San Francisco 49ers Roster 2012: Latest News, Cuts, Preseason Predictions
Since training camps have begun, there has been a surge of news and interesting developments. The San Francisco 49ers were able to sign former Pro Bowl guard Leonard Davis, ink Dashon Goldson's franchise tender and make a statement about rookie receiver A.J. Jenkins.
The first official cut down day is August 28th, where the Niners and others will have to get down to a maximum of 80 players.
The 49ers have made some personnel moves gearing up for the training camp, and feel confident about the competitiveness going in. Taking a look at the roster, virtually every position group is flooded with talent and great potential. If head coach Jim Harbaugh can harvest and maximize the ability of the 90 players in camp, the final-53 should be a threatening all-around football team in 2012.
For an update regarding the 49ers in Santa Clara, proceed through the following slides for the latest.
Aug 28 Roster Cuts
On Monday, August 27th, San Francisco began to release players in accordance with the league's mandatory cut-down day. The 49ers had to get down to 75 players from 89 by the 1 p.m. PT deadline.
#49ers cut Bell, Brown, Butrym, Hannula, Hastings, Masifilo, Nelms, Purvis, Sawyer, Slowey, Tavecchio, Tyms. PUP: Fleming. Reserve: Hampton— Cam Inman (@CamInman) August 27, 2012
Giorgio Tavecchio, K: With David Akers on the roster, this was only a matter of time. Akers will likely finish out his career with the 49ers, which could keep other kickers off the final roster for the next half-decade.
Matthew Masifilo, DL: This was expected as the 49ers defensive line depth was already solidified coming into this offseason. Masifilo has a shot to make the practice squad; at the very least, he is a Stanford alum.
Brian Tyms, WR: Tyms was reportedly doing well at 49ers training camp but San Francisco is deep at the position. The release of Tyms was simply a reminder of that. The 6'3 FAMU product could be picked up by another team like Miami or Minnesota who could use a big-bodied wide receiver.
Ben Hannula, WR: Hannula came into 49ers camp as a versatile player. Hannula was a former defensive back trying his hand at wide receiver. Unfortunately for him, he could not show enough at either position to warrant a roster spot in time.
Cory Nelms, DB: Nelms carried over with the team from last season, but could not make the final roster. With the 49ers having players like Chris Culliver and Perrish Cox three- and four-deep, it makes it hard for players like Nelms.
Deante Purvis, CB: Purvis was a late addition to the 49ers, and was initially a long shot to make the final 53-man roster. His release from the team on the first cut-down day did not come as a surprise.
Patrick Butrym, DL: Butrym suffers the same fate as Masifilo. The depth of the defensive line makes it one of the strongest groups on the team, and that was before this offseason got underway.
Joe Sawyer, TE: Sawyer was a late addition after the 49ers had injuries at tight end and linebacker. Sawyer was never projected to be anything more than a camp body.
Jason Slowey, OL: The shocker of the first cut-down day was Jason Slowey. Slowey was the 49ers sixth-round draft pick in 2012 but failed to make the team. If Slowey clears waivers, he is a sure-fire practice squad player.
Joe Hastings, WR: The level of competition for the 49ers wide receivers was not expected to be matched by any of the fringe players. Hastings carried over from last year but has not proven worthy of a roster spot.
Cameron Bell, FB: The 49ers have Bruce Miller starting at fullback, and he is young, healthy and ready to go. The team also uses defensive lineman on occasion, and should have some two-way players that fill in at FB behind Miller.
Kourtnei Brown, LB: Brown became expendable upon the emergence of Eric Bakhtiari. In the exhibition, Bakhtiari stepped up to the plate while Brown showed little to nothing in game reps.
Darius Fleming, LB (PUP): Fleming was the 49ers first defender taken in the 2012 NFL draft. Fleming tore his ACL before training camp and it will cost him his rookie season.
Jewel Hamtpon, RB (Non-Football Injury): Hampton was acquired this offseason by the 49ers, but has been inactive throughout. He was expected to start this season on reserve.
Here is the official press release from the 49ers regarding their cut-down to 75 players.
Aug 31 Roster Cuts
Anthony Mosley, CB: San Francisco, like the majority of their defensive positions, have established corner depth. Mosley had an uphill battle from the start and couldn't show enough in time to take a roster spot from someone like Tramaine Brock.
Al Netter, OL: Netter showed some promise as an offensive lineman but the Niners have better, more advanced prospects providing depth.
Kyle Nelson, WR: Out of the UDFA wide receivers, Nelson was not one of the ones making a push for the final 53-man roster. At an already deep position group, it was easy to predict Nelson as the odd man out.
Chris Owusu, WR: Many thought Owusu had a legitimate chance of competing for a roster spot, but he wasn't as impressive in exhibition as expected. In his final game against the Chargers, Owusu had two noticeable drops while receivers like Nathan Palmer and A.J. Jenkins thrived.
Nathan Palmer, WR: Palmer looked sharp in preseason and was the talk of the camp in terms of long-shots making noise. His release was not a surprise considering the team's roster, but he proved to be an intriguing prospect going forward.
Tony-Jerod Eddie, DT: The 49ers had established depth along the defensive front, so Jerod-Eddie was a long-shot from the beginning.
Cam Johnson, LB: Cam Johnson was the second of two 2012 49ers draftees to not make the final roster. The seventh-rounder was held back by a knee injury for a good part of the offseason.
Josh Johnson, QB: This was one of the most well-faught battles, and it's a shame Johnson couldn't stick around with the team. This QB had a lot of fans in his corner, and looked very good at times during the exhibition. Johnson should be able to land with another team in need of a serviceable back-up.
Eric Bakhtiari, LB: This was another minor surprise, especially given Bakhtiari's mildly impressive showing during live-action. With 2-plus sacks and team-leading tackles in a couple match-ups, Bakhtiari became an exciting player to watch.
Chase Beeler, C: Beeler was at a disadvantage with the versatility that Daniel Kilgore brings to the game. And with Jonathan Goodwin as the entrenched starter, it was going to be tough for Beeler to make the final roster.
Matthew Masifilo, DT: The Stanford product was competing to provide depth at a position group that was already flush with it. Masifilo did a decent job this offseason, showing future potential.
