Sun, 25 Sep 2022

Four Downs: Bold Predictions for SF's Matchup Against Vikings

San Francisco 49ers
20 Aug 2022, 05:44 GMT+10

Briana McDonald

The San Francisco 49ers are playing on the road for the first time this season against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday at 4pm PT. The exhibition matchup follows a week of joint practices at the TCO Performance Center where members from both teams lauded the additional competition.

"Both teams here are trying to get better," George Kittle said. "When you can compete in this environment where you can slow it down and talk about stuff and the bolts aren't flying, it's really beneficial to both teams. Honestly, I think these two practices are more important than the game."

For this week's Four Downs, 49ers Team Reporter Lindsey Pallares and 49ers Spanish Insider Jesús Zarate have joined me to break down several storylines ahead of the team's preseason contest against the Vikings.

1st Down: What is Your Expectation for the Team's First Away Game?

@LindseyLares: An Opportunity for Young Players

With most of the expected starters likely sitting out this second preseason game, I anticipate younger players and rookies to get the bulk of the playing time versus the Vikings. This could be a huge opportunity for these players to prove they belong on the 49ers 53-man roster with the final cut slated for the end of the month. U.S. Bank Stadium is a great venue, so playing there should be a good first experience for less tenured members of the team.

@JesusZarate87: Players Looking to Earn a Spot on the Roster

In the team's first away game, I expect to see many of the rookies and players who are fighting for a spot on the team to continue to make progress. Especially, because this game will be a great opportunity for many of those guys to showcase all of their talent and growth. I am assuming most of those players that still need to secure a spot on the roster will play the majority of the time. Shanahan said before these preseason games that he does not want to play the starters during the second game. That means other players have a great chance to make a good impression against the Vikings.

@BriMcDonaldTV: Tenured Players to Serve as Leaders

Saturday night's game in Minnesota will be the first time the team plays on the road. During the 49ers joint practices with the Vikings, many players shared how their first trip served as a great bonding experience. The first NFL away game could be a tricky one for the rookies on the team since they are out of their element after developing a routine in Santa Clara since rookie minicamp in May. I am expecting tenured players to serve as leaders for the rookies to lean on as the young players show off their skills on the field and fight for a spot on the roster.

2nd Down: Which Position Group Matchups are You Most Excited to Watch?

@LindseyLares: 49ers Secondary vs. Vikings Receivers

I am excited to watch the 49ers secondary contain the Vikings wide receivers. The 49ers invested a lot of resources into improving the defensive backs group this offseason, and there is no better challenge for the newer additions than to battle it out with Minnesota's wideouts. Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson had a great day of practice on Wednesday, and while he may not play Saturday, the rest of Minnesota's wide receivers are looking to follow his lead.

@JesusZarate87: 49ers Offensive Line vs. Vikings Defensive Line

I am very excited to watch the 49ers offensive line vs. the Vikings defensive line. Specifically, players like Spencer Burford, Aaron Banks and Jake Brendel. When Alex Mack retired and Laken Tomlinson left in free agency, there were questions along the interior of the offensive line, but young players have stepped up and are starting to answer those questions. I know it's early, but it has been really nice to see guys like Burford and Banks take most of the reps during practice with the first-string unit and do a good job. Same goes for Brendel, who is competing to win the starting center position.

@BriMcDonaldTV: 49ers Receivers vs. Vikings Secondary

I'm looking forward to watching the 49ers receiving corps play up against the Vikings secondary. During the NFL Draft, Minnesota picked up safety Lewis Cine in the first round and cornerback Andrew Booth in the second. Watching the Vikings young DB unit compete against San Francisco's young wide receivers should be an exciting matchup throughout the game. The newest 49ers receivers have been showcasing impressive performances; third-round draft pick Danny Gray was just one yard away from recording a 100-yard game in his first-ever NFL contest and return specialist Ray-Ray McCloud III has been solidifying his skills at wide receiver throughout training camp.

3rd Down: Which Rookie or Free Agent Will Stand Out the Most in Week 2 of the Preseason?

@LindseyLares: CB Samuel Womack III

Womack III had two interceptions in the preseason opener and a nice pass breakup during joint practice with the Vikings on Wednesday. It feels like the rookie cornerback is hitting his stride, and it will be exciting to see if he can continue building off his performance from last week against the Packers.

@JesusZarate87: Womack III

In this game, I believe Womack III will continue to stand out. Not just because of the two interceptions he registered against Green Bay, but also the way the rookie played in general during that first preseason matchup. Defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, describes him as being "sticky" in coverage and he truly is. He's always close to the action and with those long arms is able to break up passes often and intercept the ball.

@BriMcDonaldTV: RB Jordan Mason

Last week against the Packers, Mason rushed for 30 yards on six attempts. Running backs and assistant head coach Anthony Lynn mentioned that Mason has done an "outstanding job" and "created some competition in the room" during training camp. I think the running back will do the same during the team's second preseason game.

4th Down: What is Your Bold Prediction for Saturday's Game Against the Vikings?

@LindseyLares: My bold prediction is that Gray will have a 50+ yard touchdown reception, and that Womack III will have another pick.

@JesusZarate87: Bold prediction against the Vikings, I think the 49ers defense again will provoke at least three turnovers.

@BriMcDonaldTV: The 49ers defense will force two fumbles.

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