Ten 49ers to watch in Baltimore on Thursday:
Frank Gore could make a quick cameo at the start of the game. Or he could sit out altogether like he did last season. Either way Hyde, a second-round pick, will get plenty of carries and will be in the spotlight. He's looked good in practice over the last two weeks, albeit against defenses that weren't allowed to tackle or hit him. The Ravens won't give him that courtesy.
The first-round draft pick could see action at two spots – nickel cornerback and free safety. Ward has been everything the 49ers hoped when they took him with the 30th overall pick in May. He's quick and always around the ball. And one of his best attributes – his willingness to hit ball carriers – should be on display in Baltimore
He's taken every first-team snap at right guard since the spring while Alex Boone has held out for a better contract, and Looney has looked solid at every step. He is likely to play a little more than long-time o-line starters like Joe Staley and Mike Iupati. How Looney performs has everything to do with how the 49ers proceed with Boone.
Culliver's last game was against the Ravens and it was his worst-ever NFL performance. How he defends the deep ball, a weakness of his in 2011 and 2012 and especially in the Super Bowl, remains a question mark. He's come back from an ACL injury suffered a year ago but has missed some recent practices. It's unknown whether he'll play against Baltimore.
Mike Purcell may start the game at nose tackle, the position he's been playing since last offseason. But the 49ers coaches are eying Dial for the spot when the regular season begins. He's being eased back into nose tackle after playing defensive end throughout the spring. Watch for Dial when the second-team defense is on the field.
Martin may not be at full strength after mononucleosis sidelined him in the spring. He's been pushed around – badly at times – by some of the 49ers' defensive ends and the Ravens pass rushers will give him plenty to handle as well. He'll start at right tackle in place of Anthony Davis (shoulder). With Boone missing, Martin is the top backup at both tackle spots and he could see action at left tackle once Staley exits the game.
Cook has been consistently solid since the spring. If Culliver is unable to play, Cook will start the game at right cornerback. An interception in the preseason would go a long way toward boosting his confidence. The big-bodied cornerback still is looking for his first regular-season interception.
With Garrett Celek out with a back injury, Carrier is very much in position to take over as No. 3 tight end this season. A former wide receiver, Carrier is second only to Vernon Davis among 49ers tight ends in terms of speed and athleticism. His blocking is a work in progress, however, and will be scrutinized against the Ravens.
The 49ers likely will get Patrick Willis to the sideline as fast as possible. Borland lines up in Willis' “Mike” linebacker spot, meaning he likely will play a huge chunk of the game. The third-round draft pick is instinctual and aggressive. However, he's also undersized, and it will be interesting to see how he performs in pass coverage.
Okoye's NFL debut last summer was blink-and-you-miss-it in length. He only came in at the very end of games. With only six healthy 49ers defensive lineman right now, however, Okoye might see a half's worth of work, mainly at right defensive end. Okoye still gets lost at times. But his strength and speed make regular appearances as well, and he should be fun to watch even on special teams. After all, how many times is a 305-pound man the first one down the field?
Here’s a bonus 11th player. Ellington has been sharp throughout the offseason. The fourth-round pick mostly operates out of the slot position. But you could see him line up wide at times, too. He and Devon Wylie also figure to return punts with LaMichael James out with an elbow injury.