2023 NFL Preseason

49ers to watch: All eyes on Lance in preseason finale vs. Chargers

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All eyes will be on Trey Lance when the 49ers play their final game of the preseason.

On Wednesday morning, 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan informed Lance he did not win the competition against Sam Darnold to be the team’s No. 2 quarterback.

Lance was excused from practice that day to get his emotions in check. He returned to the team on Thursday.

Lance will play Friday night against the Los Angeles Chargers, Shanahan and general manager John Lynch said in separate interviews on KNBR.

Staying true to the depth chart, the 49ers plan to go with Lance after starter Brock Purdy and Darnold get their allotted playing time.

Then, Lance will take the field.

You can expect the crowd at Levi’s Stadium to be supportive. Lance received a thunderous ovation a week ago when he was coming off a shaky preseason-opening performance against the Las Vegas Raiders.

The most likely scenario, according to Lynch, is that Lance remains on the team this season. He is available for any team in a trade.

But it is difficult to believe any team would give up much in compensation and be willing to pick up his contract, which consists of a fully guaranteed $5.31 million salary for the 2024 season.

Yes, all eyes will be on Lance from the moment he arrives at the stadium in the late afternoon.

At this point, there is a chance it might be the last time he takes the field for the team that traded up to select him No. 3 overall in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Here are other some other players to watch for the 49ers on Friday night:

99-DT Javon Kinlaw

Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw sat out last week’s game due to an illness. He returned to practice and will get plenty of playing time to get ready to hold down a backup role in the regular season.

Kinlaw is in line to serve as part of the team’s defensive line rotation behind starters Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead. He must show that he can anchor in the middle of the line on base downs and tie up offensive linemen in order to allow linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw to make stops.

95-DE Drake Jackson

As long as Nick Bosa remains out of the picture in a holdout, the 49ers have issues with their outside pass rush.

That is where Jackson comes in. He is noticeably stronger and better prepared to handle the rigors of an NFL season. As he returns from a hamstring condition, Jackson must make a significant step forward as a pass-rusher this season after recording three sacks in 15 games as a rookie.

13-QB Brock Purdy

There was never a question about the identity of the 49ers’ starting quarterback after Brock Purdy was fully cleared to take part in practices at the beginning of training camp.

Still, the 49ers want to get Purdy on the field Friday night in order to knock off a little rust and experience a game-like setting before he takes the field for the season opener on Sunday, Sept. 10, against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

84-WR Anthony Miller

The 49ers signed veteran receiver Anthony Miller during the week. He took part in two practices, and now he will get a shot to show what he can do in a game.

The team liked Miller when he was coming out in the 2018 NFL Draft. He was a second-round pick of the Chicago Bears and caught 140 passes for 1,564 yards and 11 touchdowns before injuries plagued him the past two seasons.

Our best guess is that the 49ers keep six wide receivers on their initial 53-man roster: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Ronnie Bell, Ray-Ray McCloud and Danny Gray.

Then, Gray could go on injured reserve, opening the door for the team to bring back a veteran receiver for a roster spot. Miller is going up against Chris Conley and Willie Snead for that potential spot.

81-TE Cameron Latu

A difficult training camp got a whole lot better for rookie tight end Cameron Latu in the past week.

Now, if he wants to nail down a roster spot, Latu must continue to make progress in the final preseason game.

He is getting more comfortable with his responsibilities and it showed last week against the Broncos. After struggling with dropped passes, Latu made some nice grabs, including a 22-yard touchdown reception from Lance late in the game.

93-DT Kalia Davis

The 49ers selected Kalia Davis in the 2022 NFL Draft despite knowing he would not be physically ready for his rookie season due to a torn ACL.

Davis did not play in the 49ers’ first two preseason games due to a hamstring injury. He should get plenty of playing time against the Chargers to show what he can do in his first game action since becoming a member of the 49ers.

10-K Zane Gonzalez

Things got a little more interesting on Friday with the news that rookie kicker Jake Moody sustained a quad strain and will not be available to kick in the preseason finale.

That means veteran kicker Zane Gonzalez will get all of the action on Friday night.

The 49ers list Moody as “day to day,” so a decision must be made on whether insurance is needed with the regular-season opener approaching.

Gonzalez has appeared in 63 games over his five-year NFL career. He has made 91 of 113 field-goal attempts (80.5 percent) with a career-long of 57 yards. Gonzalez missed all of last season due to a groin injury.

2-CB Deommodore Lenoir

Cornerback Deommodore Lenoir entered this summer with a starting spot wrapped up after ending last season on a high note.

Now, the 49ers are considering adding a little more to his plate. Defensive coordinator Steve Wilks decided a couple weeks ago to try out Lenoir at nickel back.

Lenoir plays outside on base downs, then can shift inside to cover the slot when the opposition likes up with three receivers.

Wilks said the team is not down on Isaiah Oliver as the potential nickel back; they just want to see all their options with different matchup possibilities.

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