1. What's the deal with the turf at Levi's Stadium? Why did it need to be redone before the game? Why is it being redone again after the game?
The turf issue is an annoying embarrassment, but not the end of the world. One source told us there was an issue with the sand placed underneath that did not allow the grass to completely take root. It wasn't great last Sunday against Denver, but seemed decent enough. They've gone with a temporary replacement turf, similar in fashion to what the Eagles did this week before Thursday's Steelers game, and also what the Rose Bowl has done between the Rose Bowl game and the national title game. They get a turf that is a little deeper with more roots already developed in a thicker bit of mud. The move has been endorsed by the Rose Bowl GM as one that should be fine for Sunday.
2. What are the expectations of 49ers fans heading into the season?
It really is Super Bowl or bust. The 49ers have come up just short each of the last three seasons, losing in excruciating fashion each time. Another deep playoff run would certainly be great, but if the 49ers come up short of winning it all for a fourth straight year, they enter '90s Bills and '00s Eagles territory. There has been a lot of turnover in the secondary, which raises some question marks, and the holdout of Alex Boone does not help any, but expectations remain high.
3. The 49ers had an impressive draft class. How have the kids looked so far?
The 49ers 2014 class is seemingly off to a solid start. First round pick DB Jimmie Ward is getting all the first team nickel work. He would seem to be a heavy favorite to start the season as the nickel back, which is a fairly heavy role for a rookie given the 49ers extensive use of the nickel. Second round pick RB Carlos Hyde has moved into the backup role behind Frank Gore and is looking good. He could end up with over 100 carries as the backup. OL Marcus Martin should end up as a starting center or guard by 2015. An ankle injury slowed him early in training camp, but he should catch up quickly. LB Chris Borland is competing for NaVorro Bowman's role while the latter is recovering from his knee injury. Michael Wilhoite is the favorite for that, but Borland will also likely be a big special teams contributor.
4. What kind of snaps can we expect from the starters? Will any starters not play at all?
This is a tough one to figure out. A lot of teams have their starters playing in the third quarter. My guess is the 49ers starters play late into the second quarter, but not much further. Strong safety Antoine Bethea suffered a concussion last week. Jim Harbaugh said he would probably be cleared to play, but would sit out. Right tackle Anthony Davis will also sit out. He is back at practice after offseason shoulder surgery, but he likely won't play until Week 1. Running back Frank Gore will get a few snaps, but not very many. Defensive tackles Justin Smith and Ray McDonald have been recovering from various ailments but have yet to play in the preseason. I could see them getting a series or two.
5. Who are a couple deep roster guys on San Francisco's roster that Chargers fans should keep an eye on in the third and fourth quarter?
On offense, offensive linemen Ryan Seymour and Carter Bykowski have been having a decent enough camp. They are competing for maybe one spot, but very well could be competing for a practice squad spot. They have led the team in offensive snaps. At wide receiver, rookie Bruce Ellington has led the team in targets, with the backup quarterbacks looking at him frequently. He also has been getting kick and punt return opportunities while LaMichael James recovers from a dislocated elbow. James is expected back on Sunday.
On defense, cornerback Darryl Morris is competing for nickel and dime work, and is one of the fastest guys on the team. Linebacker Chase Thomas has shown a lot, and could earn himself a spot on the practice squad.
Bonus: It seems like the off-the-field war between the 49ers-Seahawks (with them constantly fighting over players) has been quieter this offseason than it was last offseason. Was it a distraction last year? Was there just less opportunity for it this year?
The 49ers have had enough off the field issues of their own (looming Aldon Smith suspension, Chris Culliver misdemeanor hit and run thing, Harbaugh stuff) that it has sort of drowned out the 49ers-Seahawks stuff. I'd imagine one or both teams will claim someone off waivers from the other and it will start back up again. It's a distraction, but not one that really impacts the teams. These were the two best teams in the league last year and the length of Richard Sherman's hand was the difference. I don't think distractions really mattered.
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