The San Francisco 49ers closed out the preseason with a 27-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. As expected, many of San Francisco's starters did not dress in the contest, however, San Francisco used Thursday night’s game as a final evaluation for a number of fringe players on the roster. The 49ers must trim its current roster to 53 by Saturday at 1 p.m. PT. Here are the top 11 takeaways from the preseason finale.
1. C.J. Beathard got the start against the Chargers and played throughout the entire first half. The quarterback finished the game completing 6-of-9 passes for 58 yards and one touchdown.
2. Nick Mullens played just one series on the night, completing one pass to Malik Henry for 13 yards. Kyle Shanahan doesn’t expect to name who comes off the bench behind Jimmy Garoppolo in the regular season until later next week.
“The plan was for them both to start the same amount of quarters,” Shanahan said postgame. “C.J. had six and we wanted (Nick) to get six. I was going to debate on how long to keep him in. After he got hit a few times in protection I just pulled him out.”
3. Wilton Speight closed out the evening and made his first completion of the preseason. The undrafted rookie connected on 6-of-13 passes for 51 yards and two interceptions.
4. Jeff Wilson Jr. continues to complicate (or simplify) the 49ers decisions at running back. During the first quarter on 1st-and-20, Wilson Jr. took a handoff from Beathard and reversed the field for a 41-yard touchdown run. Beathard made an impressive lead block to open the lane for the running back’s score.
“(Beathard’s block) was awesome,” Shanahan said. “It was good. It was cool, got to reverse the field and he turned into a fullback on the play and he did a good job.”
Wilson Jr. played three quarters into the game and finished the night with a whopping 100 yards on the ground on 20 carries and the aforementioned touchdown to go along with a reception for eight additional yards. With Jerick McKinnon’s (knee) status unknown as the 49ers prepare for upcoming roster cuts, Wilson Jr. makes a compelling plea for his spot on San Francisco’s 53.
5. D.J. Reed Jr. set up the 49ers first drive with a 56-yard kickoff return. Reed Jr. looks to have solidified his spot on the 49ers roster through his special teams performance.
“D.J. Reed, he fights,” Shanahan said. “He can play at a number of different spots. He helped us out at safety last year, we moved him to corner this year. We know he’s got to capability to play all five of those spots back there and that’s why I tried to get them to punt again and decline that, because he’s got a chance to return a punt all times, too. …But D.J.’s a heck of a football player, and we’re glad to have him.”
6. Kendrick Bourne night began with a big drop on a pass from Beathard. He turned it around with a diving touchdown grab in the second quarter, his lone catch of the game. During the score, Beathard rolled left out of the pocket and found Bourne in the near left corner of the end zone. Bourne is competing with Richie James Jr. and Jordan Matthews for potentially the 49ers final one or two spots at receiver.
“Drops from Bourne haven’t been too much of a problem,” Shanahan said. “I do consider Bourne having some of the better hands on our team. That’s definitely one that he should have had. He’s earned a little bit more with that in terms of how good his hands are.”
7. Dre Greenlaw recorded his first sack of the preseason against Chargers quarterback Cardale Jones. Jones scrambled and sidestepped Damontre Moore before Greenlaw swallowed up the quarterback for a 5-yard loss.
8. Defensive lineman Jeremiah Valoaga led the team with six solo tackles and two sacks.
9. Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles came up with the 49ers first takeaway of the game. The linebacker made a cut on a pass from Easton Stick intended for Andre Patton and returned the interception for 15 yards.
10. Mark Nzeocha hauled in the 49ers second pick of the night as he jumped the route on a pass intended for Malachi Dupre. In the fourth quarter, Nzeocha also had a big run stop on a jet sweep against Chargers receiver Justice Liggins for a loss of seven yards.
11. Of note, Shanahan provided insight on rookie receiver Jalen Hurd Hurd missed the final two weeks of the preseason while dealing with back tightness and is likely to be sidelined heading into the regular season.
“(Hurd’s injury) was a little more serious than we thought,” Shanahan explained. “Still don’t know for sure. We thought we would have a better chance at Tampa but now that’s not looking as good. … I don’t think we’ll have to consider a list, but we’re not as confident he’ll be available Week 1 now. We aren’t for sure. I was a lot more optimistic about that two days ago.”
More updates to come.