Jeff Chiu/APGiants left-hander Madison Bumgarner is a big reason the Giants have the best record in baseball.

Jeff Chiu/APGiants left-hander Madison Bumgarner is a big reason the Giants have the best record in baseball.

Look beyond QBs for real stories

The starting quarterbacks will get the most attention, but the 49ers have more pressing needs to address as they battle the Chiefs in Kansas City tonight.

Neither Colin Kaepernick nor Alex Smith will play much tonight. Niners coach Jim Harbaugh has already said he'll use all four of his quarterbacks. Kaepernick will probably get the least snaps of any.

If exhibition games have any purpose, other than bilking season ticket-holders, they serve as a tryout for players trying to earn roster spots. The three quarterbacks behind Kaepernick are vying for the chance to hold a clipboard as Kaepernick plays during the regular season.

It's much more critical at other positions. With their best receiver, Michael Crabtree, and Mario Manningham injured, Harbaugh has been searching for replacements. Acquring proven veteran receiver Anquan Boldin was a start, but the Niners need another receiver to step up. A.J. Jenkins, who was targeted last year for only one pass, which he dropped, is on the hot spot. Jenkins was a first-round pick last year, but he was clearly unprepared for the NFL. He's added some weight and strength this year, but has been unimpressive in workouts. He needs to step up or his pro career could be over before it's really started.

The defensive backfield lost Dashon Goldson, who signed as a free agent with Tampa Bay, and then suffered another hit when Chris Culliver went down for the season with a knee injury.

In a league where rule changes have turned it into a continual aerial circus, going into games without a sound defensive backfield is akin to going into battle without a weapon. The 49ers' secondary gave up a lot of completions last year, but hard tackling after the catch forced fumbles that they often recovered. But a defensive back must be close to a receiver for that to happen, and there's no guarantee that will happen with the current 49ers secondary.

Their offseason moves smacked of desperation. First, they signed Nnamdi Asomugha, once a stellar cornerback, but now a 32-year-old coming off his worst season. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was pessimistic in a surprisingly candid evaluation of Asomugha two weeks ago, saying the former Cal star was at an age where DBs can lose it quickly. Asomugha will get considerable playing time in the next two games, so Fangio can make an accurate evaluation.

The Niners also signed Eric Wright, who has had off-field problems and is also currently on the physically unable to perform list. No doubt Fangio is hoping Wright will recover in time for the regular season because the 49ers are desperately thin in the defensive backfield now.

Meanwhile, backup defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs was found guilty of violating the NFL's substance abuse program for possession of marijuana. Yeah, that stunned me, too. Even U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has backed off on prosecution of marijuana users. But the NFL hasn't gotten the word.

And, oh, yes, about the quarterbacks. Both are in a good place. Kaepernick is the unquestioned starter for the Niners and Smith is with a coach, Andy Reid, who loves him. I expect both to have good years, but you won't see that tonight.

Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on Email him at

49ersColin KaepernickGlenn DickeyKansas City Chiefs

Just Posted

Pregnant women are in the high-risk category currently prioritized for booster shots in San Francisco. (Unai Huizi/Shutterstock)
What pregnant women need to know about COVID and booster shots

Inoculations for immunosuppressed individuals are recommended in the second trimester

Examiner reporter Ben Schneider drives an Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle along Beach Street in Fisherman’s Wharf on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Could San Francisco’s tiny tourist cruisers become the cars of the future?

‘Fun Utility Vehicles’ have arrived in The City

The Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus is pictured on Jan. 14. The Democrats’ Build Back Better bill would enable free community college nationwide, but CCSF is already tuition-free for all San Francisco residents. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What Biden’s Build Back Better bill would mean for San Franciscans

Not much compared to other places — because The City already provides several key features

A directional sign at Google in Mountain View, Calif., on Oct. 20, 2020. Workers at Google and Amazon are demanding their companies pull out of Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract to provide cloud services for the Israeli military and government. (Laura Morton/The New York Times)
Google and Amazon employees criticize $1.2 billion cloud services contract with Israel

‘We can create a world in which tech companies can thrive without doing harm’

Most Read