49ers-Vikings: Five things to watch

49ers-Vikings: Three stories to follow - Reid, backup QB and RB battles

49ers-Vikings: Five things to watch
August 25, 2013, 8:30 am
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Dashon was an All-Pro player. It's rare to see rookies come in and be an All-Pro player, just learn everything right then and there. But we're all here to help him get better as we get better.
Carlos Rogers on Eric Reid

SAN FRANCISCO -- Rookie Eric Reid will be in the starting lineup on Sunday night.

And if things go as the 49ers expect, he might not be coming out of the lineup for a long, long time.

The 49ers moved up 13 spots in the first round to select Reid with the No. 18 overall pick. After veteran Craig Dahl started the team's first two exhibition games at free safety, Reid gets his chance to show what he can do Sunday night against the Minnesota Vikings at Candlestick Park.

Last week, veteran cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha spoke to his teammates about focusing on getting better in one area every day. Reid said he has used that approach and the cumulative impact has made him a better player.

"Hopefully that's leading into getting a starting job," Reid said.

Reid will face the Vikings' first-team offense for an extended period. Quarterback Christian Ponder played 25 snaps in Minnesota's second exhibition game. Running back Adrian Peterson, who rushed for a league-best 2,097 yards last season, is also scheduled to get some playing time.

Reid played well in the 49ers' first two exhibition games. And all signs point to a starting assignment when the 49ers open the regular season Sept. 8 against the Green Bay Packers.

Reid is the leading candidate to take over for Dashon Goldson, who started all but two games over the past four seasons. Goldson signed a lucrative free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason.

"The time will tell when we get in game situations and you're not hitting people like Dashon did and you're not getting interceptions," 49ers cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "Not saying he won't, but if this happens, you know people expect him to do what Dashon did.

"Dashon was an All-Pro player. It's rare to see rookies come in and be an All-Pro player, just learn everything right then and there. But we're all here to help him get better as we get better."

Here are some other things to watch in the 49ers' game against the Vikings:

2. Backup quarterback competition: Colt McCoy, the presumptive No. 2 quarterback when training camp began, has lost significant ground and faces an uncertain future. Scott Tolzien, the 49ers' No. 3 quarterback the past two seasons, has only gained ground because McCoy slid backward.

Rookie B.J. Daniels did his part to insert himself into the race for the No. 2 job behind Colin Kaepernick. But, let's not forget, Daniels' strong fourth quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs came against marginal players who will soon be ex-Kansas City Chiefs.

[RELATED: Wallace enters competition for 49ers' backup QB job]

And, now, the 49ers add veteran Seneca Wallace to the mix, just a couple days after the New Orleans Saints released him in favor of Drew Brees, Luke McCown and rookie Ryan Griffin.

All five quarterbacks are expected to see action for the 49ers against the Vikings, coach Jim Harbaugh said.

3. Bounce in Hunter's step: Kendall Hunter has not played in the nine months since he sustained a partially torn left Achilles against the New Orleans Saints. He left the 49ers' lineup as the No. 2 running back behind Frank Gore.

And if he shows only limited rust, he will likely pick up at the beginning of the season where he left off. Hunter is seen as the favorite for the 49ers' No. 2 job over LaMichael James due to his ability to run between the tackles, coupled with his knowledge and prowess in blitz pickup.

Hunter was activated off the physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 10. He is scheduled to make his preseason debut against the Vikings.

[REWIND: Kendall Hunter is ready for game action]

4. Asomugha, Brock battle for role: When Chris Culliver went down with a torn ACL in his left knee three weeks ago, Tramaine Brock became the front-runner to replace him. But Asomugha, the 10-year veteran, has worked his way into the picture with a solid training camp.

Now, Asomugha and Brock enter the third exhibition game in a race that's too close to call. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said there is some separation for the No. 3 job, but he declined to say who has pulled ahead.

The No. 3 cornerback job is an important role in the 49ers' defense. After all, Culliver last season played 63 percent of the 49ers' defensive snaps.

[REWIND -- 49ers: 53-man roster projection]

5. Looking at long snappers: Veteran Brian Jennings has been nearly perfect in 13 seasons. But he is 36 years old and scheduled to make $940,000 in salary this season. The 49ers would prefer to get younger and cheaper. The 49ers signed UCLA product Kevin McDermott, the long snapper they evaluated as the best in college football last season.

If they end up cutting McDermott, they might lose him forever. Jennings has always responded under pressure, including late in the NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons. If McDermott buckles, it'll be an easy decision.

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