If you're curious how Lawrence Okoye will fare in his first-ever NFL game Thursday, you've got company. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio today said he had no idea how the 6-5, 305-pound defensive end would hold up against the Broncos.
Fangio, however, said that the one-time British discus thrower had improved noticeably since he first arrived in May. "He has been really making strides out here," Fangio said. "He has gotten better from Day 1 to whatever day is now, 10 or 11. ... He has gotten better. But it's all relative."
Fangio said Okoye's snap count will depend on the number of plays the 49ers defense is on the field, something that can range wildly in the preseason. One indication that Okoye -- he'll be wearing No. 78 -- will at least get on the field: Starter Justin Smith will sit out the game with a broken finger.
Demarcus Dobbs will start at right defensive end, the position at which Okoye lines up with the third-team defense. Second-year player Tony Jerod-Eddie also could see action there ahead of Okoye.
Fangio said that the preseason rotation at free safety would mimic that of training camp. Craig Dahl got the first repetitions with the first-string defense when training camp began, and he will start Thursday's game next to Donte Whitner. C.J. Spillman, Trenton Robinson and rookie Eric Reid also have been worked in with the first-team group.
Tramaine Brock figures to be the No. 3 cornerback while Michael Wilhoite is likely to start at inside linebacker for Patrick Willis (hand). Daniel Kilgore could start at center ahead of Jonathan Goodwin, who has been injured.
- Matt Barrows