W2W4: San Francisco 49ers

The San Francisco 49ers (0-0) and Baltimore Ravens (0-0) open the preseason Thursday night at M&T Stadium.

1. The rookies: Cornerback Jimmie Ward (first round), running back Carlos Hyde (second) and linebacker Chris Borland (third) all have a chance to have big roles. All three have been good in training camp. It will be interesting to see these three play against Baltimore. I'd think all will get significant playing time. I will be looking to see if the game action comes as easily for this group as practices have come.

2. Young starting offensive line: There is some flux on one of the NFL’s most stable offensive lines. Center Daniel Kilgore is poised to start for the first time and guard Joe Looney is working with the first unit because of Alex Boone’s holdout. The first unit will not play much in this game, but the play of Kilgore and Looney is vital. If these two struggle, the 49ers will likely push rookie Marcus Martin into the starting mix and it would put Boone in a position of leverage.

3. Blaine Gabbert: The backup quarterback will play a lot more than starter Colin Kaepernick. This is important. The 49ers have to feel good about Gabbert in case he has to play. The former Jacksonville starter, acquired in a March trade, has looked good in camp and the coaching staff is very positive about him. Coach Jim Harbaugh has done wonders with quarterbacks. The first look at Gabbert in a 49ers’ uniform will be intriguing to watch.