spin move like Dwight Freeney or a power bull rush like Justin Smith, but he can be choatic. He lept from the third to the second team defense against the Oakland Raiders, recording two tackles, including a sack. Although his style is a little bit unorthodox or messy, he seems to have an innate ability to track the football. Dobbs isn't believed to be competing for a starting position but could absolutely solidify himself as a backup by the regular season.

Kendall Hunter, RB: Against Oakland, the 49ers runningbacks had an absolute field day, racking up 229 yards on the ground. The pint-sized Hunter was a major contributor to the collosal day, responsible for 105 of the total yardage on only 9 carries. He was a running in and out of the tackles with ease, and always appeared to be making forward progress. Additionally, he was able to stand in the pocket and take on any free rusher. At only 5'7, Hunter has been underestimated but his height has allowed him to have leverage in games. Smaller stature players like Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren Sproles and Ahmad Bradshaw have had success in the league, and Hunter could be presumably do the same.

Lance Long, WR:  While Long did not have big numbers against the Raiders, he had 2 receptions and would have had a third, had it not been for a blatant pass interference that went uncalled. The three receptions would have been good enough for the team high on the day. He has shown good hands as he caught first down strikes from Colin Kaepernick against the Saints in the first preseason game. San Francisco may be looking to carry 6 to 8 wide receivers during the season, so Long has a legitimate shot of making the starting squad if he continues to make progress. If Long makes the final roster, he could be a contributor during the season from the slot position.

Bruce Miller, FB: When watching Bruce Miller, it has hard to believe he was strictly a defensive player at the collegiate level. The probable heir to Moran Norris was effective against the Raiders in both run and pass blocking situations. Miller has a knack for contact, and seems to initiate such on almost every play. As a defensive end at Central Florida, he used to have to manuever through traffic to look for someone to hit; now people will be coming at him. Miller had two stellar blocks against the Raiders that led to big gains for fellow rookie Kendall Hunter. He displayed great awareness and looked like a 3-year pro already.   

Daniel Kilgore, OL: The two offensive linemen drafted by San Francisco were Appalachian State's Daniel Kilgore and Montana State's Mike Person. Thus far, Kilgore has proven to be the better of the two, coming out against the Raiders in the second preseason game. He was playing the guard position when he and Bruce Miller were the key contributors to Kendall Hunter's 53-yard touchdown break. Kilgore pulled from the left side and set a block for Hunter to cut upfield. When Kilgore stepped into the line, his shorter stature was noticable but there was no dropoff performance wise from the O-line group.  

Konrad Reuland, TE: Not long after Harbaugh had signed on to be the 49ers head coach, the rumors began regarding who he would be bringing with him from Stanford. The speculation originally circled around the versatile fullback and linebacker Owen Marecic but it never materialized. Reuland on the other hand, is another versatile former Cardinal who already knows the system. With tight end being one of the few positions where the 49ers are concrete, Reuland will be competing just to make the team. He has been making all the catches and blocks during camp and his preseason game reps. Reuland could very well make the team as the new system plans on utilizing 3-tight end sets to create mismatches. The coaches have taken a liking to him because there isn't a pass that he can't catch.

The San Francisco 49ers seem to have brought in a strong draft class in Harbaugh's first ever stint as an NFL head coach. With two preseason games down, there are two to go before we get an idea of what the final roster will look like. These six rookies have a great shot to make the team and contribute in mostly situational aspects in their first year. However, we could be looking at a few bonified future starters down the road. Watch how these rookies finish off this preseason and who makes the final cuts.


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