Week 2 of the NFL Preseason brings a few more snaps for the starters, and position battles begin to develop for the final spots on the roster.
The San Francisco 49ers have played in the past two NFC Championship games, but you can still make the argument that they are starting a new chapter.
This will be the first full season for starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick after he replaced current Chiefs signal-caller Alex Smith in Week 10.
Kaepernick ended up leading the team to the Super Bowl, something Smith had been unable to do the previous year.
Will the 49ers regret letting the veteran quarterback go?
Will Smith’s new team, under the leadership of Andy Reid, be able to right the ship after a 2-14 campaign last season?
Here are the five things to keep an eye on while watching this game.
Will San Francisco fans regret the decision to let Alex Smith go?
The much-maligned former No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 Draft could never find his way into the hearts of San Francisco fans. Despite leading the team to the 2011 NFC Championship Game, single-handedly leading the team to a Divisional Round win over New Orleans with three passing touchdowns, and a memorable 28-yard scoring run, he never could establish himself as an above average starting quarterback under numerous offensive coordinators.
Jim Harbaugh made the difficult decision to stay with Kaepernick after Smith was cleared to play, and was rewarded with a deep run in the playoffs. Will the third-year quarterback be able to recapture the magic of 2012?
Will Smith be able to pick apart his former teammates? These two quarterbacks will determine just how successful these teams are when regular season play begins.
Is Andy Reid’s system producing early results in his limited time with Kansas City?
You can certainly make the argument that Reid is inheriting a team that is more talented at most positions than Philadelphia was last year, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Four Kansas City defenders (Justin Houston, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry) were named to the AFC Pro Bowl roster last season, as well as punter Dustin Colquitt and running back Jamaal Charles.
Alex Smith at quarterback is an upgrade over Matt Cassel, and gives the Chiefs a signal-caller capable of running a West Coast offense.
In Kansas City’s first preseason game, the offensive starters put together an impressive 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Is this something Chiefs’ fans should get used to seeing throughout the upcoming season?
What is the status of Jamaal Charles and his strained foot?
Jamaal Charles is coming off a 2012 regular season that saw him lead the AFC in rushing yards with 1,509. Kansas City fans everywhere were devastated at the news that their star running back is currently day-to-day with a foot strain.
Charles’ status for the remainder of the preseason appears doubtful at best. Andy Reid has no reason to rush his Pro Bowl running back into action before he is fully healed.
With Charles out of the picture, look for rookie running back Knile Davis to get a bulk of the carries throughout the remainder of the preseason. Davis, Shaun Draughn and Cyrus Gray will battle for the backup and No. 3 running back slots.
Can Eric Fisher prove he was worthy of the No. 1 Overall Pick in the 2013 NFL Draft?
Kansas City’s top pick is making a bigger transition than most rookies drafted in the first round of the 2013 Draft. Playing at Central Michigan, Fisher was not exposed to consistent BCS-level competition through the season.
He will, however be able to take a season to catch up to the speed of the NFL game. Left tackle Branden Albert was given the franchise tag during the offseason, and it appears that his job is safe for at least the 2013 season.
Fisher biggest test of the preseason may come from the always stout San Francisco defense. Pro Bowlers Aldon and Justin Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman will all try to make Fisher’s transition to the pro game as difficult as possible.
Can former First Round draft pick A.J. Jenkins prove that he is worthy of a roster spot?
With Michael Crabtree likely out for most if not all of the season with an Achilles injury, San Francisco has an opening available at the wide receiver position. The addition of Anquan Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens will give quarterback Colin Kaepernick a consistent target downfield, and Vernon Davis offers a unique skill set at the tight end position.
Jenkins was San Francisco’s 2012 First Round draft pick, but did not see much playing time during his rookie campaign. In fact, the rookie out of Illinois was targeted on only one pass in 2012.
The additions of Boldin and Austin Collie, and the continued growth of Kyle Williams could leave Jenkins on the outside looking in when final cuts are made later in the month. An impressive performance against Kansas City is a must for Jenkins if he wants to be a 49er when Week 1 rolls around.