The San Francisco 49ers face the Denver Broncos on Saturday, putting them halfway through the 2016 preseason. The team had some positives to take away from their preseason opener against the Houston Texans, but there is plenty of room for improvement.
The Broncos present strong challenges on both sides. Their quarterback situation is a question mark, but they have solid skill positions outside of the QB position. On the other hand, the defense is pretty loaded, with a chance to be the best in the NFL. The two teams will likely roll out their reserves for more overall snaps than their starters, but it is still a solid challenge for the preseason.
I thought we’d take a look at what we’re looking to see from the team in Week 2. We could point to something for every position unit and/or player, but I wanted to focus on the things I will probably pay closest attention to on Saturday.
Not a shocker. Blaine Gabbert needs to show improvement from the first game. The team is keeping things relatively vanilla, but we need to see better accuracy. Some of the blame falls on the pass catchers, so we’ll see if they are on the same page.
Christian Ponder is potentially going to make his debut, and I am curious to see what he does. Not from a, “I think he’s going to win the starting job” angle, but more of a general curiosity factor. He had hype coming into the NFL, and just proved to not be a very good quarterback. We’ll see what a short week of preparation can do for him.
Jeff Driskel showed some things with his legs last week, but his accuracy was not good. The scrambling is good, but I’d like to see some improvement in the passing game.
The tight ends as a whole are a question, but I want to specifically see if McDonald can flash some decent hands. He’s got great all-around athleticism, and he could benefit in Chip Kelly’s offense. But can he hold onto the ball? We’ll be watching!
Offensive line combinations
The 49ers were rolling out the same starting five for the first two-and-a-half weeks of training camp. On Thursday, that changed. Anthony Davis got some work at right guard, before returning to his second team right tackle work. He said after practice that he offered to make the move a couple weeks back. I’m curious to see if the 49ers starting line is the same as normal. Or maybe we see the same starters for one stretch, but then Davis gets some first string run at guard.
Bruce Ellington has not practice this week, and odds seem pretty good he does not play on Saturday. DeAndrew White has handled first team slot work in his place, so I’ll be keeping an eye on him as the 49ers look for somebody to emerge as a viable threat outside of Torrey Smith.
The 49ers pass rush was inconsistent last week against Houston, but there were some positives. Tank Carradine impressed in his first game at outside linebacker. He reportedly had a strong day on Thursday, and will look to build on that on Saturday. I’ll be looking to see what both Tank and Eli Harold are able to do against the Broncos offensive line.
The 49ers will start Gerald Hodges next to NaVorro Bowman on Saturday. Last week, they started Michael Wilhoite, but Hodges and Ray-Ray Armstrong got time with Bowman as well. I’m curious if we see all three get first team run again, or if one or two emerge.
Chris Davis, Keith Reaser, Dontae Johnson
The 49ers have some intriguing talent at cornerback, but I’m specifically looking at these three. Davis had a strong game last week, and will likely continue as the team’s first string nickel back. Reaser and Johnson primarily played outside last week, but both did some solid things last week. If these three can do strong work against Denver, it will solidify their roster chances.
What are you looking for in Week 2?