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The San Francisco 49ers are 2-0 in the preseason, after beating the Minnesota Vikings 17-7 at US Bank Stadium on Saturday night. With most of the starters not playing, it was a night that belonged to one who did, rookie standouts and a beloved offensive lineman. Let’s take a look.

Javon Kinlaw

For the first time since drafting him in 2020, the 49ers have a healthy Javon Kinlaw on the defensive line, and with that health comes the hope that Kinlaw may finally be the player they were hoping for after trading DeForest Buckner to the Colts in 2020.

“I love being out there,” Kinlaw said. “I missed it, to be honest.”

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He was double-teamed most of the night on Saturday, but when he wasn’t, Kinlaw sacked Vikings’ quarterback Kellen Mond inside the 5-yard line.

“That’s been happening to me every time I play football, since the first day I stepped on a field,” said Kinlaw. “That’s nothing new to me, bro. It’s cool. I like getting in there and doing the dirty work.”

Kinlaw played in only four games last season before he required an ACL reconstruction. The 49ers have been careful with Kinlaw, as he did not participate in the offseason program and was very much eased into training camp.

“I feel I’m finally getting back to having fun and being a kid again, now that I’m not in any pain,” Kinlaw said.

He played some in San Francisco’s first preseason game, but head coach Kyle Shanahan does not plan to play him in the Thursday’s preseason finale.

“He’s just healthy,” Shanahan said. “He hasn’t been healthy since the Dallas game in 2020…[H]e was in great shape last year, but his knee bothered him. So this year he’s even better and he’s feeling good, and we’re trying to keep that up.”

Defensive end Nick Bosa talked about Kinlaw’s “intimidation factor” after Wednesday’s joint-practice with the Vikings, while rookie defensive end Drake Jackson spoke about his 6’5″, 319-pound teammate a different way.

“He’s a mutant, man,” Jackson said. “I don’t know how people even block him. He’s bigger than everybody, stronger than everybody. Coming off that injury, he’s getting right and straight to it.”

Rookie Standouts

  • Cornerback Samuel Womack continues to impress in the preseason, following up his two-interception performance against the Packers with a fumble recovery on a punt return that led to a Robbie Gould 49-yard field goal.
  • Running backs Ty Davis-Price and Jordan Mason both brought some oomph to the 49ers’ running game in the second half. Davis-Price had a rough learning experience, as he cut outside on 4th-and-1 and got stuffed on San Francisco’s opening drive. He finished the night with 10 carries for 41 yards, including a 14-yarder in the third quarter that showcased his physicality. Mason finished with nine carried for 57 yards.
  • Jackson had a promising week of practices against the Vikings and then followed it up with two tackles, a PBU and two QB hurries in Saturday’s game.

A QB2 Competition?

If you thought the 49ers had put quarterback drama behind them, you don’t know the 49ers. QB1 is set with Trey Lance, but there may just be a competition for the backup spot between Nate Sudfeld and Mr. Irrelevant himself, Brock Purdy.

“There is nothing done yet,” Shanahan said. “We haven’t been giving them equal reps or anything, but Brock has done a good job every time he gets an opportunity. Nate [Sudfeld] did some real good things tonight and last week, too, but I like both those guys, and see how it finishes up.”

Sudfeld was the game’s starter and went 13-of-17 for 102 yards, while Purdy finished 14-of-23 for 128 yards. The two rotated throughout the game. Purdy was the victim of a few drops, while he also had quite the blunder to open the second half, when he fumbled a second-and-goal handoff to Davis-Price.

Sudfeld engineered a touchdown pass to JaMycal Hasty, followed by a successful two-point conversion to Danny Gray.

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“Just not playing Trey and not playing a ton of starters…our tackles, our two starting receivers, our running back, our tight end, we wanted to make sure if those guys got in there, they got a fair chance with who was in,” Shanahan said. “Once we got to the second half, we see more threes and stuff, and it wouldn’t have been fair for one of them. We tried to give them two series each, so we stuck with it to I think the third quarter, and then we let Brock finish it out.”

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Purdy was the final pick in this year’s NFL draft, which, in theory, made him a long shot, but Shanahan said that’s not the case.

“We were high on him coming out,” said Shanahan. “[Klay Kubiak and Brian Griese] put in a lot of time into him. They really liked him coming out. We liked his tape. But he’s been really consistent in practice. You guys see him in games, it’s been consistent. That’s why he’s got a chance to make our team.”

Alfredo Gutiérrez

And last, but certainly not least, Alfredo Gutiérrez, who joined San Francisco in 2021 as part of the NFL’s international player pathway program, made his preseason and league debut in the final minutes of Saturday’s game. He then got the game ball.

“It was his first time playing, so we wanted to give him one,” Shanahan said. “It’s been great having him around here. He’s everyone’s best friend on the team and helps us out throughout out week, too.”

It’s clear how beloved Gutiérrez is in the locker room.

“That’s a beautiful scene right there,” Jackson said. “I’m so happy when I see him go out there. When I had a problem a few weeks ago, he was right there by my side to make sure I was cool and everything like that. Man, big ups to him for actually getting in there and being able to get some playing time.”