Jeff Chiu/Associated Press
The 49ers hope that Joe Looney will be a viable replacement for Alex Boone if Boone's holdout continues.
The five players with a lot to gain—or a lot to lose—stand in a pretty specific category.
Either they have lofty expectations to live up to, or perhaps they sit on the roster bubble, which could mean a lackluster performance during the preseason mandates the player being released.
Such is the nature of the NFL.
But there are some players who do require some attention in regards to this topic. Perhaps their respective jobs are safe or maybe the 49ers do not necessarily view them as integral components to the team's success.
Still, these honorable mentions deserve at least a little focus.
Joe Looney, G
Guard Alex Boone's holdout remains a situation in Santa Clara, California. Both sides are sticking to their guns—Boone won't report until he receives a new contract and the 49ers won't issue one until he reports.
It is a stalemate in every sense of the word.
Thus, the pressure has fallen on third-year pro Joe Looney who has taken over for Boone at right guard.
According to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, Looney has been the primary beneficiary in Boone's absence—taking over in first-team reps for much of the offseason programs.
Looney has never started an NFL game in his career. He has only played in four.
San Francisco is hoping that Looney performs as well as he has been doing so far in camp, especially if Boone's holdout continues. The first week of the preseason should give us a pretty good indication whether or not he can handle the pressure.
Derek Carrier, TE
A year ago, Garrett Celek assumed most of the third-string tight end roles and Derek Carrier spent most of the time in a reserve or practice squad role.
Now, it appears as if Carrier has emerged as the favorite to secure the No. 3 tight end slot, per Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee.
Carrier's chances to make the squad have been improved thanks to an injury suffered by Celek, described in detail by Eric Branch of SF Gate.
The tight end battle is certainly not as heralded as is the competition at wide receiver and cornerback, but there are a number of bodies vying for perhaps only one spot.
If Carrier wants to cement his role as the No. 3 tight end, a strong showing during San Francisco's first preseason game would be an ideal way to do it.
Blaine Gabbert, QB
Week 1 of the preseason will be the firs time that 49ers fans get to see the former first-round pick of the 2011 NFL draft don a San Francisco uniform on the field.
Barring any sort of setback, Gabbert has all but secured the backup quarterback role behind Colin Kaepernick. As the No. 2 guy, Gabbert will likely see plenty of time against Baltimore. The 49ers may play Kaepernick for a drive, or two, but then give the reins to Gabbert.
Gabbert has had a strong showing during training camp per Barrows, especially when considering the five total quarterbacks the 49ers had on roster at its inception.
Reps are precious and Gabbert made the most of his.
Gabbert should see plenty of playing time this Thursday. This alone will put pressure on him. It puts pressure on the 49ers' coaching staff too. If he struggles, the option to keep a third-string quarterback may be necessary.
But Gabbert will almost certainly be on the roster in Week 1. Unless we see a disaster or injury, Gabbert does not have too much to lose.
Chris Cook, CB
The 49ers spent a lot of effort revamping their secondary during the offseason. Free-agent acquisition Chris Cook was one such example.
The four-year pro has yet to record an interception at the NFL level, a stat that draws questions regarding his ball-tracking skills and perhaps justified the decision of the Minnesota Vikings not to re-sign him after he was drafted No. 34 overall back in 2010.
Cook is hoping to change all of that in 2014 with a new team and under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and secondary coach Ed Donatell, per Barrows.
With returning veterans Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver likely securing the Nos. 1 and 2 cornerback jobs, Cook's likely destination will be as a backup along the outside. It is feasible to see him earning a nickel job on defense, but a hunch would give that role to San Francisco's first-round pick Jimmie Ward.
Cook doesn't have a lot to gain outside of simply making it onto the 53-man roster—a likelihood given his 6'2", 200-pound frame and good speed.
But he could still be cut from the roster if the 49ers feel they have better options—like Perrish Cox or Darryl Morris—on their depth chart. Rookie Dontae Johnson could also push the issue.