The Chip Kelly era with the San Francisco 49ers will reach another milestone on Saturday when the team reports for training camp in Santa Clara.
Here are three preseason battles worth monitoring ahead of the 2016 season:
Blaine Gabbert vs. Colin Kaepernick
This quarterback controversy would’ve made you think your psychic was drunk in 2010 if she foresaw it then. Gabbert is the presumed starter until Kelly indicates otherwise. But Kaepernick was cleared on Tuesday to participate in camp after months of recovering from a litany of procedures, according to the Sacramento Bee.
If he can recover from injury to realize his substantial potential, Kaepernick has the higher ceiling, but Kelly could prefer the safer play in Gabbert. Either option should prove effective if the team’s goal becomes tanking for a high draft pick in 2017.
(Kidding, of course: Such a decision would assuredly cost Trent Baalke his job.)
Anthony Davis vs. couch
The longtime 49ers offensive tackle has been hinting and posting videos and sending cryptic messages about his NFL playing status all offseason and on Monday, Davis tweeted he had filed for reinstatement with the team and league.
Davis should re-assume his starting role on the right side of the line after he is granted an official return. Hopefully, he can stay healthy and be a difference maker for a unit that was ranked No. 26th out of 32 teams by Pro Football Focus.
Receivers vs. inexperience
Kaepernick or Gabbert won’t have several first-rate options to throw the ball to this season. Torrey Smith, 27, will be the elder statesman, a role he said he was ready to embrace during minicamps earlier this summer.
Behind Smith are Bruce Ellington (19 career catches), Quinton Patton (an electrifying athletic talent on special teams who hasn’t fully developed as a pass-catcher) and a slew of rookies and low-profile free agents.
Kelly has helped unheralded pass receivers put up significant numbers in the past. So the team is obviously banking on him repeating some of that magic.