The San Francisco 49ers open their preseason this Saturday against the Houston Texans, and that means we start to see how the bottom of the depth chart might shape up. A lot of rookies and other young players will be looking to take advantage of their first opportunity at real NFL action. Some will get big chances in the middle parts of the game, while others will be "relegated" to the fourth quarter.
One player that most everybody will be watching closely is Jarryd Hayne. The running back and return man will step on the field for his first real organized football following a career in Rugby League. Plenty are skeptical about his roster chances, but even if he does not make the roster, this first game will be something fascinating to watch.
And it sounds like there will be plenty of opportunities to watch him on Saturday. 49ers OC Geep Chryst discussed Hayne during his Wednesday press conference, and had this to say:
We're definitely going to use him on all facets of the game. Running, catching, fielding on special teams, whatever [special teams coordinator Thomas McGaughey Jr.] T-Mac wants to do.
Injuries will open the door for significant playing time on Saturday. Bruce Ellington is dealing with a muscle strain, so I would imagine we don't see him playing on Saturday. That means more returns for Hayne, Reggie Bush and DeAndrew White. Hayne is only listed as a punt returner on the 49ers first depth chart, but that is unofficial, so we'll see if he gets both punt and kick return opportunities.
At running back, Kendall Hunter is not doing much outside of individual drills, so I would be surprised if he played on Saturday. Carlos Hyde will likely get the start, but I don't expect him to work more than that first quarter. Reggie Bush will potentially get some work, but I don't see the 49ers using him all that much outside of the first quarter. That leaves Hayne, Mike Davis and Kendall Gaskins to potentially split up the second, third and fourth quarters. I could see a significant rotation throughout three-quarters of the game.
This all means the 49ers will get a much better handle on where Hayne sits in his progression into an NFL player. It also shows how much more transferrable his skills are than Lawrence Okoye's were back in 2013. Okoye was worked in to some limited late game work in his first preseason, and saw a slight bump last year. Hayne's work in Rugby League sets him up to have more early opportunities. We'll see how it translates in game action.