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C.J. Beathard poised in preseason debut, taking aim at No. 2 QB job

C.J. Beathard threw two touchdown passes to lead the 49ers to a comeback win over the Chiefs. AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A look at how the San Francisco 49ers fared in three key areas of Friday's 27-17 preseason victory against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Barkley and Beathard battle

As expected, Niners coach Kyle Shanahan started Brian Hoyer at quarterback. Hoyer played two series followed by Matt Barkley taking the rest of the first half and rookie C.J. Beathard finishing out the game. Shanahan has made it clear that Barkley and Beathard are competing for the No. 2 job behind Hoyer, and Friday's game was the first chance to get a look at them against a different opponent.

Both Barkley and Beathard had solid nights, with Beathard leading the 49ers' come-from-behind victory with a pair of touchdown passes. Neither necessarily separated from the other, which means this is a battle that will continue throughout the preseason. Barkley finished 10-of-17 for 168 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions for a passer rating of 92.3. He had a touchdown pass nullified by penalty or those numbers would have been even better.

Beathard, meanwhile, was able to lead the Niners into the end zone with a pair of touchdown passes and no interceptions against Kansas City's third-stringers. He finished 7-of-11 for 101 yards with those two scores for a passer rating of 133. Beathard was particularly impressive on his first touchdown pass, avoiding the rush, maneuvering in the pocket and still keeping his eyes down field to find receiver Kendrick Bourne for a 46-yard score.

“That was really all I watched on that play," Shanahan said. "We had gone to Bourne on a couple of routes in a row. We knew the corner was squatting on him. That is why we thought he defended the speed out on the play before that. We thought we could get by him, but we were very nervous we could hold up that long. All I watched was C.J. I thought they got an edge in our protection. He did a good job moving around just to create just enough time to get it off. It was a hell of a route getting open, and it was a great job by C.J. finding the time to let it develop.”

Line dancing

The Niners are still cycling through a number of combinations on their offensive line as they try to find the right mix, especially on the interior. With Joshua Garnett out because of a knee injury, the 49ers started the game with Zane Beadles at left guard, Brandon Fusco at right guard and Daniel Kilgore at center. Kilgore is locked into a job and the tackles are lined up, but there could still be some tweaks at guard, and the backup groups definitely have room for alterations.

Veteran center Tim Barnes was second behind Kilgore at center and also got some reps at guard with undrafted rookie Erik Magnuson getting some work at center. The starting offensive line was better in pass protection than run blocking, though that seemed to be the opposite with the backups.

Because the starters were in for such a small sample size, it's hard to take much about how the line might shake out. But with practices against the Denver Broncos and three preseason games left, there's still plenty of time to get the front five nailed down and begin building chemistry.

Safety first

Jaquiski Tartt returned to practice this week from a rib injury but did not play against the Chiefs, leaving the starting free safety job open for undrafted rookie Lorenzo Jerome. Meanwhile, starting strong safety Eric Reid only played a couple of series before giving way to Chanceller James, another undrafted rookie who has showed a lot of potential during training camp.

Jerome played 33 snaps, the most among 49ers defenders, and had three tackles in his time on the field. He also had an apparent forced fumble, but the Chiefs recovered. Jerome saw eight snaps on special teams, which is notable because the battle for a possible fourth safety spot could well come down to which backups can provide the most there.

James played 25 snaps and a whopping 14 more on special teams. In fact, James' 14 snaps on special teams were the third-most on the team. He finished with no tackles in unofficial pressbox stats but did have a pass breakup.

With Tartt expected to work his way back into the mix this week and projected starting free safety Jimmie Ward not far away, Jerome will probably drop back to the second-team defense soon, which should make special teams an even bigger factor in the battle for a possible fourth safety spot on the 53-man roster.