San Francisco 49ers: 3 Veterans to Watch Against the Houston Texans

Joe LevittContributor IIIAugust 17, 2012

Jan 22, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers defensive end Justin Smith (94) and inside linebacker Patrick Willis (52) line up during the 2011 NFC Championship game against the New York Giants at Candlestick Park.  The Giants won 20-17 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE
Jason O. Watson-US PRESSWIRE

What makes Game 2 of the NFL preseason that much more compelling than the first?

For the San Francisco 49ers, the starters receive more playing time. That means first-team offense and defense against the Houston Texans.

(To be sure, the same applies to all NFL teams, barring injury.)

A handful of starters didn’t play in the first preseason matchup against the Minnesota Vikings because Jim Harbaugh afforded them a veterans’ day off.

That handful—or three to be specific—was the likes of Frank Gore, Mario Manningham and Justin Smith. reports that all three are expected to play against the Texans on Saturday.

This is exciting new for all those among the 49er faithful.

Let’s now tap into that excitement, player by player.


Frank Gore

The heart and soul of the San Francisco 49ers will showcase his veteran talents on Saturday to the chagrin of all those attending in Houston.

Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs and the rest of the Niner running backs provided some memorable moments last week. Watching Gore, though, is like appreciating a perfectly orchestrated musical symphony—he just does everything right.

Adding to the anticipation is Gore matching up against the league’s No. 4 rushing defense of 2011. Despite second-year star J.J. Watt and starting nose tackle Shaun Cody being deactivated for Saturday’s game, the Texans still feature a formidable front seven.

Linebackers Connor Barwin and Brian Cushing will still patrol the middle of the field. Heralded rookies Whitney Mercilus and Jared Crick are in the mix as well.

Plenty of gripping action will take place for however long Gore and the marquee players for Houston are on the field.

I’d suggest taking notice of how Frank the Tank performs on inside runs, on passing plays in the flat and in pass protection against the ferocious Texans contingent.

It’ll be worth your while.


Mario Manningham

Mr. Manningham has been one of the standouts at 49ers training camp as of late.

The slated No. 3 wideout has emerged into the spotlight after hanging out on the relative periphery of media coverage.

Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee noted that he looked especially impressive in seven-on-seven drills on Friday. Taylor Price of highlighted Manningham’s one-handed catch from a Colin Kaepernick fastball as the play of the day.

More significant—in terms of the bigger picture—is that a connection between Manningham and quarterback Alex Smith is in the works.

The two connected for five completions on Monday’s practice and have continued to do so through the final training camp practice open to the media.

Now that the second preseason game is upon us, watch where Manningham lines up on the field and what kind of production shows up on the box score on Saturday night. He’s sure to be chomping at the bit for real-time action.

My guess is that he’ll shine as the most productive veteran wideout. And coming against personnel from the third-ranked passing defense, his star should shine even brighter.


Justin Smith

When I referred to Manningham “chomping at the bit,” I probably should have reserved that colloquial phrase for the true thoroughbred on the 49ers.

Justin Smith was the third recipient of a Harbaugh-mandated veterans’ day off last Friday. I guarantee that he was none too pleased at the prospect.

Over six feet, 285 pounds of unabated physical force and involuntary days off simply do not mix.

That’s why television history of an NFL preseason game will be made when J. Smith unleashes his wrath on the unfortunate offensive linemen for Houston.  Left tackle Duane Brown had better channel every one of his 53.4 million reasons to remain in the NFL.

Stopping the 49ers' All-Pro will certainly require it.

Cheers to the weekend and television history.


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