COMMENTARY | The 2013 regular season is right around the corner.
The third week of the preseason is swiftly approaching, which likely means significant action for the starters. Players on the bubble also have to make an impression if they seek a spot on the final 53-man roster.
1. Backup Quarterback Competition
The play of the backup quarterbacks have been very shaky to say the least. Colt McCoy has struggled, completing only 46 percent of his passes while throwing two interceptions. Scott Tolzien hasn't fared much better, as he completed just over 52 percent of his passes and threw a pick in the first preseason game against the Denver Broncos.
However, seventh-round draft pick B.J. Daniels was the star on offense last week in the win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He accounted for 72 passing yards and 13 rushing yards while leading the 49ers to their first touchdown of the preseason.
Based on that performance, Daniels has played himself into the discussion of the No. 2 quarterback spot. He has earned more practice reps as a result, and will look to build on his performance against the Vikings.
For added competition, the 49ers added 33-year-old quarterback Seneca Wallace to the roster while releasing receiver Ricardo Lockette. Wallace last took regular-season snaps in 2011 as a member of the Cleveland Browns and was most recently cut by the New Orleans Saints.
2. Who Steps Up at No. 2 Receiving Spot?
Head coach Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff are still searching for Anquan Boldin's running mate. A.J. Jenkins was given every opportunity to seize that role, but, ultimately, disappointed. After a lackluster preseason performance, the second-year wideout was traded to Kansas City in exchange for receiver Jon Baldwin.
Baldwin, a 2011 first-round pick stands tall at 6 feet 4 inches, 230 pounds, but has some trouble catching the ball. For instance, on his third and final target against San Francisco, Alex Smith hit Baldwin between the numbers, but was unable to haul in the reception. If Harbaugh can address his drops, they might be able to squeeze some production out of him and utilize his size in the red zone. However, it could take some time for Baldwin to get acclimated with the start of the regular season just a couple of weeks away.
Since the third exhibition game acts as the final tuneup for the regular season, someone needs to grab hold of the No. 2 receiving role. Veteran Marlon Moore has lined up across from Boldin the first two preseason contests, but only has one catch for 12 yards. Chad Hall leads the way statistically for the 49ers' receivers with four catches for 59 yards, while Chuck Jacobs has the team's lone receiving touchdown through two weeks of preseason action.
Rookie Quinton Patton has yet to participate in a game due to a fractured finger, and is slated to see the field this week. While he has some upside, he's not expected to win a starting job right out of the gate.
Each receiver needs to put his best foot forward this weekend if he wants a shot at claiming a spot on the 53-man roster. This battle is still very much in the air.
3. Kickoff Coverage
The 49ers had difficulty slowing down opposing kick returners last season. So far, the special teams unit has allowed a kick return touchdown to the Chiefs, and a 44-yard return by Denver's Trindon Holliday.
Cordarrelle Patterson will be the next man in line to face the 49ers' coverage unit. Minnesota selected the rookie wideout with the 29th overall selection in this year's draft, and he has impressed thus far. On his very first attempt, the Tennessee product broke free for a 50-yard return against the Houston Texans. Even with limited experienced, he is already flashing his play-making ability on special teams and offense.
In order to keep those big plays at a minimum throughout the season, the 49ers need to shore up their coverage. Although preseason statistics should not be examined too closely, San Francisco has allowed the fourth-highest return average.
4. How Many Snaps Will Colin Kaepernick Get?
Through two games, Kaepernick has seen a total of just 17 snaps, which includes six pass attempts. While he is a lock to start come opening day, one has to wonder how much time he will see on the field. Working with a host of new wideouts, those extra reps against the Vikings could have beneficial effects for building chemistry.
5. The Return of Kendall Hunter
Frank Gore's top backup is expected to make his preseason debut. After tearing his Achilles last November, Hunter has worked his way back into the 49ers' game plan. Even though he made significant progress throughout training camp, it is worth noting to see how many touches he will receive against Minnesota. Given the uncertainty at receiver, having a healthy Hunter should provide the offense with a major spark plug in the backfield.
The third-year back hopes to build on what was shaping up to be a career year in 2012 where he averaged 5.2 yards per carry.
Travis Chan is a lifelong fan of the San Francisco 49ers. He is currently covering the team on the Yahoo! Contributor Network.
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