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49ers Position Battles to Heat Up

Posted Aug 7, 2013

The 49ers are one day away from the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos and the head coach is eagerly and anxiously awaiting the first 60-minute game evaluation for his team.

Jim Harbaugh is ready to jump out of his skin.

The 49ers are one day away from the preseason opener against the Denver Broncos and the head coach is eagerly and anxiously awaiting the first 60-minute game evaluation for his team.

“This feels unlike any other preseason game, certainly any other first preseason game of the year,” said Harbaugh, wearing his signature black microfleece top with a blue-collared work shirt visible under the collar.

Harbaugh said Patrick Willis is the only player ruled out of action due to the hand injury the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker suffered in training camp. Standout veterans like Frank Gore and Justin Smith are not guaranteed to see action.

The only specific Harbaugh offered was the playing time of his starting quarterback. The 49ers coach estimated that Colin Kaepernick would play no more than a full quarter against the Broncos.


As for the other players on the roster competing to make the 53-man roster, Harbaugh is focused on evaluating the position battles all across the team.

“Pretty much at every position there’s a fight for either a starting spot, a backup spot, to make the team, more so than I can ever remember the last two years,” the 49ers coach said. “There are several players that have risen and have gained traction to officially be in the hunt to take a job.”

Harbaugh is not focused on certain numbers at each position group. He wants the most talented group of players to make the 53-man roster.

“It’s going to be the best players,” he said. “That’s where it’s both on one hand intriguing and exciting.”

Harbaugh wants his players to distinguish themselves as “clear-cut” options as either starters or backups.

“It’s exciting because guys have risen and have made it competitive, on the other hand, I want somebody to be the clear-cut guy, no doubt about it, everybody sees it,” Harbaugh said. “These preseason games give everybody that opportunity to show it and witness it.”

Harbaugh isn’t dwelling on depth charts going into the preseason. He said players know where they stand going into the Thursday night opener and that filling out a depth chart for each exhibition game is not a “painstaking” process.

The 49ers coach would rather focus on evaluating the players once they’re on the field.

“Facts are stubborn things,” he said. “How you play in practice and how you play in these games determines outcomes.”

So while Harbaugh is “jumping” out of his skin to watch Kaepernick work with Anquan Boldin for the first time as members of the 49ers, he’s also focused on the position battle for the team’s No. 2 quarterback.

“It’s very even,” Harbaugh said, referencing the competition is very much alive between Colt McCoy, Scott Tolzien and rookie B.J. Daniels. “I’m very looking forward to games and future practices determining it.”

When speaking of Tolzien, a third-year pro, Harbaugh brought up the deeper issue of the preseason. Harbaugh wants to see players aggressively compete to earn a roster spot and not try to avoid mistakes to make the club.

“It’s a step in the direction of not just making the team, but of contributing and competing to win, not just competing to make the team,” he said.

Harbaugh will have his eyes on the entire roster, including some of the most talked about players of camp.

Undrafted rookie defensive tackle Lawrence Okoye is one of those players who comes to mind.

The football novice has taken strides each day, Harbaugh said.

“He’s not a good football player,” the 49ers coach said, stressing how the former Olympian has grown into his current status in his first experiences playing the sport.

“The expectations need to be realistic,” Harbaugh added.

As for former first-round pick A.J. Jenkins, the 49ers coach has a whole different kind of expectations for the second-year player.

“Go out and play a lot,” Harbaugh said. “Step up in the game-type situations. Our expectations are high for A.J. Jenkins.”

Similar expectations exist for many of the 90-men on the roster. Harbaugh is eager to see it all play out, so much so, he might really jump out of his skin.



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