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How 49ers Preseason Openers Under Harbaugh Preview 2014 Matchup vs. Baltimore

Posted Aug 7, 2014

Today's Niners Daily looks back at the team's three preseason openers of the Jim Harbaugh era and uncovers a few common themes.

The San Francisco 49ers open up preseason play tonight against the Baltimore Ravens.


Football is back.

Your Niners Daily report gets you ready for the 2014 debut by looking at all three preseason openers of the Jim Harbaugh era.

Aug. 12, 2011 @ New Orleans Saints

Score: Saints 24, 49ers 3

What we learned: The Harbaugh era began with a loss. Despit the result, the game served as a positive learning experience for the coach and his team. The Saints blitzed then starting quarterback Alex Smith early and often in the Superdome. The 49ers didn't expect it to happen in a preseason game but it's something they're prepared for now. The 2011 preseason opener also saw the NFL debuts for future starters Colin Kaepernick and Aldon Smith. Kaepernick finished the game completing 9-of-19 passes for 117 yards. In true Kaepernick form, he found a way to make plays with his legs, too. The 49ers signal-caller rushed for 47 yards on six carries. This was just the start of the athletic quarterback being a dual-threat.

What was said: "I didn't expect this," Harbaugh said. "I knew coming in we had a lot of work to do, but tonight some good things transpired. We'll have some good film to look at and study and to learn from and get better from."

Aug. 10, 2012 vs. Minnesota Vikings

Score: 49ers 17, Vikings 6

What we learned: Frank Gore is typically in bubble wrap for preseason openers. Such was the case on this night. Kendall Hunter started in place of Gore and was able to get valuable experience. We also were reminded how special Kaepernick is as an athlete. Kaepernick broke off a 78-yard touchdown run behind the first-team offensive line. Harbaugh allows certain starters to play longer into games to get a true evaluation.

What was said:  “I was on the other side, blocking my dude and heard the crowd go crazy,” said Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Staley. “I looked up and (Kaepernick) was already on the 10-yard line. I was blocking my guy that long, or that short, depending on how fast he was running.”

Aug. 8, 2013 vs. Denver Broncos

Score: Broncos 10, 49ers 6

What we learned: Kaepernick led the starting offense on a 13-play scoring drive, but it wasn't a touchdown. Smith pressured Peyton Manning and forced the Broncos to punt on their opening drive. The starters played briefly and the second and third-team units were unable to move the ball on offense. Anquan Boldin made his 49ers debut and caught one pass on his only series of the game. San Francisco was also evaluating a number of receivers to pair with Boldin while Michael Crabtree recovered from an Achilles injury. Boldin, as well as tight end Vernon Davis, became Kaepernick's go-to targets in the regular season and the chemistry was enhanced in this preseason matchup against the eventual AFC champions. We also saw the NFL jersey swap trend take center stage. Smith swapped uniforms with Von Miller after the game. Kaepernick and Crabtree later exchanged jerseys with opponents later in the year. Lastly, first-round draft pick Eric Reid made his 49ers debut and impressed teammates with two aggressive hits.

What was said:  “I got my feet wet a little bit,” Reid said. “Overall, I was happy with the way I played. It’s been my dream since I was a kid to be in the NFL. And to be out here with these guys on such a great team, it’s a blessing.”

Parting Thoughts

Don't expect to see a lot of action from the starters, especially the tenured veterans. The offense, for example, can get in quality work with one long scoring drive. If it's a three-and-out, they could get another series. Harbaugh also said Kaepernick won't play for very long. Gore will likely be given a light workload, if anything at all. The 49ers know Gore is ready for the regular season. The starters who will play longest figure to be three offensive linemen: center Daniel Kilgore, right guard Joe Looney and right tackle Jonathan Martin.

Defensively, it'll be great to see how young defensive linemen like Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial perform in a live game. Both have been wrecking balls in practice. The cornerback competition should be fun to watch as well. Tramaine Brock has not practiced in a week and Chris Culliver has been in and out of practice with a minor leg issue. That means Chris Cook, Perrish Cox, Dontae Johnson and Darryl Morris should be heavily involved.