5 questions 49ers must answer in preseason game vs. Chargers

General view of the line of scrimmage between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Chargers Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
General view of the line of scrimmage between the San Francisco 49ers and the Los Angeles Chargers Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /
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Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers could play their most realistic preseason game of 2021 against the Chargers, meaning these five questions need to be answered.

The 2021 NFL preseason is obviously a lot different than what it was for years prior to it being cancelled a season ago because of the pandemic.

But one of the potentially growing trends is for head coaches to treat the second exhibition bout, no longer the third, as the actual tune-up for the regular season.

If that’s the case, San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will likely play a good portion of his starters on offense and defense, electing not to rest a sizable chunk of first-team players in Week 2 of the preseason on the road against the Los Angeles Chargers, as he did during the Niners’ preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend.

Whether or not this means quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo gets more than one series is still anyone’s guess. The Chargers aren’t expected to start second-year quarterback Justin Herbert at all this weekend, and Shanahan’s bigger priority is probably getting rookie signal-caller Trey Lance more reps to better hone his skills and acclimate to the speed of the NFL game.

In addition to that, though, what are some of the other questions and items on Shanahan’s to-do list for Week 2 of the preseason?

Let’s take a look.

No. 5: Are 49ers’ rookie defensive backs the real deal?

While rookie safety Talanoa Hufanga was making plenty of solid impressions during training camp, carrying them over into his own preseason debut, San Francisco still has plenty of doubts and concerns whether or not its cornerback depth chart will be adequate enough this season.

It’s fair to consider that depth questionable, especially with the two rookie corners, Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir, being first-year players.

Both Thomas and Lenoir did more than just hold their own against the Chiefs, though. Thomas registered five tackles. Lenoir, who got the start against Kansas City, registered three tackles of his own and also came away with an interception.

Not bad, especially going up against some Chiefs receivers who’ll probably make their own 53-man roster.

It’s still not clear whether or not the Bolts will play their top two wideouts, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. And without Herbert, the pressure on Lenoir, Thomas and Hufanga will be less anyway.

Still, it’ll be important for the 49ers to see if their first-year defensive backs can replicate the same kind of impressive efforts they all had against Kansas City the week before.

Doing so could potentially alleviate a lot of those concerns about the secondary’s depth.