The San Francisco 49ers have a lot of questions to answer on Sunday. That isn't to say that how the team does is indicative of how their 2010 season will play out; this is the preseason after all. They do, however, have several important battles going on, and Sunday will be the first glimpse of them. The starters are basically set, but the team has many, many backups looking to solidify themselves.
Quarterback Alex Smith is set as the starting quarterback and the team legitimately feels good about the position for once. David Carr will be looking to establish himself as the clear backup, fending off second-year veteran Nate Davis, who himself is fending off rookie Jarrett Brown. Smith is expected to only play a few series in this game.
The running back position will be a point of interest, as the 49ers just lost Glen Coffee to retirement. The 23-year-old, second-year player announced it out of the blue and says that God and religion played a big role in the decision to go back to school.
"It was a struggle for a long time. Actually when I look back I feel I never should have entered the draft in the first place," Coffee told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, "Football was no longer my dream. I found Christ in college. It changed my views on everything. But I still was a football player because it was expected of me, it was something I did all my life. I was basically wasting the (49ers') time."
This leaves rookie Anthony Dixon and veteran Michael Robinson as the primary backups to Frank Gore, and the word is that Dixon will get a fair share of carries. The team would like him to grow into that role. The fullback position is one of interest as well, as starting running back Frank Gore is most comfortable with a lead blocker. Moran Norris is the starter presently, but Brit Miller will be looking to gain even more momentum, make the roster, and possibly supplant Norris as the starter.
The return game will be a point of interest; keep an eye on Ted Ginn Jr. on kick returns and Kyle Williams on punt returns. Williams is considered by many a good candidate to make the roster, and it will hinge on his abilities as a returner on top of his abilities from the slot receiver position.
Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan and Ginn are viewed as the three wide receiver locks - many have penciled in Kyle Williams for his return abilities, which leaves Dominique Zeigler, Jason Hill and Brandon Jones vying for that fifth and possibly sixth receiver slot.
The 49ers also will feature battles on the offensive line, particularly at the center position, where David Baas and Tony Wragge will battle to play for the injured Eric Heitmann once the season begins, and possibly a roster spot. Rookies Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati have been named starters, and many eyes will be on them from the get-go.
On defense, things are mostly set - with rookies Taylor Mays and NaVorro Bowman looking to make an impact. Keep an eye on Ricky Jean Francois playing the nose tackle position with starter Aubrayo Franklin still having not signed his tender. Cornerbacks Will James and Karl Paymah will battle, along with rookies Phillip Adams and Patrick Stoudamire. At safety, Reggie Smith and Curtis Taylor will try and see who is the most valuable as the team may only keep four safeties.
For the Indianapolis Colts, we'll see a lot of second-year player Curtis Painter. Painter will look to show more consistency and overall better play than the Colts saw last year when he stepped in to relieve sure starter Peyton Manning. It will be the first time the Colts are back in uniform since the loss to the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl.
Wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez will look to earn his place back into the lineup after being a "player to watch" last year. After his injury, he faded into obscurity as it became the Pierre Garcon show. Tight end Dallas Clark will likely miss the game due to a slight leg injury.
On the offensive line, Tony Ugoh and Mike Pollak are enamored in a battle for the left guard position, with a similar battle taking place at right tackle between Adam Terry and Ryan Diem. It's one of the weaker parts of the Colts' stellar offense, and the team will take special interest in it this offseason.
Rookie Jerry Hughes will be another point of interest, the Colts are toying with just how to use the pass rusher out of TCU. Bob Sanders and Adam Vinatieri are both back from injuries last season and will try and prove their health.
It's only the third time the two teams have met in the preseason, with the 49ers holding a 2-0 advantage.