49ers vs. Raiders: 5 Niners who must start 2023 preseason hot

The 49ers head to Vegas this weekend to take on the Raiders to open their preseason. Here's a look at five players who need to step up to secure a roster spot or role for 2023.
San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders
San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders / Michael Zagaris/GettyImages
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August 12, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Drake Jackson (95)
August 12, 2022; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Drake Jackson (95) / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

EDGE Clelin Ferrell/Taco Charlton/Drake Jackson

Another spot that's wide open is the edge-rusher position opposite the as-of-yet-unextended Nick Bosa.

The battle comes down to pretty much anyone on the roster at that position, but it seems likely that if a guy like rookie Robert Beal makes the roster it will be as a situational pass rusher and not a starter and that someone like Kerry Hyder would serve best a rotational piece at this point in his career.

That means the true contest is between rookie Drake Jackson and free-agent signings Clelin Ferrell and Taco Charlton, the latter of whom has only been with the team a little over a week.

Ferrell and Charlton both have something in their pedigree that Jackson does not: they were each first-round draft picks when they came into the league, Ferrell in 2019 by the Raiders (4th overall) and Charlton in 2017 by the Cowboys (28th overall). Jackson was a late second-round pick by the 49ers in 2022.

Of course, draft position is one thing during the early years of a player's career and it often buys guys more time than they deserve, especially former first-rounders, but it doesn't matter much when a player has entered the mid-to-later part of his career (Ferrell is now in year five, Charlton year seven, although they have played roughly the same amount of games).

That simply means that the player who wins the role will get the job and this weekend against the Raiders will be each defender's first chance to make noise against another team's offensive lineman.

This will be one of the most vital roles yet to be filled for the 49ers, as there's an argument to be made that the best defense they've featured since Shanahan came to town in 2017 was when Bosa was lined up opposite Dee Ford.

So it will be paramount for one of these guys to step up and prove himself as the unquestioned starter, starting with a strong performance this weekend in Las Vegas.

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