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Recapping the rookies’ debut in 49ers’ victory against Cowboys

How did all of the 49ers’ draft picks fare on Saturday?

NFL: Preseason-Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

With the NFL maintaining a four-game preseason, there are two main priorities for coaching staffs: keep players healthy for the regular season and evaluate rookies in live-action against other teams.

The 49ers suffered more injuries than they would have liked, losing offensive tackle Shon Coleman with a right leg injury, running back Raheem Mostert with a concussion, defensive lineman D.J. Jones with a knee injury and receiver Trent Taylor before the game even began.

Despite the concerns over losing healthy bodies, the 49ers’ coaching staff should be quite impressed with the debuts of their draft picks. Their No. 2 overall selection, pass rusher Nick Bosa, will miss the remainder of the preseason after suffering a high ankle sprain during practice this week. The rest of the 49ers’ draft picks exceeded expectations and brought a lot of optimism to fans.

Wide Receiver Deebo Samuel

While 49ers’ fans were certain that San Francisco would select Bosa at No. 2, they were really hoping that wideout Deebo Samuel would fall to them. After general manager John Lynch chose Samuel, he’s been nothing short of spectacular in Kyle Shanahan’s offense during training camp.

Samuel opened today’s game with a 14-yard run on an end-around play that showed off his speed on the edge and versatility on offense. The former South Carolina receiver finished with two catches for 61 yards on four targets.

On one play in the third quarter, Samuel blew by the defender on a double move and was on his way to the end zone, but an under-thrown ball left him with just a 45-yard catch on the play.

The ex-Gamecock also drew a 25-yard pass interference penalty on the Cowboys’ defense. For a rookie receiver in his debut against an impressive Dallas secondary, all signs are pointing up for Samuel.

Wide Receiver Jalen Hurd

Fans were surprised when the 49ers chose weapons for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in back-to-back selections in this past draft. Hurd is an ideal Swiss-army knife for Shanahan, moving him around the field akin to a chess piece.

Hurd scored two touchdowns for the 49ers in his debut on Saturday, showing strength and will to get to the end zone. On the first touchdown reception, the 49ers quarterback hit Hurd on a play-action fake, where the former Baylor receiver didn’t have a Cowboys’ defender near him.

While the other receivers are quick and shifty, Hurd brings size, toughness and some grit to the 49ers’ skill position and is something that Shanahan and Garoppolo will lean on heavily this year.

Punter Mitch Wishnowsky

While many — including myself — scoffed at the selection of a punter with a fourth-round draft selection, all accounts of Wishnowsky’s training camp performance have been extremely positive.

Although fans don’t want to see the punter on the field often, the ex-Utah punter had six punts, with a long of 64 yards. Wishnowsky landed three punts inside of the 20-yard line and his long hang-time on these punts certainly help.

Wishnowsky seems to be bringing back the good ‘ole days when Andy Lee boomed punts across the field.

Linebacker Dre Greenlaw

The 49ers’ brain trust continues to find linebackers in the middle rounds, starting with Fred Warner last season and Dre Greenlaw this season. The former Arkansas defender has been competing with linebacker Malcolm Smith for a starting position alongside Warner.

Saturday’s performance should put Greenlaw above the rest of the competition, racking up six tackles and moving sideline-to-sideline. Greenlaw’s quickness and nose for the football were on display early, making tackle after tackle against Cowboys’ players.

Apart from the injuries, the 49ers defeated the Cowboys 17-9 and got solid performances from their four-most important rookies — sans Bosa. Look for these four to continue to get more playing time next week, but the future is bright in San Francisco.