The San Francisco 49ers promise to have an eventful quartet of preseason clashes; here are four reasons why you can’t miss any of the Niners’ preseason action.
“I can’t even watch the preseason.” “The games don’t mean anything.” “The starters barely play.”
You’ve heard it all from the supposed football fanatics who take about 0.3 seconds to thoroughly dismiss the entire preseason.
While it’s true that no one is going to confuse the preseason opener with a high-stakes division clash in Week 15 or an epic postseason tussle, the preseason produces its fair share of excitement, provided you look hard enough.
It’s the calm before the storm. The appetizer before the feast. Heck, it’s the chance to once again simply watch pro football!
1. Men are fighting to play professional football for a living
What’s one of the reasons the NFL is so popular in this country? In a word: drama. Drama on who said what or who’s going to start at quarterback in the lead-up to games, drama on the field in the form of two-minute drives with everything on the line, drama away from the gridiron through Twitter beefs and nightclub shenanigans.
While all those examples put eyes on the product, what’s more dramatic than watching players battle for roster spot? Many of these men are fighting for their livelihood, their dream, the chance to earn a financial payoff for all the hard work they’ve been putting in since Pop Warner.
Niner tie-in: It’s hard to know exactly how the 53-man roster will shake out, but players around the league can help their cause with a stout performance in the preseason, and the Niners are no exception. Take, for example, defensive back Tarvarus McFadden, who went undrafted due in part to a poor 40-yard dash time (4.67) and faces an uphill battle to crack the roster. A ballhawk who picked off eight passes during his sophomore season in 2016, the Florida State product isn’t without tantalizing upside, but McFadden’s NFL future could be on the line during San Francisco’s four preseason tilts. If he doles out a few punishing hits or notches two or three pass breakups, McFadden’s chances to make the Niners (or be signed by another team if he doesn’t stick with the red and gold) will grow by leaps and bounds.
Guys like seventh-round rookie receiver Richie James and embattled third-year guard Josh Garnett are in a similar position as players that could significantly help their stock with strong preseason play.
2. We get to see top free agents and draft picks get their first game action on their new squad
They won’t play for all four quarters, they won’t dive deep into the playbook, and how they performed in the preseason with their new squad will be all but forgotten once the regular season starts, but it’s still a striking image when you witness a big-name player competing in game action with their new team for the first time.
Niner tie-in: Training camp is one thing, but Richard Sherman as a 49er is going to become a very real concept whenever he takes the field rocking the red and gold (he’ll be held out of the preseason opener against Dallas due to hamstring tightness). Ditto for fellow enticing free agent signings Jerick McKinnon and Weston Richburg and top draft picks Mike McGlinchey, Dante Pettis and Fred Warner.
3. We can watch our favorite team without stressing out
We all love football, but let’s be honest: Watching your favorite team in a critical seesaw battle late in the regular season is a grueling, stressful endeavor. And the playoffs? You’ll be lucky if you haven’t lost your voice screaming at the TV by midway through the second quarter.
But the preseason provides a laid back, casual atmosphere for even for the most maniacal of hardcore fans because – as preseason naysayers are so quick to point out – winning and losing doesn’t mean much.
Instead, you’re finally getting a glimpse at your team’s newcomers and mainstays playing together for the first time. You’re impressed with what you’re seeing from that third-year receiver who may finally be primed for a breakout. You’re happy with the strong open-field tackling, but you’d like to see the pass rush put a bit more heat on the quarterback.
Niner tie-in: Embrace the casual atmosphere of San Francisco’s preseason opener against Dallas on Thursday because it won’t be long before you’re living and dying with every play during Week 1’s tough test in Minnesota.
San Francisco started 0-9 last season, so to say it’s important to get off to a good start this year would be an understatement. It won’t be easy, as the first half of the Niners’ schedule is at the Vikings, home against the Lions, at the Chiefs, at the Chargers, home against the Cardinals, at the Packers, home against the Rams and at the Cardinals. Scoring some tough early-season victories will be paramount if the Niners are to fulfill the fans’ prophesy of becoming a playoff team.
4. The preseason separates the real fans from the bandwagon fans
We’re not saying you’re a lousy fan if you don’t park yourself in front of the television for all 16 quarters of your favorite team’s preseason contests. The games air on random nights at seemingly sporadic times, and people have lives away from watching modern-day gladiators slam into each other in full-speed collisions.
But real fans have a knowledge about their team that extends beyond the starting quarterback, the top running back, one receiver and one defensive standout. They want to know their team inside and out, and they want to understand what is expected of each player and what they all went through to be here. And the preseason is your only chance to get a good, long look at the roster from top to bottom. It’s fun to pick out two or three roster hopefuls and root for them to make a big play, thus increasing their chance to crack the 53.
Injuries are bound to happen in the NFL, and depth charts are certain to fluctuate based on performance, and a real fan is invested in battles for starting gigs and roster spots.
Niner tie-in: Niner Faithful are a passionate bunch, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who claims to be a diehard San Francisco fan who doesn’t have a strong knowledge of the roster. 49ers fans will be watching the preseason with baited breath, hoping that their personal favorite roster longshot turns some heads and sticks with the team into the regular season.
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