Kenny Wiggins, OL: San Francisco had a pretty good idea of who their offensive line guys would be behind the starter, given that the Niners have invested draft picks at the position. Wiggins, a UDFA offensive lineman, was a long-shot to make the final roster.
Michael Thomas, S: Thomas looked good in preseason action, and the coaches seemed enthused about having him aboard. The 49ers staff found Darcel McBath to be more game-ready and decided to retain him over Thomas.
Brett Swain, WR: Swain provided a need late in the season in 2011, but with a complete offseason to make upgrades at the position, the wide receiver was surrounded by talent and simply out-matched.
Kenny Rowe, LB: The former Oregon linebacker looked in preseason action but was brought in late. It's always harder for late additions to make a case for final roster consideration.
Michael Wilhoite, LB: Wilhoite played fast, aggressive football during the exhibition. However, San Francisco's depth at linebacker was virtually unchallenged all offseason, so this release came as no surprise.
Konrad Reuland, TE: A lot of people thought this might have been Konrad Reuland's year with Nate Byham already gone, but the former Stanford tight end was simply beat by newcomer Garrett Celek.
Ikaika Alama-Francis, LB: Alama-Francis was another late addition, providing a camp body for San Francisco.
Rock Cartwright, RB: Cartwright was believed to be a great under-the-radar signing by the Niners. But as one half of a highly controversial position battle, Cartwright failed to make the team with Anthony Dixon stepping up big in the final two games of the exhibition.
Joe Holland, LB: The former Purdue Boilermaker played well this offseason. However, with the versatility of Demarcus Dobbs and Parys Haralson as a primary backup OLB, the Niners did not feel they had to carry more than three outside linebackers.
Derek Hall, OL: Hall was looking to provide depth at tackle, but San Francisco felt comfortable enough carrying only two tackles, their starters Joe Staley and Anthony Davis.
Mike Person, OL: Person is similar to hall in that he was hoping to make the team as a backup tackle, and while he did look strong in live-action, the Niners have versatility on the offensive line.
WR Nathan Palmer
DT Tony Jerod-Eddie
DT Matthew Masifilo
LB Cam Johnson
S Michael Thomas
OL Kenny Wiggins
OL Al Netter
LB Michael Wilhoite
— Bob Lange (@49ersPR) September 1, 2012
Latest Roster Moves
The following is a complete transcript of the San Francisco 49ers' offseason moves (courtesy of 49ers.com):
|07/26/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed G Leonard Davis to a one-year contract. The team also announced they have waived OL David Gonzales.|
|07/26/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced that S Dashon Goldson has signed his one-year franchise tender.|
|07/23/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed CB Darcel McBath to a one-year contract.|
|06/20/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced that they have signed WR A.J. Jenkins to a four-year deal.|
|06/15/2012||The 49ers released LS Ryan Pontbriand.|
|05/23/2012||The San Francisco 49ers signed P Andy Lee to a six-year contract extension through the 2018 season.|
|05/14/2012||The San Francisco 49ers signed LB Eric Bakhtiari to a two-year deal and DB Ben Hannula to a three-year deal. The team also announced they have released WR John Matthews and T Kevin Murphy.|
|05/10/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed the following six draft picks to four-year deals: RB LaMichael James, G Joe Looney, LB Darius Fleming, S Trenton Robinson, OL Jason Slowey, and LB Cameron Johnson.|
|05/07/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced that they have signed DT Tony Jerod-Eddie.|
|05/04/2012||The 49ers have signed undrafted free agents: CB Anthony Mosely, T Kevin Murphy, G Al Netter, WR Chris Owusu, WR Nathan Palmer, CB Deante Purvis, K Giorgio Tavecchio, S Michael Thomas, WR Brian Tyms.|
|05/04/2012||The 49ers have signed undrafted free agents: FB Cameron Bell, LB Kourtnei Brown, DT Patrick Butrym, TE Garrett Celek, OL David Gonzalez, RB Jewel Hampton, LB Joe Holland, DT Matthew Masifilo, (continued).|
|04/28/2012||With the No. 237 overall pick in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers have selected Virginia linebacker Cam Johnson.|
|04/28/2012||With the No. 199 overall pick in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers have selected Western Oregon OL Jason Slowey.|
|04/28/2012||With the No. 180 overall pick in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers have selected Michigan State safety Trenton Robinson.|
|04/28/2012||With the No. 165 overall pick in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers have selected Notre Dame linebacker Darius Fleming.|
|04/28/2012||The San Francisco 49ers traded their fourth-round pick No. 125 overall and a sixth-round pick No. 196 overall to the Detroit Lions in exchange for their fourth round pick (No. 117) and selected Wake Forest G Joe Looney.|
|04/28/2012||The San Francisco 49ers traded their fourth-round pick No. 103 overall to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a sixth-round pick (180th overall) and a 2013 third-round pick.|
|04/28/2012||The San Francisco 49ers traded their fourth-round pick No. 97 overall to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for a fourth-round pick (103rd overall) a sixth-round pick (No. 196) and a 2013 sixth-round pick.|
|04/27/2012||With the No. 61 overall pick in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers have selected Oregon RB LaMichael James.|
|04/27/2012||The San Francisco 49ers traded their third-round pick No. 92 overall to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for a fourth-round pick (97th overall) and 2013 fifth-round pick.|
|04/26/2012||With the No. 30 overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers have selected Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins.|
|04/17/2012||The 49ers announced that LB Larry Grant has signed the one-year contract he had previously been tendered. The team also signed WR Brett Swain to a one-year deal.|
|04/06/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed RB Brandon Jacobs to a one-year contract.|
