Mile High Report: What kind of snaps can we expect from 49ers starters (particularly Colin Kaepernick)? Will any starters not play at all?
Niners Nation: Kap will probably get a couple series at most. He got one series last week, and I don't expect a whole lot more. The 49ers are not one to go by the normal conventions when it comes to preseason starting QB play. The 49ers want to get more work out of their backups, so expect to see a lot of Blaine Gabbert, Josh Johnson and McLeod Bethel-Thompson!
Among the rest of the starters, I expect three or four series from most, if not all of the offensive line. They have a couple news guys in there so they have been getting them plenty of work. I could see the rest of the starters getting something similar. So maybe somewhere into the second quarter.
Starters that definitely won't play: CB, Tramaine Brock, RT Anthony Davis,
Starters that probably won't play: RB Frank Gore, DT Ray McDonald, DT Justin Smith, NT Ian Williams, LB Patrick Willis - Of that group, Gore is likely just veteran preference. McDonald, Smith, and Williams are both full participants in practice, but only as recently as this past week. Willis suffered a stinger in practice on Sunday, and is likely going to to sit out.
MHR: How are the rookies coming along? Which players are generating early excitement?
NN: The 49ers have an extensive rookie class, with a few players expected to sit out the year on the NFI list, but their healthy rookies are developing fairly well (shocking to hear a blogger say that!).
Jimmie Ward, 1st: The first round pick has been getting the first team nickel work. His primary competition is veteran Perrish Cox, but with Tramaine Brock recovering from an ankle injury, Cox has been getting first team corner work. Ward played safety and nickel in college, and he is getting work at both positions. He will be the first team nickel on Sunday.
Carlos Hyde, 2nd: The 49ers entered training camp incredibly deep at running back, but then Kendall Hunter tore his ACL, and LaMichael James dislocated his elbow. Hyde is now the No. 2 behind Frank Gore, and will likely start on Sunday while Gore gets some rest. This season, it would not surprise me to see Hyde get 7 or 8 carries a game, if not more.
Chris Borland, 3rd: He's competing to temporarily replace injured NaVorro Bowman. He would seem to be a step behind Michael Wilhoite. He is likely going to get extensive special teams work this season.
Bruce Ellington, 4th: The wide receiver corps is especially deep this year, so Ellington's best chance at WR time is in some small packages that utilize his speed. Additionally, he is getting work as a return man with LaMichael James recovering from his dislocated elbow. James is expected back to start the season, so Ellington will need to really impress these next three weeks if he wants a chance. He is showing progress, but I could see some game day inactives this year.
Dontae Johnson, 4th: He's a big physical cornerback who has looked good against second and third string wide receivers. He is currently part of the second team defense, but with the 49ers depth at cornerback, I suspect he will be inactive a decent amount this year.
Aaron Lynch, 5th: He missed most of the offseason workout program and the first week and a half of training camp with a hamstring strain. However, since returning, he has been reportedly great in practice. He lost a bunch of weight his last year in college because of his Adderall prescription. He has put on 30 pounds this offseason, to get back up into the 270s. With Aldon Smith's pending suspension, Lynch could be in line for some playing time early in the season.
MHR: How healthy are the 49ers heading into this game, and into the regular season? Anyone filling in your depth chart you're particularly interested in scouting?
NN: The 49ers have dealt with a few big injuries, but mostly a lot of little injuries. Honestly, your best bet is to just look at this post. It's fairly lengthy.
MHR: How is fan and player support for Aldon Smith given his looming suspension?
NN: Naturally fans and players are behind Aldon. He went to rehab, and most are hoping that's an actual sign that he is looking to help himself and straighten out his life. He had the LAX incident earlier this year, which resulted in no charges, but got people nervous. The team has been supportive of him, and has really worked with him to help him get on the straight and narrow. Naturally some might view it as enabling him, or letting him get away with things. Only Aldon knows where he is truly at.
MHR: Do you think the 49ers should have been in Super Bowl XLVIII instead of the Broncos?
NN: NEVER! But seriously, I certainly think the 49ers were a better all around team than the Broncos. Even without factoring in the score of the NFC title game, and the score of the Super Bowl, the 49ers were better built to deal with Seattle's physicality. The 49ers were the length of a hand away from the Super Bowl, marking the third straight year this team has gone down in a truly bitter defeat. I'm excited to see the 49ers and Broncos get to square off this season during the regular season. The Broncos are a great team, and they'll get the 49ers without NaVorro Bowman. But I still think the 49ers are the better all-around team than Denver. Maybe this year we'll get a rematch of Super Bowl XXIV!