To say the preseason doesn’t matter is silly — this is where NFL careers begin or die

Plus, all the storylines and players to watch as the 49ers host the Cowboys for the preseason opener

Tommy Call
August 09, 2018 - 1:59 pm

Whenever the NFL preseason rolls around you have a certain group of fans preach to their friends on Twitter that it doesn’t even matter.

Let me be the first to tell you that is completely wrong.

Out of the 90 men listed on the San Francisco 49ers roster, there is a large group competing not only to make the final 53, but to keep their NFL dream alive. Even if these players don’t end up on the 49ers, this is a league-wide audition. The preseason is life and death for many players trying to make any NFL roster — every rep counts.

This is for people's jobs. This is for people’s football lives.

So now why don’t you tell a player like Max McCaffrey or Coleman Shelton, the preseason really doesn’t matter.

There may be penalties and things could get a little sloppy, but this game is the first or last step for many careers. We all love a Cinderella story, right? This is when you can find you're 49ers Cinderella.

On that note, here are some storylines — and players — to watch for when the 49ers meet their old foe, the Cowboys:

The running backs

Outside of Marquise Goodwin, Matt Breida has been the most impressive offensive player in camp.

Brieda is proving last year was no fluke and he is this team’s counterpart to Jerrick McKinnion. One red flag, though, is in training camp there isn’t a ton of hitting, even on full contact days. So this will be Brieda’s chance to show he’s a real powerful-downhill runner.

Brieda should share the bulk of the carries with second year back Joe Williams — another player to keep an eye on.

The 49ers didn’t get to see Williams last season due to injury and reports out of camp haven't exactly been great when it comes to Williams. The opener will reveal how the coaching staff feels about him.

Last season, there was massive hype surrounding Williams prior to his injury— remember the 49ers used two draft picks to acquire him out of the University of Utah. There were even rumors Williams would challenge Carlos Hyde as the lead back, but one year later Williams is struggling for a spot on the 49ers.

If Williams hopes to gain some of that hype back, it starts against Dallas.

The guard rotation

Joshua Garnett is hurt and becoming more and more unreliable by the day.

Who will step up and solidify the guard position?  Jonathan Cooper recently came off the PUP list, so expect Mike Person to get a majority of the snaps. If Person or Cooper want to make a stride in the guard competition they need to dominate the Cowboys secondary defensive-line group. A group without Tyrone Crawford and company that isn’t very impressive, to put it delicately.

The rookie wide receivers

Dante Pettis has already garnered the attention of many 49ers fans. After a few weeks of camp, I believe it’s safe to say Pettis is legit and there are more important things to watch in the wide-receiver unit.

Rookie camp darling Richie James should see a bevy of snaps in the slot. James is campaigning for a role on this team and will need to show his speed and route running ability against live action.

James could be a nice unique gadget option in Shanahan’s offense if he can prove he belongs in the NFL. James will tangle with second year player Jourdan Lewis in the Dallas secondary. Lewis is an up-and-coming talent in the NFL — a good measuring stick for James.

Fred Warner

On the defensive side of the football, Fred Warner will be a player to watch.

Warner was drafted out of BYU as a former safety shifting to cover linebacker. Through a couple weeks in training camp Warner has proven to be much more.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, and even some offensive players, have raved about Warner’s skillset. With Reuben Foster suspended to start the season Warner will have pressure on him to step up early.

Warner will be handling a lot of the calls on defense against the Cowboys. One matchup I’m interested in seeing is Warner in coverage against Dallas tight end Rico Gathers. Gathers is a former Baylor basketball standout and has got a lot of praise early in camp.

Julian Taylor

While Brieda and Pettis have gained the attention of many on the offensive side of the ball, rookie defensive tackle Julian Taylor out of Temple has impressed on the defense.

Taylor got drafted in the seventh round and has played his way into some first-team reps in practice. The Cowboys boast one of the deepest and best offensive lines in football, so if Taylor is truly deserving of first-team reps, then he should pop against the Dallas offensive line.


After the exhibition tune into 95.7 The Game for “Overtime” with Bonta Hill and Joe “The Butcher Boy” Shasky for all the immediate analysis. Bonta and the Butcher will be taking your phone calls for all things 49ers.

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