I was going to compile “Five 49ers to Watch” for Saturday’s game in Houston (5 p.m., Ch. 13) but figured you guys could handle 10. Don’t let me down. In alphabetic order ...
DL Arik Armstead, No. 69
The 49ers’ first-round pick (Pleasant Grove High School) has looked good in training camp, showing the athleticism and power that prompted general manager Trent Baalke to take him at No. 17. Armstead’s challenge is the team’s depth. He’ll likely be the third guy into the game at left defensive end, perhaps the fourth if Darnell Dockett suits up. Ahead of him are Glenn Dorsey, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Dockett, a nickel specialist.
CB Tramaine Brock, No. 26
Every time Brock seems poised for a big season, he gets injured. He broke his hand early in 2011; toe and hamstring injuries limited him to three games last season. Still, Brock has been sharp this summer and will draw the Texans’ top wide receiver even if that player goes to the slot. That means Brock will be matched against DeAndre Hopkins, who has been featured prominently on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.”
OT Trent Brown, No. 77
Anthony Davis’ sudden retirement/hiatus forced Brown into a bigger-than-expected role. He struggled early in camp but, along with the rest of the offensive line, has improved. He’ll play right tackle with the second-team offense. The 49ers are wondering whether they can count on him to be Erik Pears’ backup this season. At 6-foot-8 and 355 pounds, Brown is hard to miss.
DL Quinton Dial, No. 92
He has had an excellent offseason and training camp, lining up at right defensive end, the spot Justin Smith manned since 2008. The plan is for Dial to be on the field for running downs and for Tank Carradine to enter for passing situations. Dial has missed some practices recently, and his snap count could be curtailed.
RB Jarryd Hayne, No. 38
The Aussie is no longer a novelty act after he broke three tackles for a touchdown in Sunday’s practice. He has proven to be a fast learner and a surprisingly good pass catcher. But he’s just learning how to lower his shoulders and run like an NFL tailback. With Reggie Bush on the sideline, Hayne could get a chance to do something very familiar – run in the open field following a punt return.
OLB Eli Harold, No. 58
Energetic and eager, Harold has made a good first impression with the 49ers. Corey Lemonier will start at right outside linebacker, Aldon Smith’s former spot, against Houston. Lemonier, however, has looked flat, and it seems likely Harold will pass him at some point on the depth chart. Aaron Lynch (back) won’t make the trip, which should provide plenty of snaps for Harold, a third-round draft pick.
RG Marcus Martin, No. 66
The 49ers’ starting offensive line has been shaky in training camp, and Martin might have been the shakiest of the bunch. That’s why Brandon Thomas and Ian Silberman also are being eyed for the job. Still, Martin will get the first crack. If he and the others play well in Houston, the team could settle on its starting line sooner rather than later. If not, it’s back to the drawing board. Martin also could get some snaps at center, where he started eight games a year ago.
ILB Nick Moody, No. 54
NaVorro Bowman might not play against the Texans, but Moody will. The 49ers wanted him to take a step forward this offseason, and he has done that. The one-time Florida State safety has displayed speed and awareness and has had several interceptions, significant in a pass-mad league. If Bowman doesn’t start, Shayne Skov or Desmond Bishop will take his place.
P Bradley Pinion, No. 5
The only concern with Pinion, a fifth-round draft pick, is whether his punts interfere with landings at nearby San Jose International Airport. He also may handle a kickoff on Saturday,.
WR DeAndrew White, No. 18
No 49ers pass catcher has had as many receptions, from May to August, as White, an undrafted rookie from Alabama. He has caught long bombs and short crossing routes. He has lined up on the outside and in the slot. He also has remained healthy, no easy feat for rookie wideouts who bear the brunt of the workload in training camp. White had an injury-plagued tenure at Alabama that included an ACL tear, but he seems strong now.