By Gabe Schapiro
In the final tune up for the regular season opener, the preseason schedule comes to a close this Thursday at 7pm when the San Francisco 49ers (2-1) face off against the San Diego Chargers (1-2) at Qualcomm Stadium. The Chargers finished a disappointing 7-9 last season, a distant second place to the AFC West Champion Denver Broncos. As a result, they enter 2013 with a new general manager, Tom Telesco, and a new first time head coach, Mike McCoy. Their roster is headlined by many of the same key players, namely QB Phillip Rivers, TE Antonio Gates, and RB Ryan Mathews. There have been some changes, headlined by the acquisition of DE/OLB Dwight Freeney and their first two draft picks, OT D.J. Fluker and the controversial ILB Manti Te’o, but with Rivers and Gates declining, there chances of contending appear slim.
Last week San Francisco came away with a decisive 34-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings. Colin Kaepernick, who played through he first quarter, his longest action of the preseason, started off slow completing just one of his first six passes before settling in. He led an 11 play, 84-yard touchdown drive, culminating in a five yard touchdown pass to rookie Quinton Patton, who was making his 49ers debut. The game was also highlighted by an 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Lavelle Hawkins and a pair of rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter from Jewel Hampton and Anthony Dixon. The 49ers defense was stout once again, but did surrender their first two touchdowns of the preseason schedule.
With the regular season opener just a week and a half away, position battles are becoming clearer and the final roster is starting to take shape.
Prior to last weeks game veteran QB Seneca Wallace was signed to a one-year contract, adding to the competition for the backup job behind Kaepernick. In addition, yesterday it was announced that they had released Scott Tolzien, leaving Colt McCoy, B.J. Daniels, and now Wallace to fight it out. McCoy was unspectacular last week, completing 73% of his passes but also throwing an interception. Daniels and Wallace saw limited action late in the game, completing two-of-three and two-of-two passes respectively.
At wide receiver, Patton finally got onto the field, starting the game as the third receiver behind Anquan Boldin and Marlon Moore, and didn’t disappoint, hauling in a team high four receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown. Jon Baldwin made his debut following the trade last week that sent AJ Jenkins packing, finishing with two receptions for 23 yards. Best guess has Boldin, Moore, Kyle Williams, Patton, and Baldwin making the final roster, with a possible sixth wideout spot still being up for grabs.
On the defensive side of the ball, the picture looks pretty clear. During a press conference from defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, it was announced that rookie FS Eric Reid and DT Ian Williams would both be getting the nods to start the opener. They have both been the odds on favorites to start over Craig Dahl and Glenn Dorsey respectively, but this was the first official word. He also indicated that CB Nnamdi Asomugha has the edge for the third corner back spot, but is a little banged up which has prevented him from officially locking it up.
Following the upcoming game against the Chargers, it will finally be time for some regular season action. For San Francisco the journey starts on Sunday, September 8 at 1:25pm up against the tough Green Bay Packers, at Candlestick Park.