SANTA CLARA -- Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore and Brandon Lloyd made their preseason debuts for the 49ers. Crabtree, who returned to practice on Friday after dealing with a muscle strain, started the game at wideout along with Anquan Boldin.
Crabtree played three of the first four snaps before giving way to Lloyd, who was targeted by Colin Kaepernick on a deep pass in the end zone that was just out of Lloyd’s reach. Gore, meanwhile, carried twice for 12 yards on the opening drive before giving way to rookie Carlos Hyde. Tight end Vance McDonald, who practiced in a blue “no contact” jersey last week is playing but LaMichael James (elbow) is not.
On defense, Patrick Willis did not play for the second straight game. Instead Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland were the starting inside linebackers. Aldon Smith, however, started at his familiar right outside linebacker spot.
The 49ers’ backup defensive linemen, some of whom played 60 snaps during the preseason opener in Baltimore, figure to get a lot of work today, too.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
Would-be Week 1 starters Justin Smith, Ray McDonald and Ian Williams are not in uniform to play the Broncos. Each of them returned to practice last week. The defensive line also is without Glenn Dorsey and Kaleb Ramsey. However, Lawrence Okoye, who injured his ankle in the preseason opener, is dressed for the game.
Read Matt Barrows’ blogs and archives at www.sacbee.com/sf49ers.