49ers coach Shanahan would be fine with no preseason games


San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan gestures during the second half of an NFL football game between the 49ers and the Arizona Cardinals in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

(Associated Press) San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan doesn’t see a whole lot of value in a four-game preseason.

So with several players, including first-round draft pick Nick Bosa and running back Jerick McKinnon nursing injuries, and others such as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo coming back from one, the 49ers aren’t expected to play many front-line guys in their exhibition opener against Dallas on Saturday night.

“You absolutely don’t need four preseason games,” Shanahan said. “I’d rather have zero than four, preferably I’d like two. One to evaluate the people trying to make the team and then just one to knock a little rust off.”

The main question for the 49ers this week will be at quarterback, where Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard are battling to be Garoppolo’s backup. Beathard started last season in that role but struggled after Garoppolo went down with a knee injury. Mullens then stepped in and played well down the stretch. Neither player has separated himself in training camp.

For Dallas, all eyes will be on the running backs with two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott holding out.

Rookie Tony Pollard, a fourth-round pick, was getting first-team reps over veteran Darius Jackson in the second week of camp. The Cowboys also brought back Alfred Morris, who filled in two years ago when Elliott was suspended six games over domestic violence allegations. Morris was the backup in San Francisco last year.

With Dak Prescott likely playing briefly in the preseason opener, it will be the first look at the backup QB battle between Cooper Rush and Mike White. Rush kept the job last year despite a shaky preseason after a strong showing in exhibition games as a rookie two years ago. White, going into his second season, has a better chance to unseat Rush this year. The lingering question is whether the Cowboys will have three quarterbacks on the 53-man roster again.

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