|03/30/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have waived WR Dontavia Bogan.|
|03/22/2012||The 49ers signed QB Josh Johnson to a two-year deal.|
|03/22/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have re-signed WR Ted Ginn Jr. to a one-year contract.|
|03/22/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced that they have signed WR Mario Manningham to a two-year deal.|
|03/21/2012||The 49ers today announced they have signed QB Alex Smith to a three-year deal through the 2014 season.|
|03/16/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have re-signed CB Carlos Rogers to a four-year contract.|
|03/16/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced that they have signed RB Rock Cartwright to a one-year deal.|
|03/15/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have released CB Shawntae Spencer.|
|03/13/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed LB Tavares Gooden to a one-year contract.|
|03/13/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed CB Perrish Cox to a two-year contract.|
|03/12/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed WR Randy Moss to a one-year contract.|
|03/12/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced that they have tendered one-year contracts to exclusive rights free agent CB Tramaine Brock and restricted free agent LB Larry Grant.|
|03/08/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed DT Will Tukuafu to a two-year contract extension through the 2013 season.|
|03/06/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed S C.J. Spillman to a three-year contract extension through the 2014 season.|
|03/02/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on S Dashon Goldson.|
|02/28/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed LB Ahmad Brooks to a six-year contract extension through the 2017 season.|
|02/23/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed LS Ryan Pontbriand to a one-year contract.|
|02/17/2012||Tracy Smith named 49ers Special Teams Assistant.|
|01/31/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed G Garrett Chisolm and T Kenny Wiggins to Reserve/Future contracts.|
|01/30/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed WR John Matthews to a Reserve/Future contract.|
|01/24/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced they have signed C Chase Beeler, T Derek Hall, FS Mark LeGree, DB Cory Nelms, WR Kyle Nelson, TE Konrad Reuland and LB Michael Wilhoite to Reserve/Future contracts.|
|01/05/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced that they have signed LB Rick Elmore to the team’s practice squad. The team also released LB Bruce Davis from the unit.|
|01/03/2012||The San Francisco 49ers announced that they have signed LB Bruce Davis to the team’s practice squad.|
Full Team Roster and Projected Depth Chart
61 Beeler, Chase, C -- 6-3 285
59 Goodwin, Jonathan, C -- 6-3 318
26 Brock, Tramaine, CB -- 5-10 197
25 Brown, Tarell, CB -- 5-10 193
29 Culliver, Chris, CB -- 6-0 199
41 Holcomb, Curtis, CB -- 5-10 190
32 McBath, Darcel, CB -- 6-1 198
33 Mosley, Anthony, CB -- 6-0 178
23 Nelms, Cory, CB -- 6-0 195
40 Purvis, Deante', CB -- 5-11 195
22 Rogers, Carlos, CB -- 6-0 192
20 Cox, Perrish, DB -- 6-0 198
35 Hannula, Ben, DB -- 6-2 206
71 Masifilo, Matthew, DE -- 6-3 280
69 Butrym, Patrick, DT -- 6-4 285
96 Dobbs, Demarcus, DT -- 6-2 275
95 Jean Francois, Ricky, DT -- 6-3 295
63 Jerod-Eddie, Tony, DT -- 6-5 301
91 McDonald, Ray, DT -- 6-3 290
94 Smith, Justin, DT -- 6-4 285
90 Sopoaga, Isaac, DT -- 6-2 330
92 Tukuafu, Will, DT -- 6-4 293
93 Williams, Ian, DT -- 6-1 305
44 Bell, Cameron, FB -- 6-2 252
49 Miller, Bruce, FB -- 6-2 248
60 Chisolm, Garrett, G -- 6-6 299
68 Davis, Leonard, G -- 6-6 375
77 Iupati, Mike, G -- 6-5 331
67 Kilgore, Daniel, G -- 6-3 308
66 Looney, Joe, G -- 6-3 309
65 Netter, Al, G -- 6-6 310
78 Person, Mike, G -- 6-4 299
2 Akers, David, K -- 5-10 200
5 Tavecchio, Giorgio, K -- 5-10 178
44 Bakhtiari, Eric, LB -- 6-3 250
53 Bowman, NaVorro, LB -- 6-0 242
55 Brooks, Ahmad, LB -- 6-3 259
48 Brown, Kourtnei, LB -- 6-6 255
58 Fleming, Darius, LB -- 6-2 255 (PUP)
56 Gooden, Tavares, LB -- 6-1 242
54 Grant, Larry, LB -- 6-1 251
98 Haralson, Parys, LB -- 6-0 255
51 Holland, Joe, LB -- 6-1 229
50 Johnson, Cam, LB 6-3 268
99 Smith, Aldon, LB -- 6-4 258
57 Wilhoite, Michael, LB -- 6-0 240
52 Willis, Patrick, LB -- 6-1 240
62 Slowey, Jason, OL -- 6-4 305
4 Lee, Andy, P -- 6-2 180
1 Johnson, Josh, QB -- 6-3 205
7 Kaepernick, Colin, QB -- 6-4 230
11 Smith, Alex, QB -- 6-4 217
3 Tolzien, Scott, QB -- 6-3 208
28 Cartwright, Rock, RB -- 5-8 215
24 Dixon, Anthony, RB -- 6-1 233
21 Gore, Frank, RB -- 5-9 217
33 Hampton, Jewel, RB -- 5-9 210 (Reserve/Non-Football Injury)
32 Hunter, Kendall, RB -- 5-7 199
45 Jacobs, Brandon, RB -- 6-4 264
23 James, LaMichael, RB -- 5-9 195
38 Goldson, Dashon, S -- 6-2 200
43 Jones, Colin, S -- 6-0 208
35 LeGree, Mark, S -- 6-0 210
30 Robinson, Trenton, S -- 5-9 193
27 Spillman, C.J., S -- 6-0 199
36 Thomas, Michael, S -- 5-11 182
31 Whitner, Donte, S -- 5-10 208
75 Boone, Alex, T -- 6-8 300
76 Davis, Anthony, T -- 6-5 323
71 Hall, Derek, T -- 6-5 307
74 Staley, Joe, T -- 6-5 315
69 Wiggins, Kenny, T -- 6-6 314
82 Byham, Nate, TE -- 6-4 264
48 Celek, Garrett, TE -- 6-5 252
85 Davis, Vernon, TE -- 6-3 250
88 Reuland, Konrad, TE -- 6-4 260
46 Walker, Delanie, TE -- 6-0 242
86 Jennings, Brian, TE/LS -- 6-5 242
15 Crabtree, Michael, WR -- 6-1 214
19 Ginn Jr., Ted, WR -- 5-11 180
13 Hastings, Joe, WR -- 6-0 185
17 Jenkins, A.J., WR -- 6-0 192
14 Manningham, Mario, WR -- 6-0 185
84 Moss, Randy, WR -- 6-4 210
47 Nelson, Kyle, WR -- 6-3 240
81 Owusu, Chris, WR -- 6-2 200
89 Palmer, Nathan, WR -- 5-11 195
18 Swain, Brett, WR -- 6-0 200
9 Tyms, Brian, WR -- 6-3 210
10 Williams, Kyle, WR -- 5-10 186
Projected Depth Chart (* indicates starter)
QB (2): Alex Smith*, Colin Kaepernick
RB (4): Frank Gore*, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Brandon Jacobs
FB (1): Bruce Miller*
TE (4): Vernon Davis*, Delanie Walker, Nate Byham, Brian Jennings
WR (6): Randy Moss*, Michael Crabtree*, Mario Manningham, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins, Ted Ginn Jr.
