Mike Nolan wants to give both Joe Staley and David Baas a chance to work with the starting offensive line Saturday against the Raiders. Nolan said he wants the starting offense to get 24 snaps against the Raiders. The plan is to have Staley and Baas play the third series.
Staley, of course, was the second of two first-round draft picks this year, and has been playing behind Kwame Harris at right tackle. Baas also was a high draft pick - 33rd overall in 2005 - and is behind Justin Smiley at right guard. Both Harris and Smiley will be free agents after this season and there is a strong possibility neither will return in 2008.
Staley received high marks from the coaching staff for his Monday night performance against the Broncos and many believe it's only a matter of time before the rookie replaces the beleaguered Harris in the starting lineup. Maybe -- but the coaches also believe that Harris is having his best camp ever.
Nolan also said that starting wideouts Darrell Jackson and Arnaz Battle will not play the full 24 snaps with the rest of the first-team offense. He said he wants to give the other receivers - including Ashley Lelie - more work.
The starting offense played only a quarter - 13 plays -- against the Broncos. They'll play nearly twice as long against the Raiders. The 49ers second-team units will play until the end of the third quarter.
Other 49ers observations ...
Team officials are still raving about the 26-yard pass Alex Smith threw to Battle in Monday's game. The completion, of course, put the 49ers on the Denver one-yard line and set up the team's only touchdown of the afternoon. More importantly, however, was the fact that Smith released the ball before Battle made his final move. It's the type of throw that Smith hardly ever attempted in previous seasons.
An item I wasn't able to include in today's story on Lelie is this: The offenses he was part of in Denver and Atlanta were virtually identical. Therefore, there wasn't much of a transition when he was traded to the Falcons last year. The transition from Atlanta to San Francisco has been much more significant because Lelie has had to learn Norv Turner's numbers-based offense. Lelie told me he almost has the offense down pat but that he still isn't playing as fast as he can. "I think I'm almost there," he said. "... I'm just getting to the point where I can react."
When the 49ers' played the Broncos on Monday, offensive coordinator Jim Hostler was on the field while new quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti was in the booth. The two will switch for the Raiders game, but I'm expecting Hostler ultimately will call games from the field. That's what he's used to - and perhaps just as importantly - that's what Alex Smith is used to, too.
-- Matt Barrows