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Four Downs: Young Players Look to Make Their Mark in Preseason Finale

After each week of the preseason, the San Francisco 49ers have inched closer to their final 53-man roster. This Thursday night will provide young players an opportunity to make their case to stay on the team in the preseason finale against the Houston Texans.

"I'm just looking forward for the whole team," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "We've got a lot of guys fighting for the final spots. You've got a lot of guys fighting for practice squad and those things will take care of themselves in the next couple days, but besides that everything to me has been about the season."

Not only will Thursday's contest provide a chance for young players to step up and showcase their skills, it will also serve as a "dress rehearsal" for a few of the team's starters as they prepare for Week 1. In this week's game preparations, Shanahan mentioned that quarterback Trey Lance and a few offensive starters will most likely see playing time in the first half.

"I want them to get out there, definitely the ones, but we're going to talk about it as a staff more," Shanahan said. "I plan on playing those guys. I haven't exactly decided how much, I know they won't go past the first half. It'd be the first half at the most."

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 finale against the Texans.

1st Down: Which 49ers Rookie Are You Surprised Went Undrafted After Watching Their Performance Through the Preseason?

Poe has been really impressive to watch throughout training camp and the preseason. He's been consistently improving, and in this past week, we've seen the results of that build up. Poe has gotten to take some snaps with the expected first team offense at practice, coming in at the left guard position. It will be interesting to see if this translates to the game come Thursday.

In general, I believe the 49ers have a good undrafted rookie class, but I love watching Mason play. He has been a very pleasant surprise, and I just like how Mason is frequently getting extra yards after contact. He runs well through traffic and shows good vision to find the open space. During Saturday's game against the Vikings, he carried the ball nine times for 57 yards and registered 6.3 yards per carry. Mason carried the ball nine times for 57 yards.

McCrary-Ball has been a joy to watch this offseason. In fighting for a spot on the 49ers roster, the linebacker showed off his aggressive playmaking in the first quarter of the team's first preseason game when he snatched an interception off of a tipped throw in the red zone. Then, he ran it back for a 57-yard return. San Francisco's defensive coaches stress the importance of turning over the ball and McCrary-Ball showcased his turnover skills in his debut NFL game.

2nd Down: Who is the Most Important Texans Player the 49ers Defense Must Contain in Preseason Week 3?

@LindseyLares: RB Dameon Pierce

He's not a proven player yet, but I would say the defense should pay attention to rookie running back Pierce. He rushed for 49 yards on five carries and is looking to build on that performance in the finale.

@JesusZarate87: WR Brandin Cooks

Cooks is the most important player for the Texans on offense. In 2021, he registered 90 receptions for 1,037 yards and six touchdowns. In the preseason Cooks has not played yet in the preseason but according to Texans coach Lovie Smith, the starters probably will play more vs. the 49ers. If we do see Cooks on the field, the defense must contain him. We know it's preseason and there is not a lot of game planning going on, but defending Cooks while he is in the game is a good opportunity for the 49ers defensive backs to get valuable reps against a great receiver.

@BriMcDonaldTV: WR Jalen Camp

Camp has shined in the Texans two preseason games, notching 53 yards and a touchdown on two receptions against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1 of the preseason. In Week 2, he had one reception for nine yards against the Los Angeles Rams. Covering Camp will provide a good test to the young 49ers secondary in the preseason finale.

3rd Down: Which Position Group Will You be Watching the Closest in the Final Game of the Preseason?

@LindseyLares: Secondary

My eyes are going to be on the entire secondary. With the injury bug hitting both the cornerbacks and safeties throughout camp and the preseason, there are lots of opportunities for rookies and free agents to make splashes here. In these first two games, Samuel Womack III has been really hitting his stride, so I'm excited to see if he can go three-for-three on takeaways in these preseason games.

@JesusZarate87: Offensive Line

I'm looking forward to watch closely the 49ers offensive line in the third preseason game. We have pointed out the good jobs that Spencer Burford and Aaron Banks are doing right now but as we get closer to the regular season, I'm expecting them and the rest of the offensive line to perform well in Houston. Consistency is always key, especially for young players as they are trying to establish themselves in the NFL.

@BriMcDonaldTV: Running Backs

I'm excited to watch the 49ers running back corps. JaMycal Hasty, Trey Sermon, Tyrion Davis-Price and Jordan Mason have all rotated through the team's first two preseason contests and the run game is one of the most important aspects of Shanahan's offense. The battle to back up starting RB Elijah Mitchell and make the 53-man roster will come on Thursday in the team's final preseason contest.

4th Down: What is Your Bold Prediction for Saturday's Game Against the Texans?

@LindseyLares: My bold prediction is similar to my last answer, but I think that's a good thing since I have high expectations for the defensive and special teams units. I predict that the 49ers will produce two more takeaways in this preseason finale.

@JesusZarate87: My bold prediction for the third preseason game is that the 49ers running backs will have a good day. I believe as a team, San Francisco will rush for more than 200 yards.

@BriMcDonaldTV: I'm predicting that Lance will throw a 40+ yard touchdown pass to Danny Gray in the first half of the game.

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