OT (2): Joe Staley*, Anthony Davis*
OG (4): Mike Iupati*, Alex Boone*, Leonard Davis, Joe Looney
C (2): Jonathan Goodwin*, Daniel Kilgore
RDT (2): Justin Smith*, Demarcus Dobbs
NT (3): Isaac Sopoaga*, Ricky Jean-Francois, Ian Williams
LDT (3): Ray McDonald*, Will Tukuafu, Tony Jerod-Eddie
OLB (4): Aldon Smith*, Ahmad Brooks*, Parys Haralson, Kourtnei Brown
ILB (4): Patrick Willis*, NaVorro Bowman*, Larry Grant, Tavares Gooden
CB (5): Carlos Rogers*, Tarell Brown*, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox, Tramaine Brock
FS (2): Dashon Goldson*, C.J. Spillman, Colin Jones
SS (2): Donte Whitner*, Trenton Robinson
K (1): David Akers*
P (1): Andy Lee*
KR/PR: Ted Ginn Jr.*, LaMichael James, Kyle Williams
Last 5 in
Ikaika Alama-Francis, LB: Francis was signed by San Francisco on 8/15/12. His contract came as the 49ers are currently hampered by injuries at the position.
Joe Sawyer, TE: 49ers tight ends Nate Byham and Delanie Walker are both down due to injury. Sawyer, Southwestern Oklahoma State, signed with San Francisco on 8/13/12 for what will likely be a temporary placement.
Gijon Robinson, TE: Robinson was also signed by the 49ers on 8/13/12, along with Sawyer, to fill the brief void at tight end.
Kenny Rowe, LB: After waiving safety Mark LeGree, the 49ers added Rowe on 8/11/12. Rowe signed a two-year deal with the team on Saturday after starting linebacker Aldon Smith sustained a minor injury. This is Rowe's second stint with San Francisco.
Leonard Davis, G: The veteran offensive lineman and former Pro Bowler signed with the 49ers on 7/26/12. Davis' presence is intended to provide experience and competition for Alex Boone, who is projected to start in 2012. There is also the slight chance that Davis wins the starting job; the best man will start.
Last 5 out
Nate Byham, TE: The 49ers waived the injured tight end on 8/16/12. Byham suffered an ACL tear last offseason, and he appeared to re-aggrivate it, being out of commission the past couple weeks before his release.
Gijon Robinson, TE: Two days after signing him, the 49ers released Robinson on 8/15/12. With a temporary need to fill at linebacker, Robinson was expendable.
Garrett Chisolm, G: The 49ers waived Chisolm on 8/13/12 to be at the 90-man limit and bring in another tight end. With injuries elsewhere, the team felt Chisolm was expendable enough to be replaced by a temporary player at TE.
Mark LeGree, S: LeGree was waived by San Francisco on 8/11/12. With a current injury to Aldon Smith, the 49ers added LB Kenny Rowe, formerly of Oregon, in his place.
Curtis Holcomb, CB: On 8/09/12, the 49ers announced Holcomb being waived by the team. Holcomb was brought in by the old regime, which would lead us to believe he did not fit what Harbaugh and the 49ers were looking for.
QBs on roster: Josh Johnson, Colin Kaepernick, Alex Smith, Scott Tolzien
Projected starter: Alex Smith
Offseason additions: Josh Johnson
Roster cuts: N/A
Projected final roster: Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick
The 49ers are committed to Alex Smith in 2012, and he could build upon a great showing during their 13-3 campaign last season. Smith showed the ability to not only handle, but excel under the inherent pressures of being an NFL quarterback. The former first overall pick is finally in a position to succeed, and he's been aggressive in taking advantage of this opportunity.
Smith has become more vocal, and in 2011, looked astonishingly more comfortable under center. Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke have provided Smith with the weapons this year to take this team to the next level—and considering where they were last year, in 2012, it can only mean the Super Bowl.
The expectations are high for this team but Alex Smith seems unfazed by the hype surrounding the franchise. He's been focused, adopting the team mentality of one day at a time.
And while things are calm with Alex Smith, there is a storm brewing behind him on the depth chart. There are high-ceiling players battling for the No. 2 QB spot on the roster. The heated battle is namely between Josh Johnson and Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick is the second round pick and NCAA record-setter from Nevada. But regardless of Kaepernick's potential and credentials, Harbaugh made sure he signed his former quarterback from the University of San Diego. Johnson was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, allowing Harbaugh to scoop him.
Even with his one-of-a-kind relationship with Smith, Harbaugh flirted with the idea of Peyton Manning, so bringing in Josh Johnson to push his backup should not shock anyone. Harbaugh is all about competition because he knows that it breeds results. If Kaepernick is meant to be the 49ers quarterback of the future, Johnson's presence should only fuel him and better cement that theory.
Unfortunately, the talented Scott Tolzien has been incredibly overshadowed in this position group. Tolzien performed well in the preseason against the 49ers in 2011, when he was still a member of the San Diego Chargers. The Niners claimed Tolzien last year and have held on to him since.
Tolzien might not be with the 49ers much longer, but could have earned enough recognition to find a roster spot backing up a starter elsewhere. There are those that believe Tolzien might even have trade value to a team like the Chargers who just saw Kyle Boller suddenly retire.
