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49ers vs. Ravens: Key players to watch

Carlos Hyde is one of many players to keep an eye on
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

The 49ers will travel to Baltimore to see the Ravens on Thursday for their first preseason game of 2014.

With the team more than two-thirds through training camp, several players will look to gain ground on their competition through this opener. The obvious starting players are established, but many depth players can make an impression during the second half.

Here are several players to keep an eye on for the upcoming preseason game versus the Ravens:

1. RB Carlos Hyde

Hyde could get significant playing time in the first preseason game assuming Frank Gore makes a brief appearance to begin. With the loss of Kendall Hunter, his workload for the exhibition opener should increase. Training camp is one area where a running back cannot be judged due to players not tackling him.

2. DB Jimmie Ward

Ward has been a ball hawk in training camp playing as both a free safety and nickel cornerback where he has stayed close to the ball. The Ravens should be testing him with any slot receiver and he can even impact the run defense. Ward has a good knack for following the ball and making impact plays with big hits in both coverage and tackling.

3. CB Chris Cook

Chris Culliver is uncertain to start for the preseason opener, but Cook has been impressive thus far in training camp. A former second-round draft pick of the Vikings, he has the size to hang with the NFL level of competition, but now the question is about production. He should be seeing a few possessions against the second-team offense.

4. CB Dontae Johnson

Johnson should have snaps late in the game, but has shown flashes in training camp to at least keep eyes watching. He is a raw CB the 49ers took in the fourth-round of the 2014 NFL Draft, but this rookie is still adequate in coverage.

5. DL Quinton Dial

With Ian Williams still recovering and Glenn Dorsey out with a serious biceps injury, Dial could be viewed as the season nose-tackle as he battles Mike Purcell in training camp. Purcell was on the practice squad last year, but Dial is who the 49ers want to see succeed as they let him recover from a toe injury in 2013. He should be seeing snaps on the second-team defense.

6. G Joe Looney

Looney has taken the place of Alex Boone as he holds out of training camp wanting a larger contract. He is one of two players remaining on the 49ers from the dreaded 2012 draft class and has the biggest chance to contribute. The 49ers could see him as a long term guard with Mike Iupati's contract ending after the season and his performance on Thursday could help decide what the team does with Boone.

7. DE Lawrence Okoye

Last year, Okoye played only a handful of snaps in the preseason before going on the injured reserve. This time around, Okoye could see more time at defensive end and should be expected to play on special teams as well. At minimum, it is still intriguing to see if his athleticism can turn into being effective on the football field.

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