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Four Downs: Which Rookies Will Stand Out vs. Packers

To kick off the 2022 season, the San Francisco 49ers will be taking on the Green Bay Packers in their one and only exhibition game at Levi's® Stadium. In the following preseason games, the 49ers will travel to face the Minnesota Vikings (August 20th) and the Houston Texans (August 25th).

Not only will Friday night's game showcase the young talent on the team and provide an opportunity for head coach Kyle Shanahan to organize his depth chart ahead of Week 1, but fans will also get to see starting quarterback Trey Lance take some reps with the first-team offense for the very first time this year.

"We've got a pretty good idea (for the preseason plan)," Shanahan said ahead of Tuesday's training camp practice. "In my mind, right now, I'd like Trey to get in, in games one and three."

For this week's Four Downs, 49ers Team Reporter Lindsey Pallares and 49ers Spanish Insider Jesús Zárate have joined me to break down several storylines ahead of the team's preseason contest against the Packers.

1st Down: Who Are You Most Excited To See in Red and Gold For the First Time?

@LindseyLares: OL Spencer Burford

I'm excited to see rookie offensive lineman Spencer Burford suit up on Friday. He's had a great couple weeks of training camp, regularly starting at the right guard position with the first-team offense, and he's brought great energy to the team while handling those reps. I think he's going to be a fan favorite.

@JesusZarate87: WR Danny Gray

I am very excited to see Danny Gray in red and gold for the first time. His speed will fit perfectly with the team. Especially with the way Shanahan designs plays to frequently leave players wide open.

@BriMcDonaldTV: WR Ray-Ray McCloud III

A new face I'm looking forward to watching perform as a Niner is wide receiver and special teams star Ray-Ray McCloud III. San Francisco acquired McCloud III from the Pittsburgh Steelers during the team's free agency. He's carved out a niche for himself as a return specialist, last year leading the NFL in punt return yards (367) while also adding 35 kickoff returns for 776 yards – it'll be exciting to see what McCloud III and new special teams coordinator Brian Schneider cook up for the third phase of 49ers football.

2nd Down: Which Position Group Will Make the Biggest Impact this Season?

@LindseyLares: Defensive Line

It's hard not to immediately think of the defensive line anytime there is mention of depth. We have heard the same thing from almost every player and coach throughout training camp—the 49ers defensive line is one of, if not the best defensive line in the league. Defensive end Nick Bosa is back coming off a healthy 2021 season in which he earned Pro Bowl honors, and the team worked to bolster the position group during the offseason, adding seven players via the draft and free agency.

@JesusZarate87: Defensive Line

The defensive line will make the biggest impact this year. A lot has been mentioned about the depth of this group and they do have many starting caliber players. I believe football games are won in the trenches, so the 49ers are in a great spot with their defensive line.

@BriMcDonaldTV: Running Backs

I foresee San Francisco's running back corps to make one of the biggest impacts this season, especially in Shanahan's physical and run-heavy offensive scheme. After a very productive training camp that included one-on-one drills with running backs/assistant head coach Anthony Lynn and multiple long-yard rushing plays against the team's elite defense, Elijah Mitchell looks to be right on track from his breakout rookie season where he set a franchise record for the most yards rushed by a first-year player (963). The 49ers have built great depth behind Mitchell with Jeff Wilson Jr., Trey Sermon, JaMycal Hasty, undrafted free agent Jordan Mason and 2022 draft selection Tyrion Davis-Price — a third-round pick who was one of the top running backs in the SEC in 2021, recording six touchdowns on 1,003 yards.

3rd Down: Which Rookie Has Made the Biggest Improvement Since the Start of Training Camp?

@LindseyLares: Drake Jackson

Over the course of camp, second-round draft pick Drake Jackson has made significant strides in his game prep on and off the field. Although not a permanent fixture on the 49ers starting defensive line, Jackson has worked in with them, lining up opposite of Bosa. Veteran left tackle Trent Williams was also quick to praise Jackson for being meticulous in studying the playbook.

@JesusZarate87: Spencer Burford

Burford, among the rookies, has been making huge progress since training camp started. Burford has been consistent. In fact, he basically has been in every rep playing at right guard with the first unit offensive line.

@BriMcDonaldTV: Samuel Womack III

One rookie that has stood out to me during training camp is fifth-round pick Samuel Womack III. Each day of camp, Womack III was one of the very first players to take the field alongside second-year safety Talanoa Hufanga. Womack III was consistently rotated in with the first-team runs and notched a clean pass breakup in the red zone on wide receiver Jauan Jennings during the team's final day of open training camp practices.

4th Down: What is Your Bold Prediction for Friday's Game Against the Green Bay Packers?

@LindseyLares: My bold prediction is that Lance will play one series and run in his first touchdown of 2022.

@JesusZarate87: The 49ers defense will hold the Packers offense to less than 10 points. That's my bold prediction for Friday! I just see a lot of talent in this defense everywhere.

@BriMcDonaldTV: Danny Gray will make his very first receiving touchdown as an NFL player.

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