RBs on roster: Rock Cartwright, Anthony Dixon, Frank Gore, Jewel Hampton, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James
Projected starter: Frank Gore
Offseason additions: Rock Cartwright, Jewel Hampton, Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James
Roster cuts: N/A (Jewel Hampton on PUP)
Projected final roster: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James
The 49ers might have assembled the best ground unit in the entire league with this group of running backs. This group have backs has all the components to be efficient on a consistent basis, and prove to be a headache for defenses league-wide.
This group has: youth, speed, agility, power, game-breaking ability, experience—and they will offer a change of pace like no other group of backs. They complement each other so well and San Francisco has a creative offensive staff and a top running backs coach in Tom Rathman, who together, will optimize the potential of this unit.
And being on the topic of training camp, the overlying talent of these collective four will be hardened in first-team versus first-team drills. The 49ers running backs will be going against the league's far-and-away best run defense.
It's going to be extremely difficult for tailbacks outside of Gore, Jacobs, Hunter and James to make this team. Anthony Dixon is on thin ice and not because he isn't a serviceable backup, but because the level of talent at each position has been raised. Something the 49ers new regime did from the very beginning was set the bar high—and with that came depth and competition at every position.
There is little that Anthony Dixon or Jewel Hampton can do to replace one of the projected four starters. Dixon has the best chance to stay since he's been a 49er, and is trying to remain one by being a versatile player who plays multiple positions.
Dixon reportedly requested a chance to tryout at full back, where Harbaugh gave in and said Dixon's "responded."
RB Anthony Dixon has asked 49ers to give him a shot at fullback. It was a great idea, Jim Habaugh said, and Dixon is "responding."— Matt Maiocco (@MaioccoCSN) July 30, 2012
It's admirable of Dixon; he will be one of the players fighting hardest to retain his position on this team. He will have to put up an extremely productive offseason in both training camp and preseason games. Outside of the Houston Texans, the 49ers won't be terribly challenged on the ground—Dixon should look to take advantage of carries against Minnesota, Denver and San Diego.
However it plays out, San Francisco will look to field the best 53 men heading into 2012. And they are expecting to be loaded in the backfield with multiple proven rushers, and two early rounders with starting potential someday.
WRs on roster: Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn Jr., Joe Hastings, A.J. Jenkins, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, Kyle Nelson, Chris Owusu, Nathan Palmer, Brett Swain, Brian Tyms, Kyle Williams
Projected starters: Michael Crabtree & Randy Moss
Offseason additions: A.J. Jenkins, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, Kyle Nelson, Chris Owusu, Nathan Palmer, Brian Tyms
Roster cuts: John Matthews
Projected final roster: Michael Crabtree, Ted Ginn Jr., A.J. Jenkins, Mario Manningham, Randy Moss, Kyle Williams
The word around the campfire is that the 49ers have five No. 1 receivers.
There is quite the competition going at the receiver position in Santa Clara. After having one of the most depleted and inefficient receiving corps in the league in 2011, the 49ers made three key additions this offseason. By means of draft and free agency, San Francisco brought in Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins.
After Michael Crabtree was not only asked to be the No. 1 receiver, but be the central focus of the 49ers' receiving corps, that heavy responsibility has been alleviated. This group of receivers will provide a balanced threat across the board, and see production through ball distribution.
And talent-wise, the makeup of a complementary receiving group is in place. Moss has the speed and presence to provide a deep threat as a flanker. Crabtree has the shiftiness, hands and YAC ability to be a chain-mover from the split-end position. Meanwhile, Williams, Manningham and Jenkins have the quickness and big-play potential to hurt teams out of the slot.
The exciting players to watch this preseason should be Moss, Williams and Jenkins. It will be interesting to see how Moss acclimates to San Francisco's system against competition. We have only really been told that Moss hasn't lost a step, while very few of us have actually seen it, so it will be nice to gauge where he is at compared to the other receivers.
Williams and Jenkins are receivers that have undergone criticism in their brief careers with the 49ers. Both of them are looking to make a statement to their doubters, and according to Harbaugh, have been two of the hardest working guys in camp. The staff has endorsed both of these players, and both Williams and Jenkins are expected to see significant reps this preseason.
Like with the running backs situation, it's going to be awfully hard for any underdog UDFA to come at take the spot of the aforementioned players. The 49ers went into this offseason with not a lot of jobs open, outside of the right guard position. There is talent in the group of UDFA's, especially with guys like Chris Owusu, Nathan Palmer and Brian Tyms.
Palmer was recently the recipient of some acclaim:
Jim Harbaugh on rookie WR Nathan Palmer: "He had an excellent day yesterday. Really stood out to all of us."— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) July 30, 2012
The best thing Palmer can do is try to keep the headlines frequent, and maintain that forward momentum. If he shines in the preseason games, that's a huge plus—but best case scenario for players like Palmer is a spot on the practice squad and an opportunity next year.
TEs on roster: Nate Byham, Garrett Celek, Vernon Davis, Konrad Rueland, Delanie Walker, Brian Jennings (LS)
Projected starters: Vernon Davis & Delanie Walker
Offseason additions: Garrett Celek
Roster cuts: N/A
Projected final roster: Nate Byham, Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Brian Jennings
This is a very competitive group, but certainly more distinguished. It's apparent that Brian Jennings will be a lock for a roster spot, as he is one of the 49ers' valuable special teamers. He is listed on the roster as a TE/LS.
Michigan State tight end Garrett Celek is a new addition to the roster this year. The brother of Eagles tight end Brent Celek is looking to make the 49ers roster in 2012; his best chance is to beat out Nate Byham. San Francisco is set on their one-two punch at tight end with Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker—so a roster battle is born between Celek and Byham.
Celek (6'4, 250), could see some preseason reps, which he will have to make count. And even though he is slated as the third tight end, the 49ers are comfortable with Byham. Celek will have to not only show promise as a pass-catcher, but could do himself some good by showing his worth as a blocking tight end.
