The third preseason game is usually a dress rehearsal for most teams. For the San Francisco 49ers, it will be an unveiling.
Wide receiver Michael Crabtree and running backs Frank Gore and Brian Westbrook will play in their first games since the start of training camp when the 49ers meet the Oakland Raiders on Saturday night in Oakland. Westbrook, who was signed on Aug. 16 after playing his first eight seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, will be making his 49ers debut.
"I want to continue to see our guys take another step, just continue to execute and continue the progression," coach Mike Singletary said.
Friday's short practice marked the last day of camp and the end of two-a-days. The 49ers will have one more preseason game after Saturday (Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers), but it's likely they'll also have nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin in the fold. Franklin should be a sideline observer against the Raiders after signing his $7.003-million tender.
Here are five reasons to watch the Niners as they approach their season opener Sept. 12 at Seattle:
1. The two-headed running back: Although Gore and Westbrook will probably play only one or two series, it will be interesting to see if Singletary opts to use them at the same time for a play or two. When Westbrook arrived, Singletary said it was possible he might add formations in which both players are in the game at the same time, although you shouldn't expect to see it on Saturday.
2. Crabtree's return: Niners fans are used to not seeing Crabtree in the preseason. Last year, it was a contract stalemate before the start of his rookie season. This year, it was a neck strain he suffered Aug. 11 that kept him out of workouts. Crabtree returned to full practice this week and may play a full opening quarter in order to work on his timing with quarterback Alex Smith.
3. Offensive line: This group hasn't been discussed much lately, and maybe that's a good thing. Singletary complimented rookie right tackle Anthony Davis for his play against the Vikings' Robert Mathis last Sunday night, and Davis might find himself matched against another exceptional pass rusher in Raiders defensive end Richard Seymour. Rookie left guard Mike Iupati has proven to be a very capable run blocker, and David Baas has the center job locked up until starter Eric Heitmann heals from a broken fibula.
4. Backup QB: Now that Nate Davis has failed to impress Singletary with his play in the Vikings game, the job of No. 2 falls to David Carr, an eight-year veteran. Carr was a backup with the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants, but if Smith endures a prolonged slump, it's possible Carr could be summoned on short notice (possible, but not likely). Look for Carr to play at least the second half, although it will be interesting to see if Davis gets any snaps.
5. Punt returns: This job could have been won by rookie Kyle Williams, but he was sidelined by an injury to his big toe. Although recently signed Bobby Guillory has looked unsteady back there, Singletary will probably give him a couple of chances to impress. It's possible that Kevin Jurovich and Phillip Adams will also get a look and possibly Dominique Zeigler.