The 49ers may have pursued Peyton Manning in March, but today, it will be San Francisco’s defense attempting to bag the 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback.
“Playing against a team and a quarterback of his caliber ... you basically get to see where you stand at with him,” defensive tackle Ricky Jean François said of Manning.
But San Francisco’s Mile High matchup against the Denver Broncos will be more than a nationally televised preseason game against one of the finest passers to ever play the game.
For the young and untried, the third week of preseason play can solidify — or jeopardize — a coveted roster spot.
And with first cuts looming, there are roster spots to be had.
“We’ve got some jobs that are up for grabs in the backup area,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “We’d like to see somebody step forward and make the decisions easy for us, particularly at the safety position.”
This weekend seems a proper time to do just that.
Despite passing for a total of 221 yards in his first two preseason games, Manning has thrown three interceptions.
And with safety’s Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson anchoring the Niners’ secondary, Fangio will be looking at how C.J. Spillman, Darcel McBath, Trenton Robinson, Mike Thomas and Colin Jones fare this weekend with those backup spots on the line.
“The whole idea for training camp and preseason is to prepare your team for the regular season,” Fangio said. “All during these weeks, we just keep hitting our guys with stuff that we know is going to be valuable during the season, put them in situations, see different plays, etc.”
San Francisco’s defense was tested last week by the dynamic Houston Texans offense, allowing 279 yards in a 20-9 loss. But despite the defeat, Fangio wasn’t all that displeased.
“We did a little better with our first group in there than we did the previous week,” he said. “Houston is a good offense. They present you with some unique problems and we didn’t do much preparation for it and I thought our guys went out there and played well in the first couple series.”
The Broncos, too, seemingly have a dangerous offense. But the 49ers’ prognosis of late has been to blunt any offense with sound defense.
“We feed off of each other,” linebacker Larry Grant said. “Everybody has a certain role on this defense — all 11 players.”
But to be named one of those players, one has to perform. And chance to perform will come today.