Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/9/12
With San Francisco's first preseason meeting against the Minnesota Vikings scheduled for this Friday, the team released their official depth chart.  Here are some of the more interesting specifics:

1.  Alex Boone gets the nod at right guard.

While this news was expected, when you enter preseason as the starter at a position that was easily the 49ers' worst last year, you are going to have people keeping an eye on you all game.

As interesting as it will be to see Alex Smith throw a pass to Randy Moss, or LaMichael James taking a handoff in what has become a crowded San Francisco backfield, many 49er fans are going to be more interested in seeing how well Boone performs.

The Vikings pass rush is nothing to scoff at, with Jared Allen having racked up 22 sacks last season; so Boone will be tested by the unit as a whole.  With the offensive line being argubly the 49ers' biggest weakness last season, and with the hole at right guard being the biggest gap in that line, it is very important to the team's success this year that Boone step it up.  He will have his first chance Friday.
 

2.  Eveyone's a #1 wide receiver.

Despite head coach Jim Harbaugh's comments that the aging veteran, Randy Moss, was the team's "best receiver" and that Michael Crabtree had "the best hands [he's] ever seen", he also stated "we have five number one receivers" later in the off-season.  Therefore, while Boone at right guard is something to watch, it doesn't quite have the intrigue of this team's very stacked wide receiving corps.

We are not sure, yet, who will receive the most snaps, and who will barely see any playing time.  One thing we do know is Moss and Michael Crabtree will act as No. 1 and No. 2 to start the game, and Manningham will likely be third behind them - but that's just because someone has to start.  Behind those three you have a mess of people including rookie AJ Jenkins, the "nameless wonders" of last year's playoff run, Brett Swain and Joe Hastings, Stanford's own undrafted free agent, Chris Owusu, and return specialist, Ted Ginn Jr.

Do not be surprised to see all these men get reps at wide receiver, and though Moss and Manningham will grab their share of attention - as well as Crabtree who is finally going to play in his first pre-seasong game - a lot of eyes will be on another undrafted free agent, Nathan Palmer, and a man looking for redemption after last season's choke job, Kyle Williams.

Palmer has looked really, really good in camp so far, according to many varying sources.  The question is how good will he look come Friday?  And, also, will the 49ers even give him much time?  He is sitting fifth on the depth chart at one of the wide receiver slots and this has aroused some speculation that the team might be hiding him from the prying eyes of scouts in the hopes that they can sneak him onto the practice squad before season begins.

But if he does play, a lot of eyes will be on him.  His reputation has preceded him so far in 49er circles, and we all want to see how he performs.

And then there's Kyle Williams, who is undoubtedly going to get his reps in this game: but what will he make of them?  For someone with a reputation for fumbling in big moments, and who did little to impress throughout last season despite receiving a fair amount of playing time, Williams is on the bubble and will have to show some fire and plenty of talent to make the roster.  With Moss, Manningham, Crabtree, Jenkins, and Ginn all practically guaranteed roster spots, it's an uphill battle.

On the bright side, he does have support from the front office, with owner Jed York claiming earlier this off-season that he hopes Kyle Williams has "a breakout year."
 

3.  Aldon Smith ahead of Parys Haralson at OLB

Last year, Aldon Smith almost set the rookie sack record playing in limited snaps and being used primarily as a pass rusher on obvious passing downs.  Parys Haralson accrued most the starting snaps in the 49ers' base package and helped contribute to San Francisco's stout run defense - No. 1 in the entire NFL.

This year, Smith will get the go-ahead over Haralson, as defensive coordinator Vic Fangio expects #99 to not only improve his already superb pass rushing, but to be an every down player at outside linebacker and handle duties against the rush as well.  Smith will have to, at the very least, perform as well as Haralson in order to keep his starting spot. Otherwise, Smith will likely find himself demoted to a strict pass rusher as per last season.

The Vikings offensive line is not the best in the league, nor will star running back Adrian Peterson be in the game, as he is still nursing a knee injury; but it does not mean Smith will be off the hook.  With the 49ers boasting not only the league's top rush defense, but also arguably the best front seven in the entire NFL, Smith will need to prove he belongs to such an elite group by being a dominant force every down.

While it doesn't hurt him to have Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman, and Ahmad Brooks starting along side him at the linebacker position, it does set the bar for Smith's performance very, very high.  Nothing but the best will do for the league's finest linebacking corps.
 

4.  Will the starting offense look anemic?

Alex Smith is one of the most underrated quarterbacks in the NFL and when he and the starting offense take the field to start the game, he will look to continue his successful play from last season.

Ideally, they will march down the field and score, then maybe score on a second drive, and Smith will spend the rest of the game on the bench, allowing backup quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick, Josh Johnson, and Scott Tolzien their share of reps.  Any hiccups on those first two drives will likely mean more playing time for Smith on the field.

The 49ers boasted one of the league's worst third down conversion and red zone touchdown percentages in the entire NFL last year, and visible improvement is wanted right away.  It will come down to handling the Vikings' starting pass rush, and getting the ball out to their talented wide receivers.

Out of the three phases of football - defense, special teams, and offense - San Francisco's offense was the only one not ranked in the elite category.  Many are expecting progress in year two under coach Harbaugh, and that means converting third downs and finishing drives with touchdowns.  Smith will want to do just that, starting with his first drive against Minnesota on Friday.



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