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.