Updated 53 Man Roster Projections for 49ers Post Week 3 of Preseason
With the "dress rehearsal" game wrapped up, we shouldn't see much of the starters in Week 4 of the preseason. Though the first string-offense could use a little bit of a tune-up before their Week 1 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.
Regardless, Week 4 of the preseason is all about the play of backups and the constructing of the final roster. This isn't the most exciting game in the preseason schedule, but it should be a great filler match before the real action starts on Sept. 7. Honestly, this game means more to coaches than it does to the fans.
With that said, here's my updated 53-man roster for the 49ers.
1. Colin Kaepernick
2. Blaine Gabbert
The Blaine Gabbert project has failed miserably so far, but Jim Harbaugh isn't ready to pull the plug. In fact, Harbaugh went out of his way to complement Gabbert, even going as far to call him "the guy" at backup quarterback.
Gabbert did have a solid performance in Week 3, leading the 49ers to their first touchdown series of the preseason. However, his entire body of work hasn't been as impressive. Most teams wouldn't give Gabbert a shot, but then again, the 49ers aren't most teams, and Harbaugh is certainly unlike most head coaches.
While it may be wise to carry three quarterbacks on the roster, the 49ers will more than likely stick with just Kaepernick and Gabbert. Josh Johnson is familiar with Harbaugh's coaching and offensive system, but using a roster pick on him could hurt the 49ers in other areas of need.
Having three quarterbacks on the roster is simply a luxury the 49ers can't afford.
1. Frank Gore
2. Carlos Hyde
3. LaMichael James
4. Glenn Winston
5. Marcus Lattimore*
With the return of LaMichael James coming sooner than most expected, the 49ers will have a versatile three rotation in the backfield. Of course, Frank Gore will receive the lion's share of carries, but expect Hyde and James to find a nice niche in this offense.
Hyde will spell Gore on drives and serve as the 49ers red-zone back. James can be useful in certain packages and third downs. We may even see the 49ers reintroduce some of the pistol and zone-read principles with James now back in the fold.
*Note: Marcus Lattimore will be placed on the Reserve/NFI list to start the season.
1. Bruce Miller
Bruce Miller will serve an important role for this 49ers offense. His ability as both a blocker and receiver was sorely missed last season. Not to mention his impact on special teams.
Tukuafu isn't a bad backup. In a perfect world, the 49ers would love to keep two fullbacks on their roster. Similar to last season, the 49ers will have Tukuafu's number at the ready should Miller come down with another injury.
1. Vernon Davis
2. Vance McDonald
The 49ers could be shifting to more of a spread-passing attack, which makes a third tight end pointless. In years past, the 49ers have been so dependent on their tight ends. Having three tight ends was considered normal for run-heavy team, but things could change this season.
Cutting the three players mentioned above is unfortunate, especially since they all bring different elements to the table. Carrier was placed on the PUP list, so he has a chance to return midseason, though I'm not sure whom the 49ers would cut to open up a space for Carrier.
*Note: Derek Carrier was placed on the PUP list.
2. Anquan Boldin
3. Stevie Johnson
4. Brandon Lloyd
5. Quinton Patton
6. Bruce Ellington
7. Kassim Osgood
Yes, the 49ers will keep seven receivers on their 53-man roster. General manager Trent Baalke deserves huge props for the depth the front office acquired at the receiver spot. In just one offseason, the 49ers transformed one of the worst receiver corps to one of the best in the league.
In two receiver sets, Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin will see most of the playing time; however, don't count out Stevie Johnson in making an impact. The 49ers can play Johnson outside, at flanker and in the slot. He brings much needed versatility.
Lloyd, whom I consider an outside shot to make the roster, has dazzled since rejoining the team. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience that could be crucial to the team's championship hopes. Not to mention, the guy still can make big plays on the field.
Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington are nice young pieces who could develop into major contributors down the line. Playing time will come hard for both youngsters, but watch out in a few years.
If basing this decision solely receiving skills, Osgood would be nowhere near this list. However, he brings irreplaceable production on special teams. I can't envision the 49ers cutting Osgood.
Left Tackle (LT): Joe Staley
Left Guard (LG): Mike Iupati, Adam Snyder
Center (C): Daniel Kilgore, Marcus Martin*, Dillion Farrell
Right Guard (RG): Joe Looney, Adam Snyder
Right Tackle (RT): Anthony Davis, Jonathan Martin
The 49ers offensive line has been very consistent and steady over the last couple of years. It probably has something to do with the starting lineup staying largely intact since 2010. However, all good things must come to an end.
With the absence of Alex Boone and the departure of Jonathan Goodwin, the 49ers could have two new starters to open the season. Daniel Kilgore will take over for Goodwin, and Looney will continue to take all the first-team snaps until Boone ends his holdout.
*Note: According to a report by The San Francisco Chronicle, Marcus Martin will miss eight weeks.
