sfgate.com photo: San Francisco 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard rolls out to pass against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019.
By Jeremy Harness
SANTA CLARA – The 49ers lost their final preseason game of the year, 27-24 to the Los Angeles Chargers, but really, the night was about guys trying to make the team getting one last chance to put some good tape out there.
One of those guys is running back Jeff Wilson Jr., and on Thursday, he ran like he wanted that roster spot. He was the focal point of the team’s second drive, and to cap it off, he made an almost Walter Payton-esque cutback across the field to his right and got a kinda-sorta block from quarterback C.J Beathard on his way to a 41-yard touchdown that gave the 49ers a 7-6 lead near the end of the first quarter.
One quarter later, he also made a nice catch of a pass from Beathard that was at around his knees and was also behind him and converted it into a first down.
After an opening-drive field goal for the Chargers, D.J Reed Jr. took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 56 yards into Charger territory. Reed, who is a backup corner, is thought of as a guy who can play multiple corner positions – outside as well as in the slot – and with his special-teams playmaking ability, that should bolster his chances of making the 53-man roster that will suit up in Tampa for Week 1 of the regular season.
Dre Greenlaw is another guy who flashed on Thursday, and looks like he has solidified his spot on the team as a linebacker. After Damontre Moore whiffed on a sack attempt early in the second quarter, Greenlaw tracked Chargers quarterback Cardale Jones down and stood him up for a five-yard loss, to go along with a very nice open-field tackle on the first drive of the game.
Otherwise, the 49ers’ defense looked listless in the first half, regularly giving up chunk plays down the field before the Chargers were able to punch it in from point-blank range, eventually taking a 20-7 lead late in the second quarter.
The one things that has kept Kendrick Bourne from securing a spot on the roster has been his case of the drops, and that showed up the first time he was thrown to on Thursday, as he ran a nice crossing pattern but let the pass clank off his hands, taking away a first down.
However, he cashed in on the next opportunity he got, with a minute left in the first half. As Beathard eluded the Charger rush, he overthrew his intended target. But like a good backstop, Bourne was there to make a sliding catch in the end zone, the 21-yard touchdown cutting LA’s lead to 20-14.
NOTES: Prior to Thursday’s game, the 49ers released linebacker Malcolm Smith, who had spent most of his tenure with the team on the sidelines with assorted injuries, most notably a torn pectoral muscle that kept him out for the entire 2017 season.
The team also waived offensive linemen Willie Beavers and Dillon Day. The 49ers turned around and signed corner Chris Campbell, running back Brandon Wilds and receiver Nick Williams, who had a pair of catches in the third quarter.
UP NEXT: The 49ers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, Sept. 8 at 1:25 p.m. Game will be broadcast on FOX.