Right now, Byham is the tight end to beat with no speculation that Celek will edge him out. However, training camp has barely gotten underway, so it's early. A player often making a statement during preseason competition can result in a job opportunity—Celek could potentially turn things around for himself with one big play in the preseason.
Meanwhile, Davis and Walker are working toward becoming a more threatening tandem. San Francisco has one of the best pairs of tight ends in the NFL. Davis and Walker are reliable pass-catchers, but are excellent blockers that significantly contribute to the run game.
The tight end position will be a continuance of San Francisco's talent and depth on offense.
OTs on roster: Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Derek Hall, Joe Staley, Kenny Wiggins
Projected starters: Anthony Davis & Joe Staley
Offseason additions: N/A
Roster cuts: Kevin Murphy
Projected final roster: Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Joe Staley
To clarify, Alex Boone has been and is currently listed as a tackle on the 49ers roster posted on their website. He will however be competing to start at the right guard position and is the favorite, at the moment at least. The 49ers have brought in Leonard Davis, but all of that will be discussed in the next slide.
The offensive tackles are set with Joe Staley and Anthony Davis.
Staley earned his first Pro Bowl nod, representing the NFC at left tackle, which is very impressive considering the conference. Davis—a former 11th overall pick in the 2010 draft—has been improving year-by-year at the right tackle position.
The 49ers did allow an awful lot of sacks with these two manning the edges, but they had inconsistent interior line play while the receivers struggled to get open. There was a combination of things that have hampered them here and there, but overall, it's a strong combination going forward.
Anthony Davis should take his annual step forward, and hopefully Staley does well enough to repeat a Pro Bowl year. The 49ers had the 8th best run game in 2011 with these two anchoring both sides of the line. San Francisco has tackles with good size and strength, but they're athleticism is a huge part of their game.
Like any position group, Staley and Davis could work toward being more consistent. They had games together in 2011 where Alex Smith had clean pockets to throw from and the ground game was going off. As the interior line grows together, the 49ers tackles will benefit and show progression.
OGs on roster: Garrett Chisholm, Leonard Davis, Mike Iupati, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney, Al Netter, Mike Person
Projected starters: Mike Iupati & Alex Boone
Offseason additions: Garrett Chisholm, Leonard Davis, Joe Looney, Al Netter
Roster cuts: David Gonzales
Projected final roster: Leonard Davis, Mike Iupati, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney
This position group suddenly just became that much more interesting with the signing of former Pro Bowl guard Leonard Davis.
The former Arizona Cardinal and Dallas Cowboy is now a member of the 49ers at age 33.
The expected starters at left and right guard are Mike Iupati and Alex Boone. While Iupati's job is infinitely more secure, Boone will be fighting off a proven veteran as the 49ers look to identify the best player in their attempt for a title in 2012. Davis is a big physical presence who knows the guard position, which is an advantage over Boone who is transitioning from the tackle spot.
Boone has played tackle for his entire career, which is simpler in that there is only one player next to you and your responsibilities are more clear. The guard position requires quicker thinking and communication, working in between the center and tackle.
If Boone becomes a liability against NFL defenses because they are confusing in nature, Davis will be the go-to guy. The preseason games could decide this, because in four preseason outings, the 49ers offensive line will be seeing live fire and will have to adjust. If it is evident that Boone is the lesser of the player, Davis could be a solid alternative.
Boone could then provide depth at tackle, which the 49ers wouldn't have if he started at guard.
Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney are also options at right guard. Looney is learning the interior line positions as he recovers from surgery repairing a Lisfranc fracture he sustained in the Senior Bowl. Kilgore is entering his second season with the team, and could be a future interior lineman for the 49ers.
The preseason reps by the young draftees like Daniel Kilgore and Jason Slowey will be worth watching because of their potential future with the team. Their preseason reps could be early glimpses of the future on San Francisco's offensive line.
Centers on roster: Chase Beeler, Jonathan Goodwin, Jason Slowey
Projected starter: Jonathan Goodwin
Offseason additions: Jason Slowey
Roster cuts: N/A
Projected final roster: Jonathan Goodwin
This position is not up for grabs—I believe because it is too close in proximity to the quarterback. Jonathan Goodwin is a good center, but the 49ers are looking to upgrade long-term at that position with one of the lineman they've drafted and groomed internally.
Goodwin will start this year, but players like Slowey, Beeler and Kilgore are all candidates for the position in the near future.
As a reminder, Goodwin is a Pro Bowl center and won a Super Bowl with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. He is a smart, valuable player that the 49ers got on a deal in free agency, locking him up as a stop-gap with a three-year deal. The good news is, the 49ers can win a championship with Goodwin at center.
Since Beeler came to the 49ers as a UDFA in 2011, he could be retained again on the practice squad. The Niners did invest draft picks in the offensive line, so those players cannot have the opportunity to see waivers, therefor Beeler is in a less than desirable position.
Slowey seems like the long-term answer at center. He was an extremely physical offensive lineman at Western Oregon and his mentality would be ideal at the nucleus of the 49ers offensive line. Jim Harbaugh and Trent Baalke seem to be building an offensive line for the future that bites back.
They've acquired small-school, high-IQ beast men who are nasty in the trenches. And what's great about these small school offensive linemen is that coming from their respective university, they were the best players on their team. As offensive linemen, they were team leaders and were highly depended upon on a weekly basis.
The offensive line prospects San Francisco has brought in shows promise for the future.
DTs on roster: Patrick Butrym, Demarcus Dobbs, Ricky Jean-Francois, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Matthew Masifilo, Ray McDonald, Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, Will Tukuafu, Ian Williams
Projected starters: Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga & Ray McDonald
Offseason additions: Patrick Butrym, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Matthew Masifilo
Roster cuts: N/A
Projected final roster: Demarcus Dobbs, Ricky Jean-Francois, Ray McDonald, Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, Will Tukuafu, Ian Williams, Tony Jerod-Eddie
The 49ers do not have "defensive ends," but rather run an efficient 3-4 defense with a trio of defensive tackles. Therefor, we were able to organize San Francisco's entire defensive line in the tackle category.
When it comes to the 49ers defensive line, there aren't many, if any, jobs open. Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga and Ray McDonald played outstanding football together in 2011, helping the 49ers defense become record-setting against the run.
