Week three of the NFL Preseason is one of the more important tests before the season begins. The starters play an awful long time and teams often open up just a little bit more of the playbook, looking to see if their execution is on point before resting a lot of starters and finalizing their roster with their week four matchup.
The 49ers failed the test. Flunked right out of the class.
Because in week three, everybody played poorly, there wasn't even room to grade on a curve. Every player was essentially in the bottom percentile and it's clear that something needs to change, most notably on the offensive line. In week one, San Francisco trotted out the excuse "We just weren't ready after the lockout," but now there's no room for excuses. The offensive line played poorly against the Texans and that's something that will have to be remedied sooner rather than later.
So there will be a couple changes - most notably, Jonathan Goodwin will be replacing Adam Snyder for the starting center position, as most expected he would. Goodwin hadn't done so until this point because he came into the system so late as a free agent signing. Goodwin has been a Pro Bowler in the past and will be expected to play at a high level ... something he has yet to do in a 49ers uniform.
Beyond those offensive line woes, it's really all up in the air as to who will play how long in the fourth preseason game. Most coaches around the league are insisting that it's par the course this preseason and that things will be done by the book, but with the shuffling of the starters in week three, who knows what we'll see in week four? The starters should get a little bit of time, or maybe they'll get none. Either way, Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman will have an eye on their offensive line above all ... because they can't settle a quarterback battle when the signal callers are being dropped on every other play.
For the Chargers, who are much more set offensively and defensively than San Francisco, it's doubtful the starters will get much time. They underwhelmed in week three against the Cardinals starters, but it's not a matter of getting out there and showing they can play well, Norv Turner already knows that they can - it's simply a matter of making sure they don't make the same mistakes again. So will they get a lot of time out there?
Probably not, but San Diego does have a lot going on at the back-end of their depth chart. With no lengthy offseason to evaluate talent, teams will pay special attention to the depth in week four. The Chargers have a battle waging on at the wide receiver position, unlike any in recent times. Last year, they started the season with only four receivers on the team, and now they're looking to carry at least five, and probably six.
Seyi Ajirotutu, Bryan Walters, Kelley Washington and Richard Goodman are all hopefuls, looking to make the roster alongside guys like Vincent Jackson, Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown and Patrick Crayton. Walters is a guy to definitely keep your eye on, his five receptions for 61 yards in week three were impressive, especially considering the fact that 41 of those yards came on two receptions during the game-winning drive. Washington is a veteran who would probably be penciled in as a lock if he hadn't missed the last two weeks with injuries. With potentially two spots available, it's the battle to pay attention to in week four.
The game is set for 7:00 p.m. on Thursday.