By Kenneth Wang @k_wang32 on August 7, 2014
It's been almost half a year since the last time we've seen the San Francisco 49ers on the football field, so fans are excited about the first game of the season on Thursday, even if it is a preseason game. The first game is usually one where the starters see limited reps, as it is more for guys who are on the edge of the roster trying to make the team. With that said, there's plenty to watch for when Thursday night finally comes around.
It's been three years now, and the 49ers continue to struggle when they get in close. They've ranked in the top 10 for three consecutive years in terms of field goal attempts, but they hope to change that this year with the addition of Brandon Lloyd and Stevie Johnson. While Lloyd won't suit up due to a sprained ankle, hopefully the offense gets a couple of red zone opportunities.
The 49ers brought in Blaine Gabbert from Jacksonville this offseason to backup Colin Kaepernick. Gabbert has had a history of performing well in the preseason, so don't get too carried away if he has a few strong outings. Despite that, whether it be Gabbert or Josh Johnson, it'll be nice to see what the 49ers' options are if Kaepernick was to miss any time.
The theme of what to watch for from the 49ers seems to be how players will step in for injured starters. There's a lot of question as to how the 49ers will replace nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, who tore his biceps in training camp. Whether it will be Tank Carradine, Ian Williams or a mixture of players, we'll get a sneak peak as to what defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is planning to do.
With the loss of Kendall Hunter, the backup running back spot is up for grabs. Carlos Hyde, whom the 49ers drafted in the 2nd round, is the heir apparent to a backfield that has been held by Frank Gore for the past eight seasons. Hyde had an impressive season at Ohio State, so how he performs in his first game as a professional is something worth watching for.
Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver, the projected starting cornerbacks for the 49ers this year, have a combined 13 starts between them. While the Ravens don't boast a fearsome aerial assault, I can't wait to see how the 49ers' defensive backs, in particular the young guys, perform.
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