Demarcus Dobbs, Ian Williams and Will Tukuafu came on strong for the 49ers in their first year. They provided great depth in 2011, while Dobbs in particular has gained a lot of hype going forward. With Dobbs, Williams and Tukuafu returning, the 49ers have added three new names to compete.
Patrick Butrym, Tony Jerod-Eddie and Matthew Masifilo are three newcomers working with the defensive line group. As new additions and UDFA's, they face an uphill battle at a competitive position group. The starting defensive tackles are determined, and even they have a primary backup or starter in Ricky Jean-Francois.
Jean-Francois subbed in often in 2011; he even started two games in which the 49ers won (Tampa Bay and Washington).
Butrym, Jerod-Eddie and Masifilo will be competing hard with the hopes of being the backup's backup. And that's going to be a difficult task, that will once again require a strong all-around offseason. These guys will likely be getting a majority of second half reps in the preseason, so they must dominate against lesser competition to get noticed.
OLBs on roster: Eric Bakhtiari, Ahmad Brooks, Kourtnei Brown, Darius Fleming (PUP), Parys Haralson, Joe Holland, Cam Johnson, Aldon Smith
Projected starters: Ahmad Brooks & Aldon Smith
Offseason additions: Eric Bakhtiari, Kourtnei Brown, Darius Fleming, Cam Johnson
Roster cuts: N/A
Projected final roster: Ahmad Brooks, Kourtnei Brown, Parys Haralson, Aldon Smith
The outside linebackers are set to feature Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith in 2012. Smith's offseason has been dedicated to transitioning to the starting role. The 2011 starter, Parys Haralson, will be the primary backup but does not have unique pass rush skills.
As Aldon Smith looks to become the starter, the 49ers want to have depth at linebacker, but would prefer to carry someone that can provide pressure from the outside. Notre Dame's Darius Fleming was the 49ers first defensive selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, and there was the slight hope he would fill that role.
Unfortunately, Fleming suffered an ACL tear and will be out for the season; he is currently on the PUP list.
Forging ahead, the 49ers still have Cam Johnson, Eric Bakhtiari, Joe Holland and Kourtnei Brown. Even though Johnson was the only one the 49ers spent a draft pick on, it's an open competition. If someone is clearly a better option or more ready than Johnson, the 49ers will not sweat losing a seventh-rounder.
The real battle at the outside linebacker position is between Johnson, Bakhtiari, Holland and Brown—Brooks, Haralson and Smith have established their place on this team. But there is a role to be filled, and someone will step up in the preseason to claim it. This position group in particular can be grateful to the schedule-maker in that San Francisco is set to see some pass-friendly offenses.
Against Minnesota, Houston, Denver and San Diego, the 49ers will have plenty of opportunities to rush the passer. This battle should keep Niners fans tuned in during the second half, because it will be a game of "Who can get to the quarterback the most?"
Kourtnei Brown is my player to watch, and he should be the most identifiable. Brown, 6'6, is big, lengthy and resembles that of Aldon Smith. These guys will all be going hard to make a play because a sack here, a forced fumble there; it could lead to them winning their dream job.
ILBs on roster: NaVorro Bowman, Tavares Gooden, Larry Grant, Michael Wilhoite, Patrick Willis
Projected starters: NaVorro Bowman & Patrick Willis
Offseason additions: Michael Wilhoite
Roster cuts: N/A
Projected final roster: NaVorro Bowman, Tavares Gooden, Larry Grant, Patrick Willis
Well, anyone who knows pro football knows that the two All-Pro's, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, will be the starting inside linebackers for the 49ers in 2012, and hopefully a lot longer.
Behind Willis and Bowman, Larry Grant and Tavares Gooden provide solid depth inside. During the 2011 season, the 49ers' franchise linebacker missed 3 games from Week 14 to Week 16. In that time, Larry Grant filled in and played excellent football as the 49ers won two of three.
Gooden, the former Baltimore Raven, was a special teams ace in the infamous Tony Montana Squad. With Blake Costanzo now a member of the Chicago Bears, Gooden should be more of a factor on punts and kickoffs. He can also provide depth with Grant at the inside linebacker position.
The 49ers first signed Michael Wilhoite in December, when they added him to the practice squad. Given the personnel at this position, the practice squad is likely where he will stay. If and when Wilhoite gets preseason reps, his performance should be noted -- great special teamers come out of nowhere.
Wilhoite could earn the right to stay on the practice squad by taking it one step at a time and showing promise as a special teamer. On the 49ers, a running back or linebacker's best friend is special teams, and Brad Seely.
CBs on roster: Tramaine Brock, Tarell Brown, Perrish Cox, Chris Culliver, Curtis Holcomb, Darcel McBath, Anthony Mosely, Cory Nelms, Deante Purvis, Carlos Rogers
Projected starters: Tarell Brown & Carlos Rogers
Offseason additions: Perrish Cox, Darcel McBath, Anthony Mosely, Deante Purvis
Roster cuts: N/A
Projected final roster: Tramaine Brock, Tarell Brown, Perrish Cox, Chris Culliver, Carlos Rogers
The 49ers turned around their pass defense in 2011, which had been a team weakness for some time. By acquiring Carlos Rogers via free agency and promoting Tarell Brown, San Francisco found two very reliable starters. Including the postseason, Rogers and Brown combined for 11 interceptions last year, while Rogers earned his first Pro Bowl nod.
South Carolina rookie Chris Culliver also showed promise, seeing significant time in his debut season. Culliver is predicted to be a starter someday, but this season the 49ers will likely keep him as the third slotted corner. That did not stop him from seeing playing time last year, so we should get another good look at Culliver this season.
The depth at corner doesn't allow for real competition until the 4th and 5th cornerback slots.
Tramaine Brock is returning, but is in serious risk of losing his job to newcomer Perrish Cox. San Francisco signed Cox to a two-year deal in March. A former player of Ed Donatell in Denver, Cox is now reunited with his coach in the Bay. Cox was a very capable starter for the Broncos, and after missing some time, is looking to make a comeback.
49ers fans should be anxious to see Perrish Cox play this preseason, and shouldn't be surprised to see him do well.
