The big questions
1) Quarterbacks: Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel – Don’t look for who completes more passes or throws more touchdowns. Look for which strengths stand out. Will Hoyer have total control of the offensive rhythm and dictate the flow of the game? Will Manziel revert to any off schedule plays with his legs? Will both show the consistency that Mike Pettine and Kyle Shanahan are hoping to see? There is potential for Saturday to be a turning point in this competition.
2) Running backs: – How split will the carries be? Who step up as a third down running back with hands out of the backfield? Which running backs will be the best as pass protectors?
3) Front seven: – How often will we see Paul Kruger and Jabaal Sheard at defensive end? How often will we see Chris Kirksey and Karlos Dansby rushing off the edge? How exotic will Jim O’Neil’s play calling be? Will the front seven control the scrimmage, like they have for much of training camp?
4) Cornerbacks: – Can Justin Gilbert carry over his improvement this week to a live setting? Will Buster Skrine start getting reps at nickel back, something we haven’t seen yet? Will the secondary remain in lockdown mode for deep passing plays?
5) Special teams: – Can someone fly down the field, cover a punt and wow special teams coordinator Chris Tabor? If there’s one sure way to make an NFL roster, it’s standing out on special teams.
Under the radar players
1) Wide receiver: Taylor Gabriel – Outside of Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins, Gabriel is the receiver who has been the most dependable in practice. The 5-foot-8 undrafted rookie from Abilene Christian plays similarly to Andrew Hawkins, a flattering compliment.
2) Guard: Garrett Gilkey – With John Greco rehabbing for a week and Jason Pinkston away from the team, Gilkey is certainly getting his chance to challenge for a starting spot. He’s physical and has improved his pass protection skills immensely.
3) Defensive lineman: Armonty Bryant – He’s turned the raw talent we saw last year into more polished pass rushing skills in the middle, which makes him different than Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor. Remember, in limited playing time in 2013, Bryant did pull down two sacks.
4) Running back: Dion Lewis – We wrote about how his unique running style is standing out. A few big plays in the scrimmage could be the momentum Lewis needs to get some big time carries against the Lions next weekend.
5) Cornerback: Isaiah Trufant –Pettine confirmed to the media earlier in the week that Trufant, right now, is the number one nickel cornerback on the team – probably the most important backup position in the NFL.
Others: Isaiah Crowell, Marlon Moore, T.J. Heath, Aaron Berry, Jim Dray, Connor Shaw, John Hughes