Offensive & Defensive X-Factors for San Francisco
Carlos Hyde and the play-action
First and foremost, running back Carlos Hyde will be the top item to watch for on the offensive side of the ball in this game. By most accounts, Hyde has been the best player at 49ers training camp. This comes after an offseason that featured heavy talk of Hyde being expendable. Does Hyde carry that dominance over from camp into game action? How does Shanahan intend to utilize Hyde? Is the lean weight actually making a difference?
As well as Hyde, Hoyer is something to watch for, most specifically with the play-action. The play-action remains a cornerstone of Shanahan’s offense, and if Hyde is an impactful runner, there might be something special brewing for the 49ers offense.
The front seven
The San Francisco defensive line will be definitively the dominant storyline of the 2017 season. With three first-round picks invested at those positions, the excitement level is high surrounding the group.
Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner looks to take the next step in his game — possibly to an elite level — fellow lineman Arik Armstead has shed weight in order to play the LEO position and 2017 third overall pick Solomon Thomas has been making quite the impression at training camp so far.
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman is aiming to return to All-Pro status after another devastating injury, and contrary to prior seasons, he will be playing a healthy chunk of this preseason. But the biggest unknown, and perhaps carrying the most potential out of anybody on the 49ers, is rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, who has been thrust into the starting role with the injury to Smith. The development of Foster is now going to be that much more key to the team this season.