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49ers vs. Chargers: What I'm watching for on Sunday

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Colin Kaepernick, Vernon Davis, Justin Smith and Tramaine Brock ... are four players I'm not particularly worried about and don't need to pay attention to on Sunday. But I've got a few in mind.

When Fooch goes away on his trips, he generally leaves me in charge, which means I have to write more than usual. I'm not a fan of these happenings, because it generally means I have to think more, come up with ideas and actually adhere to deadlines. I much prefer the peace and tranquility of ignoring his emails and letting out contended sighs whenever deadlines make that sweet, sweet sound as they pass overhead.

It's rather therapeutic.

But he's away, gambling with someone else's money in Las Vegas (he's a jerk and I give you all permission to tell him this) and it just so happens that I have to come up with some stuff to write. So of course, I'm going to take the easy way out (so I can go to bed) and give you guys another super helpful "what I'm watching for" post in advance of Sunday's preseason game against the San Diego Chargers.

I've made it very clear the past couple weeks that I care about individual efforts in the preseason and not much else. I will say that this philosophy is still in effect for the third preseason game, though obviously you're hoping for a little success out of the starting units as a whole, given that more of them will be active for this game. Still, you have to remember that we're not going to see much of the real playbook, so don't put too much stock into things.

Anyway, here's some things I'll be paying close attention to, and maybe some predictions:

- I've been listing this every time, so why stop now: the inside linebacker battle between Chris Borland and Michael Wilhoite. It will be interesting to see how much time the first guy on the field gets. The battle has been a little hard to gauge when it comes to playing time given that two inside spots are required and Patrick Willis certainly doesn't need to play in the preseason. I still maintain that Wilhoite will win this job handily.

- Wide receiver Stevie Johnson should be interesting to watch. Some are suggesting that Brandon Lloyd could win the No. 3 receiver role, making Johnson expendable but I personally don't see it. If we're going to discount everything else about the first two preseason games, why is it suddenly a big deal that Colin Kaepernick couldn't hook up with Johnson? I'm hoping that will change on Sunday, either way, because I don't think Lloyd brings much of anything to the table.

- This is an easy one: running back LaMichael James. I have no idea how this running back depth chart will play out, though it's really disappointing that it can't be further clouded by the appearance of Marcus Lattimore. He's still not ready to go, but James has hit his estimated recovery time of a month and is ready to go for Sunday. I'll be interested to see what plays the 49ers run with him on offense and when he actually enters the game.

- Keep an eye on tight end Vance McDonald, of course. We want to see him continue ... not dropping passes. Gotta get that Madden rating up somehow, you know? Dude dropped eight of 14 passes I threw his way yesterday (several of which hit him in the face). In all seriousness, McDonald has looked solid thus far and a couple big catches on Sunday would probably be huge for him.

- We're getting awfully close to the regular season and I'd really like to see something special out of the offensive line. I want those guys pushing the defense around, and I especially want to see Jonathan Martin look like something other than a revolving door. He's been bad to this point, and I'm not sure how comfortable I am with him manning the swing tackle spot.

- Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine need to look good. Man they've been good thus far, I just want to see more of it. Carradine gives me hope for when Justin Smith is gone, and Dial has been better than advertised at the nose tackle spot, where he may be needed this season.

What about you guys?

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