49ers-Chargers: Five things to watch

Things to Watch: Opportunity for Daniels, battles at CB, LS

49ers-Chargers: Five things to watch
August 29, 2013, 8:30 am
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B.J. Daniels has completed eight of 12 pass attempts for 102 yards and a touchdown this preseason. (AP)


Nnamdi Asomugha has the lead for the No. 3 cornerback job, but faces some stiff competition for playing time from Tramaine Brock. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SAN DIEGO -- Colt McCoy is the 49ers' backup quarterback, as of right now.

Coach Jim Harbaugh made that announcement in the moments following the 49ers' third exhibition game. But the night before, McCoy agreed to a restructured contract that gives the 49ers plenty of wiggle room during the season.

McCoy saw his $1.5 million base salary reduced to $630,000, which is the minimum for a player with three years of NFL experience. McCoy can still pick up the remaining $870,000 as a result of per-game roster bonuses.

[MAIOCCO: Injured players account for $13.5 million of 49ers' cap]

In other words, if McCoy at some point loses his backup job, the 49ers will save $54,375 every week he is not one of the team's 46 active players. (Typically, the 49ers suit up only two quarterbacks.)

That's where rookie B.J. Daniels comes in.

Daniels has looked good in his two appearances in the exhibition season with his intriguing blend of arm strength and read-option capabilities. Daniels is actually the 49ers' highest-rated passer during the exhibition season. He has completed eight of 12 pass attempts for 102 yards with one touchdown. He has also gained 33 yards on six rush attempts.

Before he announced the decision to go with McCoy to back up Colin Kaepernick, Harbaugh was asked if it was OK for the 49ers to have a rookie as the backup quarterback.

"Yes, it's OK. And how that plays out, we will see," he said. "It's OK for a veteran to be a back-up."

Kaepernick, of course, was the 49ers' backup quarterback to Alex Smith in his rookie season. And if Daniels plays well Thursday night against the San Diego Chargers, he could continue to move in the right direction of leap-frogging McCoy on the depth chart at some point this season.

Here are some other things to watch in the 49ers' exhibition finale Thursday night against the Chargers:

2. Cornerback coverage: Nnanmdi Asomugha has taken the lead for the No. 3 cornerback job. But Asomugha was banged up Sunday night in his 15 snaps against the Vikings. Tramaine Brock is right there, too. This is the most important position still unsettled on the 49ers' defense, considering the third cornerback plays about 20 percent more snaps than the starting nose tackle. The starters, Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown, are unlikely to play Thursday night. Asomugha might be held out, too. Brock's performance will be closely watched.

[MAIOCCO: Wright reports to 49ers, ineligible for first six games]

3. Pressure on long-snapper: The 49ers know all about Brian Jennings, their veteran long-snapper who has been virtually perfect in 13 seasons. That's why undrafted rookie Kevin McDermott handled most of the snapping chores Sunday night. The onus might be on McDermott in the final exhibition game. If he handles the pressure of snapping for his job, the 49ers might decide to save $535,000 cap dollars and part ways with the ever-reliable Jennings.

[RELATED: 49ers' Lee hoping to test secret weapon in preseason finale]

4. Receiver pecking order: The 49ers seem to have five wide receivers whose spots on the team are virtually assured. Anquan Boldin is the no-questions-asked starter at flanker. Kyle Williams' spot seems solid despite not playing in an exhibition game this summer. The team is bringing him along slowly from his season-ending knee injury of last season. Jon Baldwin will make the squad, as the 49ers want to give him plenty of opportunity to develop his potential with his new team. Quinton Patton is a rookie who has shown a great deal in a short period of time. And Marlon Moore won his spot with solid play at receiver, as well as strong special-teams contributions. If the 49ers keep six receivers, Chad Hall, Austin Collie, Lavelle Hawkins and Kassim Osgood enter the picture. Special teams play could decide what the 49ers do.

5. Safety spots: Newly crowned starter Eric Reid probably will not play. And, certainly, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio does not need to see veteran Donte Whitner, either. C.J. Spillman's spot on the roster appears set due to his play on special teams. Trenton Robinson and Craig Dahl could end up seeing the bulk of the action against the Chargers. Robinson, a second-year player, could play his way onto the team. Bubba Ventrone has not seen action at safety, but his ticket to a roster spot is on special teams.

[MAIOCCO: Fangio names Reid 49ers starting safety]

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