For fans of the 49ers and Saints, Thursday will be an agonizingly long day. After the drama of the lockout and the potential to have an entire season locked out, we're ready to get things going on Thursday, but the 49ers don't play their game until Friday. Some will watch the other games on Thursday, some will obsessively read all of the same information they've already read, and others will probably hibernate until kickoff. Whatever the case, there probably hasn't been this much interest in a 49ers preseason game in some time.
They've got at least five new starters on defense and of course, all eyes will be on the quarterback play. Everybody just wants to see Jim Harbaugh on the sidelines, just to confirm that the 49ers actually have a coach and it's not just an elaborate ploy to crush hopes that probably aren't that high to begin with, after all this time of mediocrity. With Harbaugh comes new offensive and defensive coordinators, and everybody is waiting to see how Vic Fangio and Greg Roman perform.
There's all this talk about a new offense that actually adapts and shifts. An offense that deceives and isn't just three yards and a cloud of dust, like the one under Jimmy Raye in 2009 and 2010. Is it all bluster, or will something come of it? We won't see a ton in week one, but the 49ers starters are looking to play about twenty snaps, so we'll see something, good or bad.
With an emphasis on "or bad." Teams have had such a short time to actually prepare for this, even well-established teams will look sloppy early on. Picture revamping the entire coaching staff and only having a week or two to install three playbooks. It will not be pretty.
For the Saints, it's all about keeping things basic and getting the rookies playing time. They don't need to see a whole lot from their starters to feel good about them, and that fits right in with how the preseason usually goes. So while the 49ers might spend more time with the starters because they've had a short offseason with a new system, the Saints remain only a little bit behind with their star quarterback and ... well star just about everything.
The rookies are lagging behind, and that's great because they can play the whole game if need be. Of course it's not actually "great," but you get the wording. Brees and co. won't see the field very much, if at all, so it's the 49ers time to shine.
Position battles will be going on everywhere for the 49ers. While the preseason is usually to establish the last remaining spots, almost everything beyond most of the starters is up for grabs. Rookies will be looking to shine early and often, fringe players didn't have time to polish up for this. Get your popcorn ready, because we're either about to see intense competition or something akin to America's Funniest Home Videos.