There will be plenty to watch in the 49ers’ second exhibition game Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys.
But one of the most intriguing questions is this: What can Jarryd Hayne do for an encore?
Hayne, the 27-year-old former Australian football star in his first year with the Niners, had a dazzling debut last week with a big game against the Houston Texans.
He had 120 total yards counting kickoff and punt returns and carries from scrimmage – including a 53-yard breakaway.
He showed great open-field ability, a strong stiff arm and fearlessness.
After the game, 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula said he wasn’t surprised, especially by Hayne’s ability to make plays once he burst into the open field.
“He can play in space,” Tomsula told the media. “He’s a premier athlete in the world of space.”
Yet despite his breakout game, Hayne remains a bubble player. His place on the 49ers’ opening-day roster isn’t secured. Veteran running back Reggie Bush likely is the team’s best return man, and the running back corps is deep with Carlos Hyde, Bush, Kendall Hunter and rookie Mike Davis, among others.
Plus, the 49ers know Hayne’s performance came in just one summer exhibition. The coaching staff wants to see a bigger sample size, which will include Sunday’s 5 p.m. game vs. Dallas.
“He has a lot of natural ability, but let’s …. We have to be realistic, too,” said 49ers special teams coach Thomas McGaughey Jr. this week. “That was the first preseason game. So it’s not like we’re playing in Week 8 or going down the stretch. He’s got a long way to go, he’s doing some good things and hopefully he’ll continue down that path.”
If Hayne should again look dynamic against the Cowboys, however, it would be another indication that San Francisco has something to look forward to in the athletic, fun-to-watch Hayne – especially after a brutal offseason that included a change in coaching staffs and the loss of many key players through free agency, retirement and release.