While we all have a particular player (or players) we are excited to watch tomorrow, the proverbial "what to watch for" for 49ers versus Vikings will feature a host of players that have a lot to prove. I'm not talking about players at the very bottom of the depth chart. Many guys towards the bottom will be battling for a spot on the practice squad. While that is important for them, for the purposes fo the 53-man roster, it's not quite as big an issue. They could make a run with a big preseason performance, but we'll move past that for now.
One example of a player with a ton to gain is safety Michael Thomas. He was signed as an undrafted safety, but has also been getting some time as a nickel back. It sounds like he has been impressing, but for a guy trying to earn one of the last few roster spots, he'll also need to show something on the field. Showing he can pick up the schemes in the classroom, and execute in practice are both incredibly important, and potentially more important for his roster chances. However, a strong performance tomorrow, and really throughout the preseason can still be pretty huge.
Another example of a guy with a lot to gain, in my opinion, is cornerback Tramaine Brock. He is currently listed ahead of Perrish Cox, but reports out of camp have been glowing when it comes to Cox. Based on that, it seems like Brock would be looking to have a strong performance to keep his name in the mix. It seems like he is likely to make the roster, but his playing time could vary wildly depending on the next four weeks.
Finally, what about Nate Byham and Demarcus Dobbs? The conversion of Dobbs to a possible third tight end seems to be going well enough where he has a very real shot of claiming the job. Dobbs has reportedly looked good in practice, but we'll see how that converts into game action. Again, I realize there is only so much value in preseason games. But if we are talking about a guy who does not have game experience in a position, I have to think it's kind of important to see what he can do when things get real.
Who do you think has the most to gain against the Vikings? People will be paying attention to guys like Alex Smith, Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss and others, but I contend those players don't have a whole lot to gain in terms of their roster spots. It is the guys further down that could gain or lose a lot with a strong or weak performance in week one of the preseason.