The first preseason game for the 49ers is right around the corner.
A home game against the Packers will be the first teaser to the 2022 regular season. While preseason games hardly showcase the starters, these are opportunities for young players or guys on the depth chart looking to earn a larger role. Friday at Levi’s stadium will be the first step for these players to make their case for more opportunities or to make the team.
Here are five 49ers who need a strong performance against the Packers.
Trey Sermon, Ty Davis-Price, and Jordan Mason
Elijah Mitchell is the clear starting running back with the 49ers. And Jeff Wilson Jr. is a lock to make the team as the backup given his tenure. After those two, it is unclear how the running backs are shaping up.
Trey Sermon is the most pressing running back who needs a strong performance after his underwhelming rookie season. He’s had a fine training camp thus far and needs to capitalize on it in a real live game. This is where Kyle Shanahan will really hone in on his running backs to see how they fair. If Sermon plays strong, then he will have set himself up to continue to earn more opportunities. He needs to be one cut and go, not dancing around. Decisiveness will be key.
Ty Davis-Price is competing with Sermon here. His training camp seems to be going solid, so a strong performance against the Packers can see him rise in the ranks. Davis-Price said on Wednesday that he’s got the offense down now, which means it’s time for him to show it in a game. The strength of Davis-Price is as a bruiser running back. He’s not able to demonstrate that in training camp. Now is the time for him to show to everyone why the 49ers took him in the third round. If he has some sweet broken tackles, falls forward and doesn’t struggle hitting the lanes, then he’ll be in great shape.
Lastly, undrafted free agent Jordan Mason is someone who caught my eye in the couple of practices I was at. He didn’t get a lot of reps in scrimmage, but boy did he make the most of them. He’s big enough to truck someone and quick enough to break off a chunk gain. Mason will need to translate that against the Packers to support his practices. Making the team is an uphill battle for him, so he needs these preseason games to really apply the pressure on Shanahan to keep him if he can make a lasting impression.
Very little positive can be said about the training camp Ambry Thomas is having. That was the same case last year in training camp for him. It was telling that whenever Emmanuel Moseley or Charvarius Ward were sitting out due to rest or injury that Thomas was not trotted out with the first team. Whether it is a lack of confidence, reps, or discipline, something is clearly still not polished with Thomas.
He can quell all of those concerns from practice with a nice outing on Friday. A good performance out of him can potentially make the case that he’s an in-game performer. Or at least, it’ll give hope that the coaches have something to work with. One thing for sure is that Thomas must avoid is putting on a stinker. That’ll ensure he stays buried on the depth chart. It’s already a tough spot he’s in with Jason Verrett waiting in the wings. Thomas needs to be sweet.
Samuel Womack III
Nickel corner is likely going to be Darqueze Dennard’s role. However, his role can change to the outside should Moseley or Ward suffer an injury. Or even Dennard himself can miss time with an injury. This is where rookie Samuel Womack III can stake a claim as the backup nickel. He’s seen a fair amount of playing time there throughout training camp and has even participated with the first-team.
“Each day I’ve seen progress,” said DeMeco Ryans. “I like the way he is in man coverage; he’s been sticky, he’s been challenging. A lot of contested throws there, PBUs. So he’s headed in a really good direction, just continues to get better. I’m excited where he is and it’s exciting to see his growth and his continued development.”
Ryans is liking what he sees out of Womack so far, which makes Fridays game huge. He can solidify himself by going out there and doing exactly what Ryans sees of him. In fact, Womack is likely going to be a top player that Ryans has his eye on as Ryans has stated that preseason games are where he likes to see how young guys handle it. Womack can either see his stock rise following this game, or start to damage it.