Once a year in the summer, every NFL coach will talk about how his team is tired of facing the same players every day in practice. Luckily for the 49ers, they’re holding joint practices with the Vikings this week, so they no longer have that problem. On today’s Oh, Hey There! podcast, Jason Aponte and Leo Luna pinpointed some matchups to watch.
49ers’ offensive line vs. Vikings’ front seven
The Vikings’ defense will be a hell of a test for what will be an inexperienced offensive line. Minnesota has solid players like Za’Darius Smith, Danielle Hunter, Jordan Hicks, and Eric Kendricks up front that will be looking to take advantage of the 49ers’ offensive line.
It will be an excellent opportunity for young players like Aaron Banks and Spencer Burford to test their mettle against a formidable opponent. It’s one thing to hold your own against a defense you’ve seen day after day. It’s another to stonewall a fresh defense you haven’t seen before. As Leo Luna put it during the show, “The Vikings’ strength lines up with the 49ers’ weakness.”
49ers’ secondary vs. Vikings’ wide receivers
This is another instance where some of the Niners’ injuries will open the door to more snaps for inexperienced players. With Charvarius and Jimmie Ward banged up, the secondary will be put to the test in a big way.
Justin Jefferson is a top five wide receiver in the entire league, and the word out of Vikings’ camp is that Adam Thielen looks like his old self again. Add in a nice complimentary receiver like KJ Osborn and it’s easy to see why Minnesota will provide a nice measuring stick for the defense.
Samuel Womack had a fantastic game against the Packers, but he wasn’t facing the kind of talent he’ll see this week. Flash against those guys and we’ll have a lot clearer picture of whether he can really hold down the nickel corner job this season. Also, do the 49ers put Talanoa Hufanga deeper at safety to see how he holds up against that kind of receiving talent? How DeMeco Ryans experiments this week could tell us a lot about what to expect when the games actually count.
49ers running backs vs. themselves
Elijah Mitchell is down for the preseason with a hamstring injury, and there’s no clear front-runner at number two right now. Trey Sermon didn’t put up impressive surface numbers against the Packers (6 carries for 11 yards), but Kyle Shanahan praised him the day after the game.
“I was real happy with Trey. There were things that we wanted him to improve on from last year. He’s shown that in training camp every single day that he’s got the opportunity to, and I thought he did the same thing last night. I didn’t think he had any really good looks that he should have got more on. But he didn’t hesitate. He hit the whole hard and I thought he did a real good job with his opportunities.”
Does his Lazarus-esque comeback continue or will Ty Davis-Price and/or Jeff Wilson beat him out? Jordan Mason averaged five yards per carry against Green Bay, but it wasn’t against the top of the depth chart. There are legitimate questions facing each one of those backs, and it’s one of the few unsettled position groups on the roster.
To hear the full conversation, check out today’s Oh, Hey There! podcast on Apple pods, Spotify, and everywhere podcasts are found.