The 49ers visit the Vikings in preseason action after two joint practices, yet this game should reveal some notable under-the-radar stories to watch.
San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan isn’t a fan of preseason games and has said so on multiple occasions, both in 2020 when the pandemic canceled the preseason and again before the 2022 exhibition phase, admitting he’d prefer scrimmages and joint practices with other teams over meaningless games.
Well, Shanahan and the Niners get both this week, as they travel to take on the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday, Aug. 20 at U.S. Bank Stadium but not before engaging in two joint practices leading up to the preseason tilt.
San Francisco is likely to rest the bulk of its starters, including quarterback Trey Lance, whom Shanahan said would likely play in preseason Weeks 1 and 3, not against Minnesota despite the second-year quarterback calling this place his home state.
On the flip side, while the 49ers’ revamped secondary likely isn’t going to face Vikings Pro Bowl wide receiver Justin Jefferson, Saturday’s game still reveals a number of key elements the fanbase will want to observe.
Storyline No. 1: Can 49ers defense ensure strong run-stopping capability?
Granted, few if any of the Niners’ best front-seven defenders will suit up on Saturday. But a calling card of San Francisco’s defense a year ago was its run defense, not allowing an opponent to rush for a team total of 100 yards but once from Week 10 through the NFC Championship game.
Last Friday, the Green Bay Packers averaged 4.1 yards per carry en route to a 141-yard performance, while Minnesota averaged 5.2 yards on 22 rush attempts for a net total of 115 yards.
Upon closer evaluation, Vikings running backs Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu showed some promise in their efforts to back up No. 1 tailback Dalvin Cook this season.
Granted, these are preseason stats, so make of them what you will.
However, the 49ers will want to ensure their defensive reserves, primarily those who start the game and play for the first half, are up to par and able to hold Minnesota’s ground game largely in check.