If there’s such thing as looking forward to a game in the preseason, Week 3 is it. Over the next few days, we’ll see starters on every team play a half, and some even play a series into the third quarter. It’s not the real deal, but we’re close. There are still plenty of roster spots and positional battles up for grabs, so while it may seem meaningless to us, jobs are on the line for the players.
Here are nine players to keep an eye on as the San Francisco 49ers face off against the Kansas City Chiefs. For your convenience, I’ve listed jersey numbers next to the players’ names.
#36 Marcell Harris
Harris has been on the opposite end through two games. Against Dallas, Harris looked like he didn’t belong on the roster. Against Denver, Harris looked like a player who flies around and makes plays. Kansas City presents an entirely different offense and will put Harris in space. That is where he can improve the most. If Harris can hold up, that might be what it takes to make the roster.
#4 Nick Mullens
Mullens only played ten snaps against the Broncos. You’d think, if Jimmy Garoppolo plays the first half, Mullens will get an entire quarter against the Chiefs. Kyle Shanahan said that he knows who the backup is, but won’t say anything. I don’t think Mullens is “the guy” if he comes out before C.J. Beathard. Their passing splits might be something to watch for.
#81 Jordan Matthews
Shanahan mentioned how the coaching staff would review how the receivers played at some point during Wednesday and could shake things up. Matthews played with the first-team offense but didn’t do anything to stand out. If Matthews is on the field to start when the Niners are in 11 personnel, that could be a sign that he’ll be on the roster for good.
#56 Kwon Alexander
The new guy is expected to make his debut against Kansas City. Alexander’s energy is contagious. The Chiefs do an excellent job of spreading you out and isolating their speed guys against your linebackers. Alexander will be put in some tough situations. Keep an eye on how he holds up in coverage.
#78 Jeremiah Valoaga
Is Valoaga going to sneak his way onto the roster? The edge rusher has three sacks, two hurries, and a quarterback hit in two preseason games. Oh, and he has seven run stops. That is the production the team has been looking for. He may not unseat Ronald Blair, but there is room for another edge rusher, and Valoaga is making it tough on the coaches.
#76 Ross Reynolds
It’s been an uninspiring couple of games for the UDFA out of Iowa. Somebody on the line needs to step up. So far, the running game has been successful in spite of the line. The tight ends have sprung the long runs, or the running backs have been decisive and made people miss. Reynolds has two games left, but now it would be a good time to step it up if he wants to stick around.
#1 in our hearts, Deebo Samuel
Okay, what do the coaches need to see from the second-round pick to give him more playing time with the first unit? Samuel has touched the ball three times in the preseason. Each of those went for first downs. Two of them have gone for more than 40 yards. Is this Shanahan not trying to tip his hand in the preseason? I hope so. Re-watching the game, Samuel looks faster than he did in college. I’m not talking about just when the ball is in his hands, either. When he runs routes, he’s a couple of steps ahead of everyone else off the line of scrimmage. So explosive.
#41 Emmanuel Moseley
This could be your nickel cornerback to start the season. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said after Thursday’s practice that there’s hope that K’Waun Williams(knee) can play Week 1. Objectively, Moseley has outperformed DJ Reed and deserves to start. With young players, there are going to be natural coverage busts or oh site decorum moments. Big picture, Moseley is the guy. He will face some speedsters on Saturday.
#26 Tevin Coleman
As much as Jimmy Garoppolo and the passing game struggled Monday night, the ground game had no problems moving the ball. Coleman had three carries for 21 yards. He also motioned out as a receiver. Getting an extended look at Coleman against a Chiefs defense that has always struggled to stop the run will be something to keep an eye on. Coleman turned one of those carries into a 12-yard gain. He’s going to be the “workhorse,” if that exists in this offense. Let’s see if he can break one for 20+.