Jimmy Garoppolo to start 49ers' preseason opener

'Jimmy will play somewhat into the first quarter,' head coach Kyle Shanahan said Tuesday.|

SANTA CLARA - Jimmy Garoppolo will start Thursday night during the 49ers' exhibition-season opener against the Dallas Cowboys and play at least one series, maybe two.

Head coach Kyle Shanahan confirmed this during his Tuesday press conference, when he explained which players will and will not suit up.

“Jimmy will play somewhat into the first quarter,” Shanahan said. “We'll see how long the opening drive is. Usually, the second game you play guys a little more into the second quarter. Usually, the third game they play the whole first half and sometimes start the third quarter. Then, the fourth game they rarely play.”

Last season, the 49ers' first-string offense played two series during the preseason opener against the Kansas City Chiefs, and failed to pick up a first down on either drive.

On Thursday, if Garoppolo and the starters score during their first drive, that might be their only series.

“It all depends on how long it is,” Shanahan said. “It's kind of a feel. We don't want to keep them out there too long, but we definitely want guys to get some reps. There are certain positions that don't have as much depth. Some guys sometimes have to go longer just so you don't put so much on another player for the next three quarters. There are some guys that we think need a little bit more reps even though they are starters. For the most part, we do it with rookies. Even if he's a starter, we might play him a little bit more.”

The 49ers currently have three rookie starters who probably will take extra reps with the backups: right tackle Mike McGlinchey, nickel back D.J. Reed and defensive tackle Jullian Taylor.

McGlinchey was the 49ers' first-round pick, so they expected him to become a starter right away.

They did not have the same expectations for Reed and Taylor. Those two were supposed to be backups this season.

Reed was a fifth-round pick and Taylor was a seventh-round pick. Injuries forced them into the starting lineup against the Cowboys.

Reed will start in place of nickel back K'Waun Williams, who sprained his left ankle Sunday morning during practice and will miss up to two weeks, according to the 49ers. And Taylor will start in place of former first-round draft pick Arik Armstead, who pulled his hamstring on July 31 and will miss more than two weeks. He could miss the entire preseason.

Like Armstead, cornerback Jimmie Ward pulled his hamstring on July 31. But Ward's injury was less severe. He practiced Monday and Tuesday and will start Thursday. “I expect him to come out there and replace Richard Sherman in the lineup,” Shanahan said.

Sherman suffered a Grade 1 hamstring strain on Aug. 3 and will not play against the Cowboys. He may not play in the next exhibition game against the Houston Texans on Aug. 18, either. But the 49ers expect he will be ready for the regular-season opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 9.

Meanwhile, the 49ers still don't know what to expect from guard Jonathan Cooper. They hoped he could compete for the starting right guard position, but he has spent most of the offseason training program rehabbing a torn MCL and will not play against the Cowboys.

“He's not able to get through a practice yet,” Shanahan said. “We're just putting him in two plays a period. We're very selective with those plays we put him in. Just trying to build back his confidence from coming off his injury.”

Cooper, 28, is a former first-round pick. The Arizona Cardinals drafted him seventh in 2013. Since then, he has played for the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers signed him to a one-year, $4.95 million contract on March 30.

Now, he may not even make the final roster.

“I think it's very similar to Joshua Garnett's situation,” Shanahan said, referring to the other 49ers guard who's out with a knee injury. “You've got two guys who are former first-round picks, which shows you right there that they have a lot of ability.

“But neither of them have played a lot of football. They both have battled some tough injuries. They're guys that should have the ability to help us, but they've got to show it. So, I hope for them that they can get as healthy as they can, so they can come out and earn a job and make this team.”


Slot receiver Trent Taylor said he feels “pretty much back to normal” following offseason back surgery.

“They just went in there and shaved down the bone spurs I had in my low back,” Taylor said. “It's all good now.”

Taylor's back surgery caused him to miss OTAs, mini-camp and most of training camp. He returned to team drills this week, but only for select plays.

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