San Francisco 49ers to watch in preseason week 2
The San Francisco 49ers will face the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2 of the preseason. The teams held two days of joint training this week where the intensity was increased and they were able to observe their opponents going through full 1v1, 7v7 and 11v11 periods over two days. Another roster reduction deadline approaches Tuesday, August 24 when the 49ers will have to reduce their roster to 80 players by 2:00 p.m. PST.
Sunday’s action could be the last meaningful snaps for many of the 49ers roster’s fringe players, as head coach Kyle Shanahan has indicated that the third preseason game will serve as a dress rehearsal for the starters and that they would probably play in the 3rd quarter.
That being said, here are some of the fringe players to watch on Sunday who are still fighting to make a last ditch effort to secure a spot on the squad’s initial roster of 53.
RB JaMycal Hasty
Hasty is a violent runner who has unmatched liveliness in the 49ers backfield. Ball safety remained an issue for Hasty throughout camp but, after making a good impression in the team’s first pre-season game, he proved to be a reliable fourth option on the depth chart to. ‘Jeff Wilson Jr. to come back from injury. Sixth-round rookie pick Elijah Mitchell’s recent injury saw Hasty claim a spot on the roster as the team’s fourth running back.
Watch for Hasty to bring in the physique and elusiveness he showed in the camp against the Chargers on Sunday. My prediction is that he will continue to impress and earn a spot in the 53-man roster with a strong performance on Sunday.
WR Travis Benjamin
Travis Benjamin has yet to find a role for the 49ers this offseason. He’s locked in close battles for the team’s 49ers fifth receiver as well as the punt return. Benjamin did himself a favor in Thursday’s practice by catching a long touchdown pass from starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo but, other than that, had a quiet camp. Benjamin also failed to make any meaningful plays in Preseason 1, capped off with a punt return he misjudged from 3 yards, caught the ball back, dodged a tackle, then lined up directly on the sideline out of bounds.
After choosing to retire from the 2020 season, time seems to be running out for Benjamin, even as coach Shanahan continually tries to put the ball to him in training. The simple truth is, he doesn’t make enough plays, and besides being an below average punt returner, he offers little to no value to special teams. My prediction is that Benjamin will be among the last cuts in the roster after preseason week 3.
TE Jordan Matthews
Matthews failed to stay as a wide receiver for the 49ers on several occasions and put on 15 pounds this offseason to try to make the tight end conversion. While his blocking is a work in progress, Matthews has shown his prowess and speed from the scrimmage line to completely dominate 1-on-1 drills against the Chargers this week in practice. Matthews is clearly the best road runner in the tight-end group (which shouldn’t be surprising since he’s a former NFL wide receiver) and has proven to be a huge mismatch for LBs and Safeties. It remains to be seen if Matthews can bring special teams value to the squad and that will be something to watch on Sunday.
My prediction is that Jordan Matthews will be on the 53 player roster. He’s proven to be an offensive weapon and a lag and will be invaluable if close start George Kittle runs out of time this season due to injury. He’s only 29 and has an intriguing advantage as a receiving tight end.
OT Alfredo Gutierrez
Gutierrez is a giant on the pitch, but his knowledge gap in the intricacies of football is just as wide. Gutierrez held his own in the 1-on-1 job during camp and showed enough athleticism to combine with his size to be effective against NFL talent. He’s definitely raw and behind the times when it comes to technique and understanding the nuances of the game, but his combination of size and athleticism remains intriguing. He did not appear in the 49ers’ first preseason opener, but Shanahan’s praise this week suggests Alfredo will be on the pitch this Sunday.
My prediction is that Gutierrez will show flashes on Sunday but will be inconsistent. This will lead to him being cut, but will be hidden in the practice squad. The 49ers will receive an additional practice squad exemption on the roster due to the fact that Gutierrez is part of the International Player Pathway program.
MLB Jonas Griffith
Griffith was far from making the list when camp opened, as Dr. Greenlaw serves as All Pro Fred Warner’s main replacement. But Griffith made an impressive debut against the Chiefs in the first week of preseason. If you haven’t already, go back and watch the tape and focus on Griffith whenever he’s on the pitch. He made plays all over the place and did a good job of lining up the defense properly. His performance this week against the Chargers will have a big impact on his opportunity to make the 53-man roster.
My prediction is Griffith will have a solid performance in Week 2 of the preseason and somehow make his way onto the 53-man roster. He has intangible assets that every coach looks for and has a knack for finding the ball and making plays.
WLB Marcell Harris
Harris has been a contributing high school member for the 49ers for the past several seasons. He transitioned to Will Linebacker during the offseason and served as Dr. Greenlaw’s main replacement throughout camp. The 49ers coaching staff are familiar and comfortable with Harris’ ability he showed in the first week of preseason against the Chiefs. He has great speed for a linebacker and is a physical player who can compete well with running backs in the passing game.
My prediction is Harris will be on the 53-man roster, but he needs to be consistent against the Chargers. If his bursting and passing defensive skills are consistent, he can be an interesting player to watch throughout the season.
CB BW Webb
Webb was a late addition to the squad in early August and played with the defense of the first, second and third teams. He didn’t particularly stand out in his performance, but he appears to be physically gifted enough to compete at the NFL level. It will be interesting to see how much playing time he has this week as rookies Deommodore Lenoir and Ambry Thomas played most of the game in the first week of preseason.
My prediction is that fans will get an in-depth look at Webb this week against the Chargers. Depending on his game, he could be one of the cuts in the August 24 roster. Good luck, BW.
I’ll be back next week to see what to watch out for in the 49ers’ final preseason game. Be sure to watch Alejandra and I live on YouTube tomorrow at half-time.