The San Francisco 49ers are ready to open the Levi's® Stadium doors for the team's preseason home opener on Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys.
The two teams will square off for the 15th time in the preseason, the most recent taking place at Dallas in 2009. The 49ers haven't hosted the Cowboys in the preseason since 1987. The last time these teams met in the regular season, San Francisco beat Dallas in Week 1 of 2014, topping the Cowboys, 28-17, from AT&T Stadium.
San Francisco is coming off of a 23-10 loss to the Houston Texans in the team's first preseason contest and will look to continue to find its stride as the regular season approaches.
Here are five things to watch when the 49ers and Cowboys kick off on Sunday night.
- Colin Kaepernick and Co.
The 49ers quarterback made a brief preseason debut against Houston that only lasted one drive. Head coach Jim Tomsula didn't say on Friday how much the first-team offense would play in Week 2 of the preseason, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Kaepernick on the field for at least two series on Sunday.
"I'm looking forward to this week, hopefully being out there a little longer and getting into a rhythm with our offense," said Kaepernick on Wednesday.
The Faithful on hand will have no arguments with seeing more of the team's top playmakers against the Cowboys.
- The 49ers secondary vs. Tony Romo
Tony Romo didn't see any playing time in the Cowboys first preseason game against the San Diego Chargers, but he is expected to take snaps against the 49ers. Even though star wide receiver Dez Bryant probably won't play as he nurses a hamstring strain, Dallas still features an aerial attack that will challenge San Francisco's secondary.
Third-year receiver Terrance Williams provides a downfield threat while Cole Beasley is a growing weapon for Romo out of the slot. Throw longtime-star tight end Jason Witten into the mix and the Cowboys receiving corps has plenty to throw at the 49ers defense.
Tim Lewis, the 49ers secondary coach, has shuffled the cornerbacks around this week as starting jobs are still up for grabs. Each guy on the roster will have his opportunity to help his case on Sunday.
- Who makes a big play at wide receiver?
Torrey Smith was inches away from an 82-yard touchdown catch on the 49ers opening offensive possession in Houston. Jerome Simpson recorded the longest reception for a wide receiver of 25 yards.
Who will it be this week? Fans would love to see Kap take another shot downfield for Smith or DeAndrew White make the plays they've read about in practice. Those two wideouts, along with Anquan Boldin and Quinton Patton are certainly players to watch.
- The 49ers pass rush vs. the Cowboys offensive line
Most national pundits would call the Cowboys o-line the team's biggest strength. This is the same group that paved the way for DeMarco Murray to run for 1,845 yards in 2014. Dallas also added rookie offensive tackle La'el Collins to bolster the unit.
The 49ers are coming off of a game in which they didn't record a sack despite hitting Texans quarterbacks three times. Posting consecutive goal-line stands against Houston was the sterling moment for the 49ers defense last week, but the unit will look to disrupt the passer more on Sunday. A 49ers front seven hungry to get to the quarterback against the touted Cowboys offensive line will be one of the marquee matchups of the game.
- Continued development for the rookies
It's always an up-and-down process for rookies while they get acclimated to NFL football, but there were plenty of positives to take away from the Houston game. To name a few: Punter Bradley Pinion averaged 48.8 yards per punt with a long of 58, linebacker Eli Harold had two quarterback hits and safety Jaquiski Tartt had an impressive tackle for loss to blow up a running play.
And then of course, there is Jarryd Hayne. The 49ers rookie running back and former Australian rugby league star racked up 120 total yards between his work as a punt returner, kick returner and ball carrier. Everyone will be watching to see if the 'Hayne Plane' will takeoff again against the Cowboys.