For depth in a predominantly passing league, the 49ers will pay the cornerback group special attention in making sure they have the right combination of players. The Niners are expected to be deep at the position.
And like we said for the linebackers, the 49ers have passing teams on their preseason schedule, so it's hunting season for incoming pass-rushers and young cornerbacks looking to get noticed. The group of cornerbacks made of Cory Nelms, Curtis Holcomb, Anthony Mosely, Deante Purvis and Darcel McBath need to make a statement.
Safeties on roster: Dashon Goldson, Ben Hannula, Colin Jones, Mark Legree, Trenton Robinson, C.J. Spillman, Michael Thomas, Donte Whitner
Projected starters: Dashon Goldson & Donte Whitner
Offseason additions: Ben Hannula, Mark Legree, Trenton Robinson, Michael Thomas
Roster cuts: N/A
Projected final roster: Dashon Goldson, Colin Jones, Trenton Robinson, C.J. Spillman, Donte Whitner
We enter the safety group and we have two more entrenched starters. 49ers starting free safety Dashon Goldson reported to training camp and signed his franchise tender, realizing the opportunity the Niners have in 2012.
Donte Whitner was very vocal about wanting the 49ers to retain Goldson, as the two built the foundation to a strong working relationship in their first year together. Together, Whitner and Goldson became the most feared safety tandem, as both players are known to bring the wood. Their presence as a duo keeps wide receivers on their toes, and fearful of a big hit.
However, be mindful, Goldson returned under the franchise tender so his long-term plans are yet to be determined. This could very well be the last season he and Whitner play together.
San Francisco drafted Trenton Robinson out of Michigan State, and have Colin Jones and C.J. Spillman left over from last year. They also added Mark Legree, Ben Hannula and Michael Thomas to the roster who all have safety experience. The 49ers may have their safety of the future already on the roster, and if that is true, close attention should be paid to the backup safeties during preseason.
While fans and analysts should look for progression from Jones and Spillman, Trenton Robinson and Michael Thomas could come on strong in the preseason. Against opponents that will be slinging the ball, the newcomers will be looking to make plays in order to challenge the roster for depth. Robinson has a better chance of making the team than the UDFA's, but Thomas has the Stanford connection.
Michael Thomas played in Vic Fangio's defense as a Cardinal. If Thomas winds up being a stud in the preseason, while showing progress in camp, he could upset the late-rounder from Michigan State. Meanwhile, Ben Hannula and Mark Legree are wild cards that still have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves.
Kicking specialists on roster: David Akers, Andy Lee, Giorgio Tavecchio
Projected starters: David Akers & Andy Lee
Offseason additions: Giorgio Tavecchio (K)
Roster cuts: Ryan Pontibrand (LS)
Projected final roster: David Akers, Andy Lee
David Akers and Andy Lee are about as solid as a pair of special teams kickers get in this league.
On May 23rd, Lee signed a six-year extension with the 49ers that will see him in the Bay through 2018. Lee is a precision punter. ESPN's NFC West blogger Mark Sando sums up Lee's contributions and value in the following:
He set NFL single-season records since at least 1976 for gross (50.9 yards) and net (44.0) punting averages last season. His 59.6-yard gross average at home against Seattle last season was the third-highest for a game since at least 1976, the first year such stats were tracked officially (minimum four punts). He had a 54.2-yard net average in the game, which is the second-highest in the NFL since at least 1976.
The 29-year-old Lee has been selected to the Pro Bowl three times in his career and has also been named to three All-Pro teams. He has played in 128 games for the 49ers and holds team records in punts (723), yards (33,069), gross average (45.7), net average (38.9) and punts downed inside the 20-yard line (209).
Since 2007, Lee's gross punting average (47.9) and net average (40.7) rank second in the NFL.
In 2011, San Francisco relied heavily on playing the field position game and would not have won as many games without the consistent clutch kicks by Lee. Another six years of Lee in the Bay will see him in the 49ers Hall of Fame when it's all said and done. Not bad for a sixth-round pick.
Akers went ahead and set a record for most points in a single-season with 166, connecting on an all-time high 44 of 52 field goal attempts. He also handled kickoffs and kicked an immaculate onside in Week 10 to the Giants, that was recovered by the 49ers.
After a stellar career with the Philadelphia Eagles, the 49ers were able to get a deal done with Akers, and it looks like he's got plenty of good years left.
San Francisco will go with these two until they age out of the league. Akers will first, which is why the 49ers have an extra kicker on the roster but not a punter. Regardless, as long as Akers is around, Tavecchio will be on the practice squad at best.
Returners on roster: Ted Ginn Jr., LaMichael James, Kyle WIlliams, Kendall Hunter, A.J. Jenkins
Projected starter: Ted Ginn Jr.
Offseason additions: LaMichael James, A.J. Jenkins
Roster cuts: N/A
Projected final roster: Ted Ginn Jr., LaMichael James, Kyle Williams, Kendall Hunter, A.J. Jenkins
The 49ers acquired a lot of speed and playmaking ability this offseason, so there are more options at return man than just Ted Ginn Jr.
Even though Ginn Jr. is the best choice right now, players like LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, Kyle Williams and A.J. Jenkins are all working out at the position. And during the season all of them should get opportunities to field kicks, because they have the experience and physical traits to excel at the job.
Ginn Jr. is a top-three return man in the league, so it would be a shame to limit his role and thus chances at big scoring plays. If the Niners are going to allow for some distribution during the season, it would be wise to allow LaMichael James a fair amount of reps.
James needs to get touches in all phases because he has that game-breaking ability. His speed, vision and ability to make cuts on a dime are valuable, especially in the return game. James' quickness and change of direction can be utilized on special teams. He is also part of a crowded backfield, so this would be another opportunity to get the 2nd rounder more touches.
While a lot of people curse Kyle Williams and dread the fact the he may still be used as a returner, I am an optimist. Williams has the physical ability and he has the focus. The fans saw him play well during the season, filling in when the 49ers were losing receivers left and right. He deserves the chance to redeem himself, and I believe he will.
It's a virtual certainty that Ginn Jr. will get the bulk of the returns, but the 49ers staff is definitely exploring options.