Saturday will be the Nate Sudfeld show for the 49ers as head coach Kyle Shanahan said he doesn’t plan on playing Trey Lance or any of the starters. So, who is on your radar for the second preseason game against the Vikings? Here are our answers.
Marc: Nate Sudfeld
There may not be a quarterback competition this season, but the 49ers surprised a lot of people when they gave Nate Sudfeld a fully-guaranteed $2 million contract to be their backup quarterback. Sudfeld’s NFL resume is uninspiring, but he was impressive in the first preseason game of the year. While it’s not worth overreacting, it was easily Sudfeld’s best preseason or regular-season performance of his pro career. The Niners cannot afford to be without Lance for long this season, but if Sudfeld is a legitimate above-average backup, it could help them stay in contention even if Lance has to miss a few games this season.
Kyle: The rookies
I want to see if the rookies can give us an encore after last week. Danny Gray continued to make plays during joint practices. Can he come up with another big play in the game? Samuel Womack will go against the Vikings' first team, presumably, as opposed to the Packers' backups. If Womack can get his hands on another pass, it might be time to put him in bubble wrap until Week 1.
Speaking of slot cornerbacks, Qwuantrezz Knight was the flavor of the day Thursday. He’ll get an extensive run. Let’s see if Knight can carry over some of his success to the game.
And finally, Drake Jackson. I believe we’ll get a long look at the 49ers' second-round pick. He displayed athleticism last week. This time, I want to see Jackson finish plays.
Jordan Mason & Ty Davis-Price
Davis-Price has come on in recent weeks, showing why the 49ers were keen on investing a top 100 pick at the position for the second consecutive year. Davis-Price showed a strong ability to get north to south quickly; finishing runs with power while not shying away from contact.
I’d be interested to see if he is the starting back should Jeff Wilson Jr. not suit up, and even if he’s not, I think he still has a solid chance to solidify his positioning on the depth chart as he works his way up the pecking order in a crowded 49ers backfield.
I stand on my belief that Mason looked like one of the better backs throughout camp, and with Elijah Mitchell and Trey Sermon banged up, this is the perfect chance for Mason to showcase his abilities in this scheme. Mason has shown an ability to push vertically and make decisive cuts, which will go a long way in the ground attack Kyle Shanahan will deploy.
Mason brings a bit of everything to the table, and that complete skillset paired with the ability to contribute on special teams gives Mason an excellent opportunity to make a case for himself to be among the final 53 players standing on the roster.
Rob: Most of the 2021 draft class
It would obviously be much more fun if Trey Lance was going to suit up, but there’s still plenty from the class of 2021 that’s worth paying attention to on Saturday night.
Despite largely good reviews for most of training camp, Aaron Banks still has a lot to prove as a professional. Another solid showing would be a good step in the right direction for him, particularly while protecting a less mobile quarterback in Nate Sudfeld.
In the secondary, Talanoa Hufanga, Ambry Thomas, and Deommodore Lenoir are also in need of seasoning. While potentially painful to watch, Hufanga playing without the safety blanket of Jimmie Ward on the field could be a nice growth opportunity for a player that has flashed at certain points. As for Thomas and Lenoir, we all know they need to do something to help secure their future with the team. The Vikings offer a perfect opportunity to put some good things on tape and restore the organization’s faith in them, at least a little.
Tyler: The First String Secondary
We’ve yet to see either of the projected starters at outside corner take a snap and that won’t change this week. On top of that, Jimmie Ward suffered a significant hamstring pull, which will almost certainly rule him out of at least Week 1. Given the fact that Emmanuel Moseley missed the first two games last season with a knee strain and two games in 2020 due to a hamstring strain, what he’s battling now, it doesn’t seem out of the question he might miss the opener, too. The other Ward seems on track to make a full recovery before the end of training camp, but he apparently already faced a setback, so nothing can be ruled out.
The question becomes who gets the first string snaps for three/fourths of the secondary. Ambry Thomas feels the most likely to fill one of those spots, but the other is much more up in the air. Ka’dar Hollman, a four year vet, had five tackles against the Packers. Where does that leave him? The biggest mystery becomes who will take over in Jimmie Ward’s absence. George Odum? The veteran safety, brought in as a special special teamer for the Niners, stepped in admirably when the Colts needed him. Could Tarvarius Moore establish himself in the role that appeared to be carved out for him before his nasty Achilles Tear? We will see.