The San Francisco 49ers open their preseason on Sunday with a trip to Las Vegas to take on their former cross-town rival Raiders. The first preseason game won’t tell much about the initial 53-man roster, but players can take a good first step to improve their role or even make the team.
The offense has plenty of spots yet to be filled, and these three players can make an excellent first impression for 2023 on Sunday:
QB Trey Lance
What a difference just a year can make.
Lance entered preseason Week 1 last season as the 49ers undisputed QB1. This season, he is fighting with Sam Darnold for the backup role and could be fighting for his future for the 49ers.
The third-year quarterback seemingly has fallen out of favor with Kyle Shanahan, but a solid preseason performance could and should earn Lance the spot as Brock Purdy’s backup.
Despite his solid performance during training camp, the talk of the backup quarterback competition doesn’t seem to go away. Lance will get his first chance to see if his training camp results translate to his first game action since breaking his ankle last September.
Lance will get the start on Sunday and will likely see most if not all the first half snaps.
RB Tyrion Davis-Price
This season will be the first season in the Shanahan era where the first running back on the depth chart is evident. However, the second running back spot is wide open.
No player on the 49ers’ offense has improved his standing more over training camp than Davis-Price. The second-year running took 41 percent of his carries in the 49ers’ Week 2 over the Seahawks and played in just five games in 2022 while being inactive in eight games and outright not playing despite being on the active roster in three games.
The 49ers have three backs fighting for the backup spot behind Christian McCaffrey, but Elijah Mitchell’s injury has allowed both Davis-Price and Jordan Mason to leap-frog on the depth chart. Davis-Price’s training camp performance might have given an early boost over Mason and a solid performance against the Raiders can only help his cause.
WR Danny Gray
Gray is another second-year player who has raised his stock with a solid training camp and just like at running back, an injury has created opportunity.
The top of the depth chart at wide receiver is set with Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and Jauan Jennings filling their expected roles. With Ray-Ray McCloud sidelined for at least eight weeks with a broken wrist, Gray will compete with Willie Snead and Chris Conley for that fourth spot in the depth chart.
2022 was a year to forget for Gray, recording just one reception on seven targets for 10 yards in 13 games played in his rookie campaign. Gray is known for his speed and that’s fine and well to help stretch the field vertically, but Shanahan and the 49ers would probably like to see him develop his route running more.