The starting quarterbacks will get the most attention, but the 49ers have more pressing needs to address as they battle the Chiefs in Kansas City tonight.
Neither Colin Kaepernick nor Alex Smith will play much tonight. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh has already said he'll use all four of his quarterbacks. Kaepernick will probably get the least snaps of any.
If exhibition games have any purpose, other than bilking season ticket-holders, they serve as a tryout for players trying to earn roster spots. The three quarterbacks behind Kaepernick are vying for the chance to hold a clipboard as Kaepernick plays during the regular season.
It's much more critical at other positions. With their best receiver, Michael Crabtree, and Mario Manningham injured, Harbaugh has been searching for replacements. Acquring proven veteran receiver Anquan Boldin was a start, but the Niners need another receiver to step up. A.J. Jenkins, who was targeted last year for only one pass, which he dropped, is on the hot spot. Jenkins was a first-round pick last year, but he was clearly unprepared for the NFL. He's added some weight and strength this year, but has been unimpressive in workouts. He needs to step up or his pro career could be over before it's really started.
The defensive backfield lost Dashon Goldson, who signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay, and then suffered another hit when Chris Culliver went down for the season with a knee injury.
In a league where rule changes have turned it into a continual aerial circus, going into games without a sound defensive backfield is akin to going into battle without a weapon. The 49ers' secondary gave up a lot of completions last year, but hard tackling after the catch forced fumbles that they often recovered. But a defensive back must be close to a receiver for that to happen, and there's no guarantee that will happen with the current 49ers secondary.
Their offseason moves smacked of desperation. First, they signed Nnamdi Asomugha, once a stellar cornerback, but now a 32-year-old coming off his worst season. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was pessimistic in a surprisingly candid evaluation of Asomugha two weeks ago, saying the former Cal star was at an age where DBs can lose it quickly. Asomugha will get considerable playing time in the next two games, so Fangio can make an accurate evaluation.
The Niners also signed Eric Wright, who has had off-field problems and is also currently on the physically unable to perform list. No doubt Fangio is hoping Wright will recover in time for the regular season because the 49ers are desperately thin in the defensive backfield now.
Meanwhile, backup defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs was found guilty of violating the NFL's substance abuse program for possession of marijuana. Yeah, that stunned me, too. Even U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has backed off on prosecution of marijuana users. But the NFL hasn't gotten the word.
And, oh, yes, about the quarterbacks. Both are in a good place. Kaepernick is the unquestioned starter for the Niners and Smith is with a coach, Andy Reid, who loves him. I expect both to have good years, but you won't see that tonight.