The 49ers have headed to Indianapolis for their third preseason game facing the Colts. There have been a few roster changes since their last game: a trade, a retirement, a few players coming back from injury, and a few players limited because of them. The starters should be playing their longest time length of the four games as this is their “dress rehearsal.” Obviously we all will be watching to see if the first string looks cohesive and productive but after the starters leave the field, there are a few players lower on the depth chart to keep your eye on as they try to make a case for why they should be on the final 53 man roster
Jeremy McNichols and Jeff Wilson
With injuries hitting the running back position there are going to be opportunities for McNichols and Wilson to show what they can do. The team announced that Alfred Morris would start with the ones, and he is definitely an interesting addition to the group, but so are the younger McNichols and Wilson. The team may keep veteran special teams contributor Raheem Mostert on the sidelines as they did in the second game because they they know what they have in him and seeing reps from him are not a necessity.
Wilson and McNichols both ran the ball and caught passes in Houston where the run game in general was stifled. If one can get through the line more than the other, it could be significant, especially if the projected return of Matt Breida or Jerick McKinnon is delayed.
Mark Nzeocha and Pita Taumoepenu
The departure of Eli Harold to the Lions has opened up the door for both Nzeocha and Taumoepenu to play at the SAM linebacker position in Indianapolis. The pass rush has had it’s challenges throughout the preseason and these two will get to show if they can be difference makers on the strong side.
D.J. Reed and Jimmie Ward
Richard Sherman’s return is confirmed to start in Indianapolis and this affects the secondary lineup quite a bit. Reed has done well in both the safety and nickel position but what will be interesting is how they choose to use him. The coaching staff has been consistent in saying that Ward is one of the best at each secondary position but where does he end up fitting in? Where both Reed and Ward line up in Indianapolis could speak volumes about what will happen in the regular season.
There are plenty of matchups to watch, but these could hint at who makes the final 53.