This afternoon's 49ers-Broncos game will likely feature 49ers starters going a reasonable amount into the game. While a lot of teams will roll their starters out into the third quarter of the third preseason game, it's hard to decipher what exactly Jim Harbaugh has in mind for today, or next Thursday for that matter.
Whatever the case, even with the starters getting some extended playing time, we'll see the deeper end of the roster get plenty of playing time. Each week that means the third and fourth quarter can start to drag on for most preseason contests. I've realized that it can sometimes be hard enough watching the fourth quarter of a 49ers preseason game. It's close to impossible to do the same for a lot of non-49ers action.
Thankfully though, the 49ers have some intriguing players up and down the roster, even if it includes a mix of players unlikely to be members of the 49ers after tomorrow's roster cuts. The 49ers have plenty of question marks remaining before they cut down to 53, so I thought I'd take a look at five non-starters worth keeping a close eye on today.
1. Demarcus Dobbs
He's just about a lock to make the roster, but he's of interest because of what he could do to the rest of the roster. He is in a position to knock multiple guys off the roster at several different positions. His play could impact the roster chances of guys like OLB Eric Bakhtiari and TE Konrad Reuland. This is a big game in that regard.
2. Tramaine Brock
He's had some ups and downs this preseason and while the 49ers list him ahead of Perrish Cox on the depth chart, he likely needs a solid final two games to finish past him on the depth chart in a week and a half. The absence of Chris Culliver means Brock and Cox will both see more playing time, so they'll really both be worth watching. However, I view Brock as the main guy to watch in this battle today.
3. Ian Williams
The second year nose tackle has had a solid preseason thus far. As strictly a nose tackle, Williams lacks versatility, which is not something that plays well with the 53-man roster. Williams retains practice squad eligibility, but he is a guy who could very well be claimed off waivers if the team tries to sneak him through. A strong performance today and next week could be enough to force the issue and keep him on the roster.
4. Michael Wihoite
I've seen some chatter that his special teams work could potentially net him one of the last roster spots. NaVorro Bowman could potentially sit out today's game, which would mean Wilhoite moves up the depth chart with Larry Grant in the starting lineup. This provides him a significant opportunity to force the issue with the coaches.
5. Backup safeties
I suppose picking a group of players is sort of a cop out, but as Coach Fangio said previously, nobody has jumped out and taken firm hold of a job. C.J. Spillman, Trenton Robinson, Michael Thomas and Darcel McBath all have an opportunity to take a step forward on the depth chart. We'll see if any of them do that today.