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49ers vs. Texans preview: What I'm watching for Thursday

None of us have a clue what the 49ers' plans are on Thursday. But let's talk about it anyway!

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The fourth preseason game is tonight, which means we're that much closer to actual, factual San Francisco 49ers football. It also means that my "what I'm watching for" post is probably going to be all over the place. Still, there's plenty of roster spots up for grabs -- at least on the surface -- so there should be plenty to watch out for.

I've talked a lot about the inside linebacker battle between Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland, but that one is essentially over. Wilhoite is going to be the guy, like I said from the beginning, But I will say that, while I was not impressed with Borland in the first preseason game, I thought he played very well in the second and third games. I thought he looked particularly solid in the third game.

Now, I'm very interested to see him some more. I don't need to really see him on defense so much, but I'd like to see more of him on special teams. Every year, I'm always a little bothered by the decisions the 49ers make when it comes to special teams and, of course, every year the 49ers make it abundantly clear they know how to run a football team and that I'm just a lowly writer.

In other words ... I'm beyond getting upset about what happens on special teams anymore. I think guys like C.J. Spillman should never lose their roster spot, but every time they do, the 49ers end up alright. So it is what it is. But here's a few things I'll be watching out for Thursday:

- How much Carlos Hyde and LaMichael James play. I want to know if Hyde is the first running back on the field and I want to know if the 49ers plan to protect him in much the same way that they have been all preseason. It's my opinion that they've been treating him like he's going to take some significant snaps on offense. The fourth preseason game should tell us a few things on that.

- I suppose we have an unsettled battle at the wide receiver position. As much as people suggest this is a thing, I still don't see Brandon Lloyd vs. Stevie Johnson being a real battle. But whatever the case, there's one roster spot between the two of them, which could mean we'll see one or both of them get some work against the Houston Texans.

- A big game out of Jonathan Martin sure would be nice. He hasn't been particularly good thus far, and it would be nice to see him succeed literally anywhere along the offensive line. I don't particularly care where, but if he's to be the swing tackle, he needs to show something eventually, doesn't he?

- It would be nice if tight end Derek Carrier could go out there and win himself a roster spot with a few big catches.

- Obligatory Blaine Gabbert/Josh Johnson terrible backup quarterback mention.

- This goes without saying but I'm looking for the starters to not play a single down. I don't need to see any of them and neither do the 49ers.