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49ers vs. Broncos: What I'm looking for on Sunday

The first preseason game sucked. It was just awful. We're all a little more awful because of it. Let's hope for better things on Sunday, mmkay?

Rob Carr

The concept of a "what I'm looking for" article is probably strange if you examine it too closely. Obviously, I'm looking for the San Francisco 49ers to play well, win games and not sustain any serious injuries. Of course, that's a prospect that has been ... difficult to achieve, but it's the obvious goal in a nutshell.

But we're still in the preseason, and after that disaster of a first preseason game, I think there's quite a few specific things we all want to -- need to -- see to get a little comfortable. That doesn't just mean we need to see the guys who struggled in the opener turn things around. It also means we'd like to see the guys who looked good continue to do so.

For me, that's more important than the guys who didn't perform the way we hoped. There's any number of reasons as to why those guys didn't play well, but when we see players like Carlos Hyde look solid, that's them having a grasp on the game. I'd much rather see Hyde keep looking solid than, say, have Blaine Gabbert stop sucking. Though obviously one of those is much more likely.

Here's a few of the things I definitely want to see:

- Obviously, I'm going to start with Hyde. He wasn't amazing or anything like that, at least when you look at the stat-sheet. What's most important to me is that he looked like he knew how to play the position. He reminded me a lot of Frank Gore with his running style, which is basically the biggest compliment I can give. I want to see more of what I saw in the opener.

- Defensiv linemen Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine stepping it up even further. They both looked great, and we're dangerously close to the time where one or both of them could be needed to start and uphold a fine tradition of stout defense.

- I've got my eye on outside linebacker Corey Lemonier. He might actually be the most important player I'm watching out for at this point. Dan Skuta is fine, and I think he's exceeded all expectations from when he was brought in, but Lemonier can be a force and if he can establish himself as the guy above Skuta for when Aldon Smith is suspended, that would be huge.

- The last player who played well that I want to see more from: tight end Vance McDonald. He didn't play a ton, but he caught both passes thrown his way, putting up 24 yards, 17 of which came on one play. McDonald looked sure-handed and he honestly looked ... big. He bowled over a guy or two out there and flashed the size/speed combination that the 49ers so love out of their tight ends. It sure would be nice if we got more of that and less of the guy we saw last season.

- The inside linebackers are obviously important. Michael Wilhoite is going to fill in for NaVorro Bowman -- I firmly believe that -- but the 49ers insist that it's a close battle and Chris Borland is right there as well. I'm not buying that Borland is even close to being ready but hey, maybe he'll show something in this game to sway me.

- I've got just one "negative" player who I need to see something from: offensive tackle Jonathan Martin. I think it was a great move for the 49ers to bring him in, and I think we're sufficiently past all of the drama from last season so we can focus on the football player. Unfortunately, nothing out of camp has been particularly inspiring and I didn't think he looked good in the preseason opener. We need to see something for him eventually, as on the surface he'd appear to have the skillset to backup four positions on the offensive line. We just have to see it.