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Four key positions to watch in the 49ers preseason finale

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The 49ers close out their preseason with much of the roster set - here’s who to watch facing the Chargers

NFL: San Francisco 49ers-Training Camp Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

As the 49ers close out their preseason facing the Chargers, there are a few players that are interesting prospects as bubble players. These are players that need to prove that they are worth a spot on the 53 or that could be a possibility to be stashed on the practice squad. Most of the roster is likely set already but there’s always a possibility of changing the minds of the staff with a breakout performance in finale.

Nick Mullens

Why? Because we all need a little magic in our lives. Mullens will likely end up on the practice squad with the backup role solidly held by C.J. Beathard, This time, however, instead of mop-up duties, or simply a game wining drive, we should see Mullens for an extended period of time facing the Chargers. Jack Henehghan should make an appearance on the field a bit as well.

Ja’Quan Gardner

Simply because of injury, the 49ers needed to bring another back into the building. While Gardner will likely be headed to the practice squad it will be interesting to see what he can do in Shanahan’s system after only a few days. He did attend the team’s rookie minicamp so it’s not a completely foreign system to him so there’s a possibility of some dynamic plays from the running back who broke records a nearby Humboldt State.

With Joe Williams’ future with the team in question, a look at all of the running backs is a must, especially if Jerick McKinnon and/or Matt Breida aren’t available in week one as projected. Raheem Mostert and Alfred Morris can hold down the fort but who would be next in line?

Richie James Jr.

Many of the writers are split on if James makes the 53 man roster. He flashed in previous games and contributes on special teams which adds value. The staff may be using a little strategy with him, not giving him much playing time facing the Colts because they hope that scouts from other teams don’t push their teams to poach him.

James is in a similar position as Kendrick Bourne was just a year ago. Bourne had a great preseason and wouldn’t have made it to the practice squad. Speaking of Bourne, he is another player to watch after having an inconsistent preseason and training camp. He has made great plays but also had some drops. Could he be a player on the bubble? Aaron Burbridge has made a case, making tough catches as well as being a key special teams player.

Joshua Garnett

Kyle Shanahan reported that the right guard position is Mike Person’s to lose but he has also said that Garnett has played well during the preseason. There’s also Jonathan Cooper to consider. With both Garnett and Cooper coming back after injury they have a lot to prove if they want to end up on the starting line up. Garnett has improved a lot and has shown shades of why he was drafted to high by the 49ers just a short time ago. He was described as a “fight starter in a good way” coming out of Stanford. Maybe he will finally let that aggressive side out.

The Three T’s

On the defensive side, it could be an interesting day for Tyvis Powell, Tarvarius Moore, and Tarvarus McFadden for a spots on the on the practice squad, or to get film for other teams to see. The secondary is pretty much set with Richard Sherman looking to be healthy enough for week one but Chanceller James’ departure could mean a few tweaks to the roster and practice squad.