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Three things to watch in 49ers preseason opener

49ers kickoff preseason slate at Kansas City

John Dickinson
August 11, 2017 - 12:02 pm

First Round Picks

Reuben Foster has been an interception machine during the first two weeks of training camp while flying around and showing off his nose for the football. He should get plenty of reps at the “WILL” linebacker position with Malcolm Smith going on injured reserve last weekend. You may even see Foster get time with the backups at the “MIKE” linebacker spot where NaVorro Bowman is the starter.

All eyes will be on third overall pick Solomon Thomas as he finds his way in the new look 49ers defense. Thomas hasn’t had as flashy a beginning to training camp as Foster after missing the offseason program but game experience can quickly make up for some of the lost time. With the defensive line a clear strength of this 49ers team look for Thomas to see reps both on the outside at defensive end and on the inside rushing the passer.

Running Back Battle

A leaner meaner Carlos Hyde has stolen headlines by accepting the challenge of general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan to get in better shape and be more committed to the playbook. Hyde came into camp the lightest he’s been since high school and looks to have put himself in a position to reclaim his starting role when even making the team appeared to be in question throughout the offseason.

Veteran Tim Hightower has seen reps with the first team and is trusted as a runner, pass catcher and blocker out of the backfield.

Beyond the two veterans, Kyle Shanahan’s system is known to find production from young running backs out of nowhere. Keep and eye on Joe Williams, who the 49ers drafted in the fourth round and explosive undrafted rookie Matt Breida. Both have had positive moments so far in camp and who plays the best with the lights on may gain separation in the battle for the number three running back spot.

Backup Quarterback Competition

Kyle Shanahan said on Wednesday that Matt Barkley is the number two quarterback for tonight ahead of rookie C.J. Beathard though Beathard has often looked like the better player already during the early going of camp. I would expect both Barkley and Beathard to see about the same amount of snaps vs. the Chiefs. If Beathard outplays Barkley we’ll see how long Shanahan extends the veteran courtesy of being Brian Hoyer’s backup to Barkley.

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