The San Francisco 49ers head to Indianapolis for Week 3 of the preseason for a matchup against the Colts on Saturday. Our 49ers.com writers are back to break down the 49ers dress rehearsal, in what will be the final time we see the starters before the regular season.
First Down: Who will score the 49ers first touchdown?
Joe Fann: Pierre Garçon
I've got to be honest. I'd completely forgotten that Garçon didn't score a touchdown in 2017 despite racking up 40 receptions and 500 yards in eight games. Garçon has never been a player who lives in the end zone. His career high is six touchdowns in a season (three times). A score against the Colts on Saturday obviously wouldn't count in the record books, but 49ers fans would still love to see Garçon show he can be a viable red zone target for Jimmy Garoppolo.
Keiana Martin: Alfred Morris
The 49ers newest running back didn’t see any carries last week against the Houston Texans. With Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and Joe Williams all out this week, Kyle Shanahan announced on KNBR that Morris will get the start against the Colts on Saturday. Starters are likely to see an extended amount of playing time this week which means more opportunities for Morris to get involved in both the running and passing game. As he gets acclimated in his new digs, I foresee Morris being used to get the 49ers on the board early.
Second Down: Who is the player you're most excited to see?
Joe Fann: Richard Sherman
This one is easy. Sherman making his preseason debut is the biggest storyline for the 49ers this week. The veteran corner has been eager to play, and the medical staff has finally cleared him for game action. I don't have much to add here other than I'm excited to watch him play. I'll be curious to see if his presence alone elevates the entire defense. Saturday will be the starting block, so good or bad, there's no sense in overreacting to what Sherman does against the Colts.
Keiana Martin: Arik Armstead
It has been 10 months since Armstead last appeared in an NFL game. He missed most of training camp while nursing a hamstring injury and will make his preseason debut against the Colts. The 49ers got a glimpse of his potential before a season-ending hand injury in 2017. Armstead has missed 18 of the 49ers last 32 games. Following a string of health concerns, 2018 might be a “prove-it” year for Armstead. Could his best production come in his move from LEO to “big end”? The 49ers certainly hope so.
Third Down: Who is under the most pressure? Offense or defense?
Joe Fann: Defense
Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan each expressed frustrations with the offense following last week's loss to the Houston Texans. But the fact remains that the first-team offense still scored an opening drive touchdown and should have had more points on its second possession. We've seen less plays made from the first-team defense through two preseason games. The group has allowed an opening drive touchdown in each game. A Solomon Thomas/DeForest Buckner split sack is the lone highlight from the 49ers defensive starters. I still think it's too soon to panic. That doesn't mean it wouldn't be good to see the defense show well in the first half against Andrew Luck and Co.
Keiana Martin: Defense
Jimmy G and the 49ers starting offense are coming off of a solid performance against the Texans. However, it’s the defense that has raised eyebrows. Miscues and miscommunications have led to San Francisco’s defense giving up a touchdown in each of their preseason opening drives. As Joe alluded to, it’s entirely too early to make judgement two weeks into the preseason. But the return of Arik Armstead, Malcolm Smith and Richard Sherman could help change the defense’s narrative this week.
Fourth Down: Bold Prediction
Joe Fann: 49ers average 4.5 yards per carry
The biggest concern surrounding the 49ers offense has been the running game. San Francisco averaged 3.8 and 3.1 yards per carry through its first two preseason contests, respectively. Alfred Morris is a savvy veteran, and I expect to see him make the most of what the offensive line gives him on Saturday. Alf will set the tone, and the rest of the running game will follow. A successful running game will help the 49ers avoid the third-and-long situations that were too common in Houston.
Keiana Martin: 49ers defense forces three turnovers
Based off of my previous answer, the 49ers defense is eager to step up this week following two pedestrian performances in the preseason. “Uncle Sherm’s” exhibition debut with the 49ers should provide an added boost to the defense. The Colts offense struggled against the Baltimore Ravens last week with three turnovers - two interceptions and a lost fumble. I am certain that this young defense is licking their chops at the opportunity to disrupt newly-returned Andrew Luck and the Colts offense this week.