But for the most part, the starting jobs have been filled.
On defense, the entire front seven and the two cornerbacks return from last season. And newcomer safeties Brandon Meriweather and Madieu Williams have held down the first-team duties since spring practices, though Meriweather is injured and may not be able to start the Sept. 9 season opener against the New Orleans Saints.
Questions continue, however, about two crucial offensive positions: Who will start at running back, and who will line up at the wide receiver spot opposite Pierre Garcon? On special teams, Graham Gano and Neil Rackers continue to battle for the place-kicking duties.
“We’re evaluating those guys every practice,” Shanahan said of the players at various contested positions. “We get two more games to evaluate them. . . a lot of playing time the second half from Indy and obviously most of the fourth game. So, those games are very important to a lot of those players.”
In the running back competition, the three backs who started last season have been coping with injuries. Until this week, second-year pro Evan Royster was the only healthy veteran, with Tim Hightower recovering from a November ACL surgery and another second-year back, Roy Helu Jr., sidelined the past two weeks by tendinitis in both Achilles’ tendons.
But Royster has missed the last two days with inflammation in his right knee. In limited action, he has rushed for 41 yards on nine carries. Darkhorse rookie Alfred Morris has recorded 88 yards on 25 carries.
Now after nine months of rehab on the ACL he tore last October, Hightower is slated to play Saturday. But Helu and Royster will not. Morris also will play, but said he hasn’t been told how much, or what his role will be.
Shanahan said he has no idea who will win the starting job, but downplayed the situation when asked his level of concern.
“I really don’t worry about things I can’t control,” Shanahan said. “We’re just going to get these guys back as quick as we can, get them healed up. It’s nothing season-ending, only one or two games, we hope.”
The ‘Z’ receiver position will come down to second-year pro Leonard Hankerson or free agent addition Josh Morgan. Both have been productive in practice, and Hankerson has started the last two preseason games at the position, recording two catches for 23 yards. Morgan recorded four catches for 49 yards with the second unit in the preseason opener against Buffalo, then went without a catch the following week.
Both should make the 53-man roster, as will Garcon, and Santana Moss seems like a lock at slot receiver. But five young players – Anthony Armstrong, Terrence Austin, Brandon Banks, Dezmon Briscoe and Aldrick Robinson – are battling for the final one or two slots.