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Mark Nzeocha to start at SAM linebacker vs. Colts

The 49ers traded Eli Harold Thursday morning, leaving some questions at strong side linebacker.

The San Francisco 49ers traded Eli Harold Thursday morning, and the process for replacing him at SAM linebacker is an on-going process. Head coach Kyle Shanahan announced that Mark Nzeocha would start at SAM this weekend against the Indianapolis Colts, but the team has plenty of options for the role.

Pita Taumoepenu is the primary backup now behind Nzeocha, while Dekoda Watson continues working primarily as an edge rusher. The team could decide he is fine as the SAM, and given his veteran status, they can afford to take some time trying a few things out before Week 1.

Where it gets particularly interesting is with rookie linebacker Fred Warner. He has been working inside, but Shanahan said Warner and the rest of the inside linebackers could potentially do SAM work as well. They don’t have the size of an Eli Harold, but they are still options if the team decides to try out multiple options.

This Saturday’s game is a dress rehearsal, but given the trade, it would not surprise me if the fourth preseason game saw the SAM options all getting playing time.