Left Defensive End/Left Defensive Tackle (LDE/LDT):
1. Ray McDonald
2. Tony Jerod-Eddie
3. Kaleb Ramsey*
Nose Tackle (NT):
1. Glenn Dorsey**
2. Ian Williams
3. Quinton Dial
Right Defensive End/Right Defensive Tackle (RDE/RDT):
1. Justin Smith
2. Cornellius "Tank" Carradine
3. Demarcus Dobbs
Justin Smith and Ray McDonald will hold down the fort as starters along the defensive line. With the injury to Glenn Dorsey, the real competition is at nose tackle with Ian Williams and Quinton Dial competing for a starting spot.
Dorsey has a good chance at making an appearance late in the season, but for now, the 49ers will have to rely on either Williams or Dial at the nose. Both players have a real shot at winning this gig, but Williams has the edge in my book.
Remember, Williams was pegged to start over Dorsey last season before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks. Williams has phenomenal strength at the point of attack and should play well if healthy.
Dial deserves the opportunity to start, but his inexperience may hurt him in this battle. However, don't be surprised if Dial becomes a fixture in this 49ers rotation. He has the versatility to line up as a 0- or 5-technique in this defense.
The same can be said for Tank Carradine, the 49ers second-round pick in last year's draft. With Carradine finally healthy, he should provide some valuable depth behind either Smith or McDonald.
* Note: Kaleb Ramsey was placed on the PUP list to start the season.
**Note: Dorsey will likely be placed on the short term IR.
Left Outside Linebacker (LOLB):
1. Ahmad Brooks
2. Corey Lemonier
Right Outside Linebacker (ROLB):
1. Aldon Smith
2. Dan Skuta
If the league hands down a stiff punishment for star pass-rusher Aldon Smith, don't expect the rotation to change much. The 49ers love the depth at outside linebacker.
Ahmad Brooks will still hold down the left edge, and if his play was anything like last season, the 49ers should be fine. Not to mention, the play of both Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier in Smith's absence last year will help many fans and coaches sleep better at night.
Now, Aaron Lynch is someone the 49ers should try to keep. If the league hands down a suspension for Aldon Smith, he should be a part of the 53-man roster. Until news of Smith's potential suspension is released, I have Lynch on the outside looking in.
Mike Inside Linebacker (ILB):
2. Chris Borland
Jack Inside Linebacker (ILB)
1. NaVorro Bowman*
2. Michael Wilhoite
3. Nick Moody
4. Shayne Skov
While the competition is heating up for the "Jack" role beside Patrick Willis, I will stick with my prediction that Michael Wilhoite comes away with the job. Wilhoite has the experience that rookie Chris Borland lacks, and that should give him the edge.
Borland and Nick Moody will play special teams, so the two young linebackers should still be producing on the field.
*Note: NaVorro Bowman was placed on the PUP list. He will miss at least the first six games of the season.
Left Cornerback (LCB):
1. Tramaine Brock
2. Chris Cook
3. Darryl Morris
4. Keith Reaser*
Right Cornerback (RCB):
1. Chris Culliver
2. Jimmie Ward
3. Perrish Cox
4. Dontae Johnson
Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver will likely be the 49ers' two starters on the outside. Jimmie Ward has played well enough to lock up the slot role, though I wouldn't be surprised if the 49ers give the job to Cox to start the season.
Kenneth Acker will be a tough cut, but the 49ers will definitely try to secure him to the practice squad. Don't be surprised if Acker carves out a role with this secondary as soon as next season.
*Keith Reaser was placed on the Reserve/NFI list.
Free Safety (FS):
1. Eric Reid
2. C.J. Spillman
Strong Safety (SS):
1. Antoine Bethea
2. Ray Ventrone
Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea will man the backend of this 49ers secondary, though health has to be concern. Bethea was diagnosed with a concussion in the 49ers loss to the Denver Broncos. Reid also had a bout with concussions in his rookie season last year.
As long as those two stay healthy, the 49ers should be fine.
The biggest area of need is at backup. If Reid and Bethea can't stay healthy, this secondary will have big issues trying to stop opposing offenses. C.J. Spillman and Ray Ventrone are special teams players, and Craig Dahl has looked quite awful in coverage thus far in the preseason.
Honestly, I would give D.J. Campbell a shot. Campbell played well in the 49ers preseason win over the San Diego Chargers.
1. Phil Dawson
1. Andy Lee
Colton Schmidt (P)
Long Snapper (LS):
1. Kevin McDermott
Kyle Nelson (LS)
Kick Returner (KR):
1. Bruce Ellington
Punt Returner (PR):
1. LaMichael James
Phil Dawson and Andy Lee should serve as one of the best special team duos in the league. Though, many will be monitoring Dawson to see if there is any slippage from his fantastic debut season with the 49ers last year.
I've said this before, but the 49ers should give Ellington all return duties. James can be a terror as a return man but his ball security is questionable. Ellington, who did have a minor slip up with ball security in the preseason, is built more to take contact.
Regardless of who takes the role, the 49ers should have a talented return unit this season.