The Denver Broncos will not have all of the pieces of their dominant Super Bowl-winning pass rush on hand Saturday night against the 49ers in the second exhibition game for both teams.
But even with Von Miller playing limited snaps and DeMarcus Ware still unavailable due to a back condition, the game should provide a good tool for the 49ers to evaluate their quarterback and offensive line positions.
Let’s answer a couple of questions kindly submitted from our friends on Facebook:
Is Christian Ponder being considered a "camp arm", or is there a chance he stays on as the Niners' third quarterback? (Chris Munson)
When the 49ers signed Ponder, who has not thrown a pass in an NFL game since the 2014 season, general manager Trent Baalke said he told him what he tells everybody who comes to the team.
“If you’re coming into this program, you’re going to be given every opportunity to compete for a spot,” Baalke said. “We don’t set limits. They come in and compete, and they’re going to earn whatever role they’re going to have with this team.”
But, let’s face it, Ponder is so far behind that his odds of making the team are astronomical. An injury, of course, could change that. But, right now, the only quarterbacks who are assured of getting paychecks for being on the regular-season roster are Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick.
This situation appears to set up for the 49ers keep two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster with raw rookie Jeff Driskel taking a role on the 10-man practice squad. It seems unlikely another team would claim Driskel, a sixth-round draft pick, off waivers for a valuable roster spot.
“That’s always a discussion,” Baalke answered this week when CSNBayArea.com asked him about his thoughts on keeping two or three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster.
“It used to be that everyone kept three, no matter what. And now a lot of teams will only carry two. They don’t carry a third. That’s an age-old debate. (I’m) not prepared to make that decision today. We’ve got time. We’ve got three weeks yet before that decision has to be made.”
(Thanks for the question, Chris. Please tell the boys I said hi.)
Will Anthony Davis win a starting spot on the OL, and if not will he be OK being a backup? (Ed Brosius)
Let’s go straight to Anthony Davis for the answer to that question . . . “I’ll be on the field (as a starter) sooner or later. Sooner or later. I’m pretty good at football.”
But it has not been easy for Davis to cut a swath up to the starting unit. The 49ers have maintained the same starting five since the opening of training camp.
That lineup looks like this:
Left tackle: Joe Staley
Left guard: Zane Beadles
Center: Daniel Kilgore
Right guard: Andrew Tiller
Right tackle: Trent Brown
Brown has done well enough with the first unit that Davis has not been able to roll into town and easily unseat the second-year player for a starting role. Perhaps seeing that Brown would be no pushover, Davis volunteered to move inside to guard. He said he made that offer to the coaching staff as an alternative for getting the best five players on the field.
Davis saw some work at right guard on Thursday, but it is not known if he’ll continue to work there and be given an opportunity to unseat Tiller, who played well when he finally was promoted ahead of Jordan Devey last season.
Davis is not guaranteed a starting role. He is competing for a job, and that seems to be a challenge he is willing to accept. Is he OK being a backup? The 49ers certainly hope he’s not OK with that.
Right now, the 49ers’ best seven offensive linemen are the above starters, as well as Davis and rookie Joshua Garnett. However, if the season were to start today, neither one of those two backups would suit up for game days.
Teams keep seven offensive linemen active for games. They need one backup who plays both tackle spots, and one backup who can handle center and the guard positions. Garnett does not play center, so Marcus Martin would likely be a top backup. He's the backup center, and has experience at the guard positions. And, right now, the only tackle who is familiar with both sides is veteran Erik Pears.
That’s why the 49ers should settle on their offensive line shortly. Once they decide on either Brown or Davis, the 49ers should begin cross-training the No. 2 right tackle to play left tackle, too. That is, unless, they decide to move Davis full-time to right guard.
There are so many possibilities, and that's why the game Saturday night could lead the 49ers a step closer to their final answer.