5 burning questions for 49ers-Broncos MNF game

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos will host Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers in the final NFL preseason game of Week 2 on Monday night.

There are a ton of backstories to this game. The two teams practiced with one another in the days leading up to the matchup. It led to plenty of feistiness on both sides.

Meanwhile, San Francisco quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will be making his first appearance in live-game action since tearing an ACL last September. In Denver, we’re interested to see how Joe Flacco performs against an improved 49ers defense in extended action.

These are among the five burning questions for the 49ers-Broncos Monday Night Football tilt.

Can Joe Flacco drive down the field consistently?

This former Super Bowl winner saw limited action in his Broncos preseason debut last week, completing 3-of-4 passes for 19 yards against the Seattle Seahawks. We’re expecting him to see a bunch more action against San Francisco Monday evening.

Flacco will have starting running back Phillip Lindsay and second-year receiver Courtland Sutton on the field with him throughout. Emmanuel Sanders will make his first appearance since tearing his Achilles back in December. Denver’s offense had limited success against an improved 49ers defense during practices last week. It will be interesting to see how this first-team unit performs in live-game action.

Can 49ers young receivers continue momentum?

We absolutely loved what Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd brought to the table on their preseason debuts last week against Dallas. A second-round pick, Samuel made one heck of a catch on a pass poorly thrown by backup quarterback C.J. Beathard.

Samuel also took a reverse for a nice gain last week. The South Carolina product has a chance to potentially start as a rookie. How he performs against a good Broncos defense will be telling.

A third-round pick, Hurd was even more impressive in his debut. The former Tennessee running back turned Baylor wide receiver scored both of the 49ers’ touchdowns against Dallas. That included a brilliant catch on a fade. Hurd could be used a multitude of ways as a rookie. It’ll be interesting to see what happens Monday night.

Can Drew Lock improve after uneven preseason?

This rookie second-round pick was an absolute mess in his preseason debut during the Hall of Fame Game. That’s to be expected. In fact, Broncos head coach Vic Fangio has gone on record noting that Lock is nowhere near ready to be a quarterback in the NFL.

The good news? Lock improved leaps and bounds last week against Seattle. He completed 17-of-28 passes for 180 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Simply put, Lock looked much more comfortable within the confines of Denver’s offense.

That type of accuracy was out there on a consistent basis against Seattle. Can Lock continue with the momentum once he takes over under center Monday night? It will tell us a lot about his progression this summer.

How long will Jimmy Garoppolo play?

For the first time since Week 3 of last season, Garoppolo will return to action for the 49ers. It’s been a long time coming. And in reality, the veteran quarterback faces a ton of pressure to remain healthy this season and lead San Francisco to a playoff appearance. Garoppolo has now started a combined 10 regular-season games in five years. He’s playing under a five-year, $137.5 million deal. It’s put-up or shut-up time for the quarterback.

It all starts Monday night in Denver. Garoppolo could not ask for a better test against an elite pass rush on the road under the spotlight. The only question here is just how long head coach Kyle Shanahan will allow Garoppolo to play. If he starts out strong against Denver’s No. 1 defense, it might only be one series. However, Shanahan will likely want to instill some confidence into Garoppolo should he falter out of the gate. It’s something to watch.

How good are Denver’s starting receivers?

We will get a first-hand look at veteran Emmanuel Sanders and second-year stud Courtland Sutton on the field together for the first time with Joe Flacco under center Monday night. Each of these receivers brings something different to the table and could help Flacco make a seamless transition from his 11 years in Baltimore.

Sanders returns after suffering a torn Achilles last season. The two-time Pro Bowler has failed to reach the 1,000-yard plateau each of the past two seasons after eclipsing that total in 2015 and 2016. Meanwhile, Sutton is coming off a tremendous rookie season.

Assuming Richard Sherman doesn’t play much in this one, these two should have a field day against an unproven 49ers cornerback group. Though, impressive third-year corner Ahkello Witherspoon might have something to say about that.