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Four Downs: Players to Watch in 49ers Preseason Opener vs. Houston Texans

Our writers are back to break down four pressing topics as the San Francisco 49ers open the 2016 preseason against the Houston Texans this Sunday.

Let's get to the four downs for what you should look forward to when the Chip Kelly era officially begins.

This "Four Downs" update is brought to you by SunPower.

1st Down: Who is your rookie to watch?@Joe_Fann: Jeff Driskel

It's hard to evaluate a rookie quarterback before seeing him in a game situation. That being said, Driskel has had several nice moments throughout training camp. On Thursday, he closed practice with back-to-back touchdown passes into tight windows. The sixth-round pick should receive ample playing time in the second half on Sunday against the Texans along with the rest of the team's first-year players. It will be intriguing to watch how the 6-foot-4, 231-pound quarterback will fare in his NFL preseason debut.

@TaylorPrice: DeForest Buckner

The first-round pick makes a lot of sense in this spot. Buckner has been disruptive throughout camp. He's also worked his way onto the first-team defense after Arik Armstread was nicked up this week. We don't know if last year's first pick will play against the Texans. But we do know that Buckner will make his NFL debut. He could do it with the first defense, too. Buckner's opportunity to face Houston's starting offensive line will be a great way to see how he stacks up against veterans in a game situation.

2nd Down: Which 49ers veteran do you want to see?

@Joe_Fann: Garrett Celek

The fourth-year pro has continued to develop in his new role on Jim O'Neil's defense. The hybrid defensive lineman/outside linebacker has made plays both as a pass-rusher and in pass coverage. The next step for the team's 2013 second-round pick is to contribute in his new role on gameday. He'll get that chance on Sunday. It's unclear how much Carradine (and the rest of the roster for that matter) will play against the Texans, but he's certainly a player I'll have my eye on.


@TaylorPrice: Bruce Ellington**

I was going to say Patton, but he did suffer a minor injury in Friday's joint practice with the Texans. The next logical choice would be Ellington, who figures to make an impact as a slot receiver and return specialist. This offeason has been huge for the third-year pro. Ellington wants to make an impact on offense, and he displayed his strong route-running and pass-catching ability when facing Houston's top defenders. Can he build on Friday's performance when the lights come on Sunday night?

3rd Down: The best storyline on Sunday is...@Joe_Fann: Rashard Robinson's return to game action

Robinson's story of redemption is one that you're probably well-versed with already. The LSU cornerback overcame off-the-field challenges and was drafted in the fourth round by the 49ers. His length and speed are prototypical, and his competitive nature has received rave reviews from his teammates. On Sunday, Robinson will get the chance to return to a game environment, an opportunity that he's sure to relish. @TaylorPrice: Offensive tempo

Speed, baby. It's fun to watch when the 49ers are going full tempo during training camp practices. Will Chip Kelly's crew get the chains moving when they take the field on Sunday? If so, expect to see San Francisco's offense unlike you've ever seen before. Remember huddling? The 49ers have barely used the common football practice in this camp. A succesful night on Sunday will mean little-to-no huddling for this offense.

4th Down: My bold prediction is...@Joe_Fann: Kelvin Taylor finds the end zone

The second half could very well turn into a showcase of the 49ers 2016 rookie class. This prediction is little more than throwing a blind dart at the wall, but Taylor could see ample touches in his first preseason action. Many are anxious to see what the team's sixth-round pick is capable of producing. Taylor has shown some juice in training camp, both as a runner and as a pass-catcher. Will it translate on Sunday? Stay tuned...


@TaylorPrice: Ronald Blair III records multiple sacks**The fifth-round pick out of Appalachian State figures to play significant snaps in his preseason debut. This means that the defensive lineman will have ample opportunities to rush against Texans quarterbacks Tom Savage and Brandon Weeden. The aformentioned passers aren't the most mobile signal-callers either. Add all this up and you get a recipe for Blair to cause havoc on passing downs.

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