By Gabe Schapiro
In the third game on the preseason schedule, this Sunday, August 25 at 5pm, the San Francisco 49ers (1-1) will be taking on the Minnesota Vikings (0-2) at Candlestick Park. Last season the Vikings went 10-6, clinching a wild card birth before being eliminated in the first round by their division rivals, the Green Bay Packers. This offseason the Vikings made several big moves to try and improve on what was a surprisingly successful season last year. The most note-worthy ws the trade of their star but at times controversial wideout Percy Harvin, the signing of Greg Jennings to replace him, and their impressive haul of three first round draft picks.
Last week the 49ers squeaked out a win against the Kansas City Chiefs, 15-13, predominantly thanks to the leg of new kicker Phil Dawson and the arm of rookie quarterback B.J. Daniels. Dawson went
three-for-three on field goal attempts, and Daniels led the 49ers on their only touchdown drive of the game on a 13-play drive in the fourth quarter. A seventh round pick out of South Florida, Daniels didn’t receive a single snap in the teams first preseason game against the Broncos, but turned some heads with his play last week. He is fighting for the backup job behind Colin Kaepernick with Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien.
The new most note-worthy development as the roster begins to shake itself out with two preseason games remaining, was the announcement on Monday that A.J. Jenkins had been traded to the Chiefs in return for fellow receiver Jon Baldwin. In a classic change-of-scenery type move, both receivers are former first round picks who have struggled to make an impact since arriving in the NFL. Jenkins appeared in just three games last season and didn’t record a catch. He hadn’t been showing much so far this preseason, and so it appears that San Francisco finally decided to move on. Baldwin, a 26th overall pick from the 2011 draft, has played in 26 games over the last two seasons, hauling in 26 catches for 579 yards and two touchdowns.
Baldwin enters a still unclear picture at wide receiver for the 49ers, and last week failed to bring the situation into any kind of focus. For the second week in a row Anquan Boldin and Marlon Moore were the starters, but remained in the game for just the opening drive. Chad Hall was inserted against the Chiefs starting defense, finishing with two receptions for 39 yards, and a team high five targets. Austin Collie and Lavelle Hawkins were inserted into the game late, and finished with one catch for 11 yards and two catchers for 20 yards respectively. Undrafted rookie Chuck Jacobs had the one touchdown reception of the game late in the fourth quarter. Kyle Williams and Quinton Patton dressed for the pregame warm-ups, but did not play. As has been the case ever since Michael Crabtree went down, the receiving corp will continue to be possibly the biggest area to keep an eye on through these last two preseason games.
San Francisco’s defensive unit, however, seems to be as stout as ever. The team gave the Chiefs starting offense line fits, and finished the game with seven sacks. The battle at cornerback following the loss of Chris Culliver appears to be going well, with Parrish Cox, Tramaine Brock, and Nnamdi Asomugha all putting in solid outings last week. At free safety Craig Dahl started for the second straight week, but coach John Harbaugh said following the game rookie Eric Reid will be getting looks with the first team defense.
The third game of the preseason tends to be when the starters really start to see more playing time as they gear up for the regular season, so as always, keep an eye on these key position battles, and hope for good health.