SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
What to Expect From the 49ers Preseason Game Against the Texans
Aug 24, 2022, 4:00 PM | Updated: 4:09 pm
(Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Wow, time flies! Well, if you’re waiting for the start of the NFL season, not really. But at least we’re another week closer to week 1 as the San Francisco 49ers wrap up their preseason tour Thursday night against the Houston Texans.
Thursday’s preseason finale also marks the first time an NFL game will be broadcasted exclusively on Amazon Prime. The streaming service bought the rights to Thursday Night Football for the next decade.
Regardless of the streaming implications, the contest should be a compelling one after head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed Tuesday that starting quarterback Trey Lance and the rest of the starters would be seeing game-time in Houston. The exact amount, however, is still to be determined.
“I haven’t exactly decided how much, I know they won’t go past the first half. It’d be the first half at the most,” Shannon told the media Tuesday.
With the starters now in play, here’s what to look for Thursday night in Houston.
Speaking of starters, second-year phenom Trey Lance is slated to have at least a few series Thursday night, as the coaching staff looks to simulate the offense at full strength for a portion of the exhibition.
Lance has had two days of shaky practices this week, ending training camp Tuesday 9 for 17 with three drops by the pass-catchers. He also threw a pick during the red-zone portion of drills, trying to hit Brandon Aiyuk before safety George Odum made a fantastic leaping grab to halt the drive.
Regardless of what the numbers say in practice or last season, the North Dakota State product has vowed to be better this season, citing the speed of the NFL was a hindrance for him in year 1.
“I’m going to be a lot better than I was last year,” Lance told Albert Breer this week. “Everything’s slower. Some of [the tape] is tough to watch because you see some of the dumb mistakes. But that’s part of it. That’s part of playing the position, that’s part of being in my first year. There’s going to be mistakes again this year, and for me it’s about how I respond. It’ll be easy to turn the page. And for the frustrating moments? I had them today, I have them every day.
As for Shanahan, he doesn’t care about the final stat line, just hoping his QB of the future can go out there and execute the offense the right way.
“I want to see him execute his job as well as he can. Get the team in and out of the huddle right, call the plays right, get the ball to the right spot, when he can’t get it there, make sure he doesn’t have a turnover and possibly makes a play. But just play the position the right way,” he said.
If there was a reason to watch this week, it definitely starts with Lance and the first-team offense.
While backup QB Nate Sudfeld likely has the No.2 spot on the depth chart locked up, Thursday’s contest will be key for the future of Brock Purdy with the 49ers.
Mr. Irrelevant of the 2022 draft, Purdy has shown efficiency and accuracy in his two preseason contests this year, finishing Saturday with 128 yards passing against the Minnesota Vikings. The numbers have come in small sample sizes, but the former Iowa State Cyclone has impressed Shanahan with his readiness in key moments, attributing that to playing in a power 5 conference.
“Yes, Brock was a four-year starter in the Big Ten and I think that doesn’t get talked about enough, how much experience that is for someone,” Shanahan said Sunday. “For him to have that many games under his belt, that’s a lot of football and I know it’s college football, but that’s still a lot of pressure from a freshman all the way to his senior year. So Brock has played a lot of quarterback and he’s come here and hasn’t let the big lights or being around NFL players change that. He’s been kind of the same guy that you’ve seen on tape and that’s allowed him to have a chance to get better.”
Highest QB Rating among rookies this preseason
Kenny Pickett 138.6
Skylar Thompson 121.3
Desmond Ridder 98.0
Brock Purdy 86.0
Malik Willis 80.5
Bailey Zappe 72.1
Sam Howell 69.1
Matt Corral 49.3 pic.twitter.com/eIbirOSJoR
— NFL on CBS 🏈 (@NFLonCBS) August 23, 2022
The 49ers have traditionally only held two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster, but with another “Purdy performance” against the Texans, Shanahan & Co. may have to reconsider letting him through waivers.
Thursday’s second half should be the deciding factor in that.
The Running Back Group
The San Francisco 49ers have been built on the running game since Frank Gore arrived in 2005. In 2022, things haven’t changed as the team currently has six halfbacks on the roster: Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson Jr., JaMychal Hasty, Trey Sermon, Ty Davis-Price, and Jordan Mason. Throw in fullback Kyle Juszczyk and “wideback” Deebo Samuel and that makes for eight players vying for carries out of the backfield.
Naturally, all running backs rostered will not be on the week 1 depth chart heading to Chicago, leaving the coaching staff with difficult decisions to make.
Looking at the three youngsters’ performances over the preseason, rookies Ty Davis-Price and Jordan Mason have impressed with their bruising run styles that churn out tough yards. In fact, that was one of the reasons Mason chose to sign with the team after going undrafted out of Georgia Tech.
“This [team] just fit my running style, so I said, why not [join the team], let’s go!” Mason told the media Tuesday.
Churning out nine carries for 57 years in the fourth quarter, the former Georgia Tech standout was ranked as the highest-graded RB in the preseason at 93.3.
As for his rookie counterpart, LSU’s Davis-Price has also flashed his potential, taking 10 carries for 41 yards Saturday, including a run where he smashed through two Vikings defenders for the first down yardage.
Ty Davis-Price, folks. #49ers pic.twitter.com/iLLjHNlyKR
— Rob Lowder (@Rob_Lowder) August 21, 2022
So where does that leave Trey Sermon?
The former third-round pick out of Ohio State has been lackluster through both contests, registering five carries for a mere eight yards in Minnesota. Yes, some of that can be attributed to second and third-string offensive linemen blocking for him, but nevertheless, it’s not what you want to see from a Buckeye running back.
A player who could be released when the final 53-man roster is set next Tuesday, this weekend is the last chance for Sermon and the rest of the running backs to make their case for an already crowded rotation.
Tashaun Gipson Sr. Cameo
The 49ers brought in veteran Tashaun Gipson Sr. to anchor the backline after starting strong safety Jimmie Ward was sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Gipson, 32, was a Pro Bowler with the Browns in 2014, the same year Shanahan was with the team as the offensive coordinator. Spending last season in Chicago, the 49ers hope the veteran can help nurture a solid safety group that includes Talanoa Hufanga, George Odum and Tarvarius Moore.
The 32-year-old took part in both Monday and Tuesday’s practices, getting reps alongside Moore and the second team. His inclusion in team drills indicates Shanahan wants to get some live-action tape before making roster moves Tuesday.
“We just got him in yesterday where he got a little practice, he got more today, so it’ll be fun to watch him on the tape and hopefully he’ll be in a good enough spot to put him in the game so we can get some game tape on him too,” he said Sunday.