The San Francisco 49ers face the Denver Broncos tonight on Monday Night Football. We should see the starters for a few series, but there are still plenty of positional battles that need to work themselves out. Last week it was clear that Kyle Shanahan wanted to see Richie James and Kendrick Bourne. Who will it be tonight? Here are the top position battles to watch:
We have talked about so many position battles that are lower on the depth chart, but we still don’t know who the leading back on the team is, and we likely won’t until after next week’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tevin Coleman has been “starting,” but Matt Breida was banged up early on, and Jerick McKinnon had a setback that has prevented him from practicing. It’s difficult for running backs to stand out in practice since coaches don’t want players to take their teammates to the ground. The biggest plays have come from Austin Walter. We know Coleman and Breida have the big-play ability Shanahan covets; now they’ll get a chance to show that off in a game. I’d like to see both involved heavily in the passing game.
Last week Damontre Moore made the most of his opportunity. He was given a chance to play virtually the entire game and made plays throughout. We won’t see Dee Ford or Nick Bosa tonight, so the hunt for a third pass rusher on the edge continues. Arik Armstead is penciled in that role now, but he will bounce back and forth from playing inside and outside.
Moore, Armstead, and Kentavius Street are vying for one spot. Armstead has the experience and is in the lead, but he can’t afford to “coast.” Ronald Blair returned from injury as well and is absolutely in the mix. We have an idea what each player can do, with new personnel and surroundings, they have a chance to earn legitimate snaps. The 49ers will need someone to give Ford and Bosa a breather during the season. If one or two of these guys can consistently prove they can win, that will allow Robert Saleh to move Bosa and Ford around to create mismatches. Finding another edge rusher will go a long way for this defense.
Is there a scenario where we are in Week 12, and Deebo Samuel is the teams’ No. 1 receiver? Can you envision Jimmy Garoppolo and Marquise Goodwin recapturing their late 2017 magic and ‘Quise being “the guy” on this offense? He’s been the best receiver during training camp. Or is this all just talk and Dante Pettis will play like he’s capable of and morph into a true No. 1 during his second-year.
With Trent Taylor out, I’d like to see who Garoppolo trusts. He hasn’t gotten many reps with Samuel or Jalen Hurd, so their timing may be off. Shanahan is still waiting for a receiver to separate themselves, will we see that tonight?
The loss of Shon Coleman still stings. It was just one game, but Willie Beavers did the opposite of what Moore did with his opportunity. Beavers looked out of his depth. He allowed a couple of quarterback hits, was beaten another time and had three penalties. Justin Skule likely isn’t the answer, but Christian DiLauro may have earned more snaps. He’s no Mike McGlinchey, but he helped spring a couple of nice runs last week.
Then there’s Sam Young, the newly signed veteran from the Miami Dolphins. You’d think he has the leg up on the rest of the competition. If he can prove to be competent, the job is his. In a perfect scenario, we wouldn’t see any of these players on the field during the regular season.