49ers at Chiefs: Who to Watch

As the San Francisco 49ers head to Kansas City to play their second preseason game, plenty of questions remain unanswered. Inside we break down key players to watch in Friday night's game as roster battles continue to unfold and players look to make an impression on the coaching staff.

The first preseason game against the Denver Broncos proved a few things for the San Francisco 49ers. First, the starting offense led Colin Kaepernick appears to be right on schedule, sans the situation at wide receiver. Second, there's plenty of sorting out to do in the defensive backfield at safety and nickel corner. And it would appear there's more competition at backup quarterback than originally anticipated. Below we break down which 49ers to watch in Friday's second preseason tilt against the Chiefs.

Wide Receiver

San Francisco's situation at wide receiver has been the most discussed topic during training camp, and for good reason. The storylines jet in different directions from the inclusion of Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree's injury, the constant embattlement of A.J. Jenkins and unknowns that blanket the rest of the group.

Here's what can be said for sure: each player on the receiving corps is worth watching closely in Friday's night's game.

Does Marlon Moore's strong showing in training camp continue to translate to game situations? Would they keep him and Kassim Osgood considering their overlapping talents as gunners on special teams?

The early indications say they would. Moore - who started against the Broncos - has been on the sideline for almost every punt and kickoff coverage drill in training camp while Osgood has lined up with the first group opposite of C.J. Spillman on punt coverage. And considering Osgood's performance on both offense and special teams in the first preseason game, he appears to be a player worth keeping around.

As for Moore, he played only nine snaps against Denver, making a catch a tough catch on his only target. Based on that workload, it seems Moore has done enough to ensure some security as one of the team's top three receivers before Mario Manningham returns alongside Kyle Williams and Boldin.

Jenkins had the most snaps of any receiver in the opener (39), making just one catch in three targets and fumbling the ball away in his only chance. The former first-round pick has had a polarizing camp, showing flashes of both good and bad. When he plays with confidence, he's noticeably more willing to attack the ball in traffic and is at his best. Otherwise his body language can be far from endearing and it leads to his play on the field, as was the case against the Broncos. Look for Jenkins to continue to get a full load of reps as the coaching staff hopes to build confidence to fuel his ability.

Austin Collie will be another player worth watching Friday as he gets more comfortable within the offense. He has received sparse reps with the first team, but the 49ers are bringing him along slowly after not playing football for nearly 10 months while dealing with his patella injury. Given the relative inexperience of the receiving corps as a whole, Collie's track record makes him a viable candidate to be one of the five or six on the 53-man roster. The former Colt caught both balls thrown his way in the first preseason game and should see his role expand Friday night.

Chad Hall, Ricardo Lockette, Lavelle Hawkins and Chuck Jacobs will also see time and hope to improve their stock. Quinton Patton is unlikely to play while he waits to be cleared to catch passes.

Free Safety

Eric Reid received the majority of his snaps with the starting defense this week, making it possible he starts the game Friday. If not, Craig Dahl could start again as he did in the opener. Vic Fangio told the media earlier this week he was undecided. Regardless, Reid figures to get the bulk of playing time at free safety again after playing 45 snaps last week.

Reid was not targeted in coverage in the first game and the defense did not yield any big plays while he was on the field. His first test in that regard could come on Friday.

Nickel Corner

The 49ers' nickel package will be important to watch for two reasons. Tarell Brown moved inside to the slot this week during practice after playing almost exclusively on the right side since Fangio took over in 2011. With Dexter McCluster's versatility, he could be a good challenge in the slot for Brown as he experiments at the position. He played nickel in college and earlier in his career with San Francisco.

Brown moving to the inside means Carlos Rogers, Tramaine Brock and Nnamdi Asomugha will be getting looks on the right side of the formation in his stead. Brock remains one of the most important players to watch in camp as the team looks to replace Chris Culliver and waits on the arrival of Eric Wright, whose time frame has not been given. Wright played on the left, right and in the slot last season with Tampa Bay and could be a valuable addition if healthy and given time to practice.

Asomugha is hoping to build momentum off his strong performance against Denver as he battles for a roster spot. Perrish Cox also had a good a good showing and has been solid during training camp.

Backup Quarterback

The battle behind Kaepernick has been one of the under-the-radar stories of camp. Neither Scott Tolzien nor Colt McCoy had particularly good showings in the 10-6 loss to the Broncos. They combined to complete 18 of 33 passes for 199 yards and two interceptions. McCoy's night was cut short after sustaining a stinger in his throwing shoulder on a botched handoff in the second quarter. He stayed in the game and threw an interception when trying to hit Jenkins down the ride sideline at the end of the first half, finishing with three completed passes in seven attempts for 41 yards. McCoy returned to practice this week and hasn't shown any lingering effects from the injury.

Tolzien is more familiar with the system having been with the team for the last two seasons, while McCoy is clearly the more talented of the two. But McCoy is still taking his lumps adjusting the foreign scheme and terminology. Although Harbaugh said the former Texas Longhorn was brought in to be the second stringer earlier this summer, he backed off that sentiment and said the competition is still up in the air during training camp. The team is hoping one of the quarterbacks can begin to emerge to give the team more confidence should it need its backup quarterback during the season.

Harbaugh said he's planning to give B.J. Daniels snaps at quarterback in Friday's game after not getting any in the loss to the Broncos. Daniels has lined up all over the place in training camp, including running back, receiver, punt returner and kick returner. With that versatility, Daniels has an outside chance at winning a roster spot and contributing in different areas. A good showing in the preseason under center could vault him into discussion for the No. 3 job. Perhaps Greg Roman finds a way to bring back the wildcat just for Daniels should he crack the roster.


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