While training camp plays a role in determining the roster, and the preseason games carry some value, head coach Kyle Shanahan said these practices Thursday and Friday against another team are what he’ll be watching closest.
“I’m a lot more into the practices when you scrimmage than the actual game,” Shanahan said. “So you see what you cover with other team over two days, and then you kind of plan you reps accordingly to that.”
With that in mind, here are some 49ers that need to stand out in their two practices down in Southern California:
WR Jalen Hurd
This is a two-step process for Hurd. First, he needs to be on the field both days. Second, he needs to play well and show his value to the 49ers’ offense. If final cuts were this week, he may not make the roster. Time is running out and Hurd has a ton of ground to make up, although his deficit in an uninspiring receiving corps isn’t insurmountable.
CB Ambry Thomas
Thomas was outplayed by fellow rookie Deommodore Lenoir in the preseason opener, but he can make up some ground with some good outings in practice against the Chargers. It’s Thomas and Lenoir duking it out to be one of the first cornerbacks off the bench, and the third-round pick from Michigan is probably a bit behind in that race. He can make up a lot of ground this week.
OL Jaylon Moore
Moore got the start at left tackle against the Chiefs and could wind up getting starters reps again if Trent Williams sits out with a knee issue. The bigger deal for Moore, who acquitted himself well in Williams’ stead, is that he could effectively lock up a roster spot with a strong couple of practices. If he does that with a good showing in Sunday’s game, Moore could find himself as the team’s swing tackle to start the regular season.
QB Trey Lance
If there’s any chance left that Lance overtakes Jimmy Garoppolo as the starting quarterback, it’ll have to happen in these Chargers practices where he could get a shot at the Chargers’ starting defense. Dramatically outplaying Garoppolo in a intrasquad setting is much less impressive than doing it in a joint practice session. Lance has a lot of growing to do as a starting quarterback, but this is an opportunity to make some significant strides.
OL Daniel Brunskill
Brunskill has a chance to put a lock on the starting right guard job. He ostensibly got there with Aaron Banks’ poor showing in camp and then his injury in the first preseason game. However, there are enough players in the mix that a couple good weeks of practice from someone else could put Brunskill’s job in jeopardy. A stout performance vs. the Chargers would go a long way for Brunskill and San Francisco’s offensive line as a whole.
WR Jauan Jennings
Jennings received a ton of praise from Shanahan in the days after their preseason opener. He runs hard, blocks hard and in Shanahan’s words, “plays like his hair is on fire.” That tenacity will get him noticed, especially in a joint practice. The 2020 seventh-round pick isn’t a lock to make the roster yet, but if his name keeps showing up in these competitive scenarios he could very quickly make his way into the regular season receiving corps.