The 49ers got plenty of help from the depths of the roster in preseason Week 1 against the Packers, and these fringe players just helped their roster chances.
For those who believe NFL preseason games don’t matter, go ahead and ask a player who happens to sit on any given team’s roster bubble.
Considering teams use the three-week exhibition phase to help determine who of a 90-man roster will eventually make the 53-man regular-season squad, there is no “saving it” for the regular season.
The San Francisco 49ers, who already boast a playoff-caliber roster entering 2022, don’t have a lot of room for players on the periphery of the roster, yet a number of those on the bubble put forth a great effort during the Niners’ 28-21 preseason home victory over the Green Bay Packers on Friday night.
While starting quarterback Trey Lance’s 76-yard touchdown pass to rookie wide receiver Danny Gray stole the show, one shouldn’t overlook some of the positives from San Francisco’s other players buried deep on the depth chart.
Particularly these five.
49ers running back JaMycal Hasty overcomes kickoff-return gaffe
Late in the second quarter, running back JaMycal Hasty committed a mental gaffe by muffing a kickoff that would have gone out of bounds, which would have given the 49ers the ball at their own 35-yard line instead at the 5-yard line where it was touched.
Yet Hasty, battling for the fourth and final spot on the tailback depth chart behind Elijah Mitchell, Trey Sermon, Jeff Wilson Jr. and Tyrion Davis-Price, managed to salvage that error with an impressive five carries for 36 yards while adding a reception for 11 yards.
Hasty will still have to overcome undrafted rookie Jordan Mason, who also impressed with 30 yards on six carries.
But for now, Hasty is still very much in the mix.
49ers lineman Jason Poe makes a solid first impression
Undrafted rookie lineman Jason Poe had to wait until late in the third quarter to get some game action, but the former Mercer standout made his NFL debut felt.
Using quality footspeed and strength, Poe delivered a number of punches that freed up some of Mason’s carries, which won’t go unnoticed. And while Poe might not be anywhere close to even being a dark-horse contender for a starting job, he at least could put himself in the conversation of securing one of the key backup spots for the offensive line’s interior.
Good night from him.
Linebacker Marcelino McCrary-Ball interception sets up a 49ers touchdown
While his interception off Packers quarterback Jordan Love was a bit more luck than anything else, merely being in an opportunistic position after a bobbled would-be catch, undrafted rookie linebacker Marcelino McCrary-Ball subsequently returning the pick 57 yards was the equivalent of a turning-point play:
Immediately after that turnover, quarterback Nate Sudfeld delivered a touchdown strike to wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud to help extend the Niners’ lead.
McCrary-Ball still has awfully long odds to crack the 53-man roster, particularly behind linebacker standouts like Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw and Azeez-Al-Shaair.
But plays like this will certainly earn him favor.
Veteran Robert Nkemdiche might be a hidden-gem find
San Francisco grabbed former first-round NFL Draft pick Robert Nkemdiche off the free-agent scrap heap after losing defensive lineman Maurice Hurst to a likely season-ending biceps injury during training camp.
Nkemdiche, who never lived up to that first-round status, figured to be a veteran camp body and little more.
However, an exceptional penetrating, run-stuffing tackle for a loss showcased his value as an interior defender, and the 49ers might be in a position where they have to consider making him a part of a very deep D-line rotation if plays like that continue happening.
49ers to think about ‘keeping’ quarterback Brock Purdy?
Lance is the starter. No questioning that. And Nate Sudfeld has $2 million fully guaranteed reasons why he’s the No. 2 quarterback entering 2022.
Yet head coach Kyle Shanahan might have to weigh the option of keeping the final pick from this year’s draft, Iowa State’s Brock Purdy, as the third-string quarterback.
Particularly after Purdy delivered what proved to be the game-winning touchdown on a pass to tight end Tanner Hudson in the fourth quarter, evading pressure and extending the play in the process:
Head coach Kyle Shanahan has gone with the unusual three-quarterback depth chart before, even as recently as late last year when he had Lance, Sudfeld and Jimmy Garoppolo all on the roster together for Week 18, and Shanahan has also gone a full year with three signal-callers on the 53-man group, too.
Purdy still has a long way to go before actually cementing a roster spot, but those chances surely saw a spike in the wake of his NFL debut.