The 49ers on Monday night take on the Broncos for a preseason matchup. This game follows a week of joint practices in Englewood, Colorado. While it's still exhibition and the games don't count, there's several significant developments to look out for.
Here are the top five: 1. Jimmy Garoppolo Early in training camp, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan ruled the franchise quarterback out for their Week 1 preseason showdown against the Cowboys. They planned on suiting Garoppolo up Week 2 against the Broncos for his first game since sustaining his knee injury Week 3 of the 2018 season against the Chiefs. But how long will Jimmy G play? Does he feel comfortable with bodies falling around his surgically-repaired knee? The 49ers’ season rides on the knee of Garoppolo and a strong preseason outing would bode well, not just for Garoppolo’s confidence, but for the entire organization’s. Monday Night Football, the world will be watching. 2. Discipline In the first preseason game the 49ers committed 18 penalties for a total of 216 yards, which would be an NFL record. Now, you can say it’s because the 49ers mostly played reserves after sitting 28 players, but the Cowboys – whose starters played maximum two possessions – played reserves for an extended period of time, and only committed five penalties for 59 yards. The 49ers’ lack of discipline has hurt them in key moments resulting in poor finishes in close games. Can the 49ers show signs of cleaning that up tonight against the Broncos? 3. Receivers Shanahan has been patiently waiting for a receiver in the group to take the lead. Most believed Dante Pettis was primed to have a breakout season heading into Year 2. So far the group has been inconsistent. The buzz is currently surrounding rookie receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd after they had a combined five catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns, not including Samuels’ 14 yards on his one carry. Will Samuel and Hurd get snaps with the first-team offense? If so, where do they line up and what role do they play? 4. Backup Quarterback Battle C.J. Beathard is set to get the first reps after Garoppolo. Against the Cowboys, he completed 13 out of his 17 attempts for 141 yards. Most people believe Mullens has already won the backup job, but a sharp outing Monday night could possibly catapult Beathard back into that No. 2 spot. The former third-round draft pick has the physical ability, but seems to be off with his mental processing.
The opposite can be said for Nick Mullens, who won three out of his eight starts after originally being on the practice squad. Mullens doesn’t have the ideal arm strength or athleticism of a starting NFL QB, but overcomes some of his shortcomings by getting the ball out quick in a wide-open Shanahan offense. Mullens will be getting third-team reps tonight, which most likely means he’ll be protected by a less-than-mediocre offensive line. 5. Safety Positions Second-year defensive back Tarvarius Moore seems to be hitting the ground running after transitioning back to his natural spot of deep safety after being drafted in the 2018 to play cornerback. After an injury to Jimmie Ward and inconsistent camp play from third-year safety Adrian Colbert, Moore found himself running with the first-team defense. How will Moore fare with most of the starting defense playing Monday night? And will Colbert bounce back after being ejected for a big hit on a “defenseless” receiver.
Jaquiski Tartt, Antone Exum and Marcel Harris are also players to watch at safety. Harris was extremely active in the first preseason game before knocking himself out with a stinger. Exum, who delivered multiple big hits in the Cowboys game, was one of two players to have an interception for the 49ers in 2018. Speaking of interceptions, can the 49ers get one tonight?
Media courtesy Getty Images