The San Francisco 49ers will square off against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2 of the preseason. The teams held two days of joint practices this week where intensity was ratcheted and they got to get a good look at their opponents going through 1-on-1, 7-on-7 and full 11-on-11 periods over two days. Another roster cut deadline is approaching on Tuesday, August 24 when the 49ers will have to trim their roster down to 80 players by 2:00 p.m. PST.
Sunday’s action may be the last meaningful snaps for many of the fringe players on the 49ers roster as head coach Kyle Shanahan has indicated the third preseason game will serve as a dress rehearsal for the starters and they will likely play into the 3rd quarter.
With all that being said, here’s some of the fringe players to watch out for on Sunday who are still battling to make a final push to secure a spot on the team’s initial 53-man roster.
RB JaMycal Hasty
Hasty is a violent runner who has a shiftiness to him that is unmatched in the 49ers backfield. Ball security has remained an issue for Hasty throughout camp but, after making a good impression in the teams first preseason game, he’s proved a reliable fourth option on the depth chart until Jeff Wilson Jr. returns from injury. The recent injury to rookie sixth-round pick Elijah Mitchell has opened the door for Hasty to earn his way onto the roster as the team’s fourth running back.
Watch for Hasty to bring the physicality and elusiveness he’s flashed in camp against the Chargers on Sunday. My prediction is he will continue to impress and will earn a spot on the 53-man roster with a strong performance on Sunday.
WR Travis Benjamin
Travis Benjamin has yet to carve out a role for the 49ers this offseason. He is locked up in tight battles for the 49ers fifth receiver on the team as well as punt returner. Benjamin did himself a favor on Thursday’s practice catching a long TD pass from starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo but, aside from that, has had a quiet camp. Benjamin also failed to make meaningful plays in preseason game 1, capped off by a punt return that he badly misjudged by 3 yards, caught the ball backing up, avoided one tackler, then b-lined it straight to the sideline running out of bounds.
After choosing to opt out of the 2020 season, time appears to be running out for Benjamin even though coach Shanahan continually tries to get him the ball in practice. Simple truth is he doesn’t make enough plays and, aside from being a below average punt returner, he offers little to no special teams value. My prediction is Benjamin will be among the final roster cuts following preseason Week 3.
TE Jordan Matthews
Matthews failed to stick around as wide receiver for the 49ers multiple times and has put on 15 pounds this offseason to try to make the conversion to tight end. While his blocking is a work in progress, Matthews showed his route running prowess and quickness of the line of scrimmage to completely dominate 1-on-1 drills against the Chargers this week in practice. Matthews is clearly the best route runner of the tight end group (which shouldn’t be surprising since he’s a former NFL wide receiver) and has proved to be a massive mismatch for LB’s and safeties. It remains to be seen if Matthews can bring any special teams value to the team and that will be something to watch for on Sunday.
My prediction is Jordan Matthews will make the 53-man roster. He has proven to be an offensive weapon and mismatch and will be valuable should starting tight end George Kittle miss time this season with injury. He’s only 29-years old and has intriguing upside as a receiving tight end.
OT Alfredo Gutierrez
Gutierrez is a giant on the field but his knowledge gap of the intricacies of playing football is equally as big. Gutierrez has held his own in 1-on-1 work through camp and shown enough athleticism to pair with his size to be effective against NFL talent. He is definitely raw and behind the curve with regards to technique and understanding the nuances of the game but his combination of size and athleticism remains intriguing. He did not appear in the 49ers first preseason game but praise from Shanahan this week leads to believe that Alfredo will be on the field this Sunday.
My prediction is Gutierrez will show flashes on Sunday but will be inconsistent. This will lead to him being cut, but will be stashed on the practice squad. The 49ers will receive an extra practice squad exemption on the roster due to Gutierrez being part of the International Player Pathway program.
MLB Jonas Griffith
Griffith was a long shot to make the roster as camp opened, as Dre Greenlaw serves as the primary backup to All Pro Fred Warner. But Griffith had an impressive debut against the Chiefs in preseason Week 1. If you haven’t already done so, go back and watch the tape and focus on Griffith anytime he’s on the field. He was all over making plays and did a good job getting the defense lined up properly. His performance this week against the Chargers will have a big impact on his opportunity to make the 53-man roster.
My prediction is that Griffith will have a strong performance in Week 2 of the preseason and will somehow fight his way onto the 53-man roster. He has intangibles every coach looks for and has a knack for finding the ball and making plays.
WLB Marcell Harris
Harris has been a contributing member of the 49ers secondary the past several seasons. He made the transition to Will Linebacker this offseason and has been plugged in as Dre Greenlaw's primary backup throughout camp. The 49ers coaching staff is familiar and comfortable with Harris’ ability which he flashed in preseason Week 1 against the Chiefs. He has great speed for a linebacker and is a physical player who can match up well with running backs in the pass game.
My prediction is Harris will be on the 53-man roster, but he must show consistency against the Chargers. If his burst and pass defense skills show up consistently, he can be an interesting player to watch throughout the season.
CB B.W. Webb
Webb was a late addition to the team in early August and has seen action with the first-, second- and third-team defense. He hasn’t particularly stood out in his performance, but he appears to be physically gifted enough to compete at the NFL level. It will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets this week as rookies Deommodore Lenoir and Ambry Thomas played most of the game in preseason Week 1.
My prediction is fans will get an extended look at Webb this week against the Chargers. Depending on his play, he could be one of the August 24 roster cuts. Good luck, B.W..
I will be back next week with a look at what to watch out for in the 49ers final preseason game. Make sure you check out Alejandra and me live tomorrow on YouTube during halftime of the game.
See you soon.