Breaking Down 49ers Practice Squad
With the season just a week away, the San Francisco 49ers, like many other NFL teams, have set their 53-man roster. Of course, all of our time will be focused on the practice squad, but roster-cut day for the 49ers was pretty shocking to say the least.
Check out the official press release of roster cuts here.
The 49ers finally decided on going younger at several positions, especially on special teams. From C.J. Spillman and Kassim Osgood, to Adam Snyder and Darryl Morris, I'm sure many didn't expect all four to be released. Roster-cut day seemed to have a veteran feel of sorts.
Nonetheless, this means young players will have to step up. In the meantime, let's turn our attention to the all-important practice squad.
Mind you, the 49ers have only signed eight players to the 10-man team. As we all know, practice squad rosters are very fluid throughout the season, so this list will change often.
With that said, let's examine the eight signed practice squad players.
Lawrence Okoye, DL
The former Olympian has made significant strides since starting American football for the first time last year. Of course, he is still a prospect, which lands him on the outside looking in when it comes to the 53-man roster.
The 49ers understand that Okoye is a project. In all likelihood the plan was to have Okoye on the practice squad for his first two seasons. He's made a great connection with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, and that relationship should help Okoye and his chances to make the roster next season.
If Okoye makes the roster next year, he'll line up in the same role as Ray McDonald. The 49ers will use Okoye as a 5-technique defensive end.
As long as Okoye continues to progress, he should make the 53-man roster next season.
Shayne Skov, ILB
If not for the depth at inside linebacker, Shayne Skov would be a lock to make the roster. I had my doubts on whether Skov would make it past waivers, but the 49ers were able to land the former Stanford linebacker on the practice squad.
Skov has great instincts for the position. He isn’t the most athletically gifted player, but his smarts and instincts allow him to move faster on the field. Considering he played under Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at Stanford, it’s not surprising that he was a late cut on this team.
If another injury happens to the inside backer group, having Skov waiting in the wings should provide some relief for the coaching staff.
Mike Purcell, NT
The 49ers have solid depth along the defensive line, so Purcell was never really in the running for a roster spot. Don't get me wrong, Purcell can contribute as a backup lineman and special teams player, but the 49ers will ideally want Purcell to spend another year on the practice squad.
Purcell can play inside at nose and outside as a 5-technique end. His versatility at both spots should help the 49ers if the defensive line starts suffering in the injury department.
His chance of making roster next season is pretty slim, especially since the 49ers re-signed Glenn Dorsey to an extension.
Carter Bykowski, OT
Carter Bykowski is an interesting prospect to watch.
The 49ers were able to secure his services on the practice squad, but I definitely had my doubts. I thought several teams would make a claim for the mammoth lineman. He has the size and length to play at both guard and tackle, and while his strength still remains a question, it's easy to tell he's at least improved in this area from last season.
When the 49ers released Adam Snyder, I thought this roster spot would go to Bykowski. He'll have a solid shot at making the roster next season, though his fortunes will largely depend on his improvement and injuries along the offensive line.
Asante Cleveland, TE
Asante Cleveland had a solid shot of usurping either Garrett Celek or Derek Carrier for the 49ers third tight end role. He played well in the 49er's final exhibition game, but Cleveland is still a project as a receiver.
The 49ers have signed Cleveland to their practice squad, but it wasn't without drama. According to Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com, the 49ers decided against adding Cleveland to the practice squad after the tight end already signed his contract. An update soon followed that the 49ers changed their minds once again, ultimately bringing Cleveland on board.
Cleveland must be feeling good about the red and gold right now. All kidding aside, this was a good move by Trent Baalke in keeping Cleveland.
With Garrett Celek on the PUP list, having Cleveland as insurance is great news.
John Fullington, OL
According to Eric Branch of the SFGate, the 49ers will add offensive lineman John Fullington to their official practice squad. Fullington was an 2014 undrafted free agent who was released by the Green Bay Packers.
The 49ers already have Bykowski on the practice squad, and with the addition of Fullington, they now have two linemen who can play multiple positions along the offensive line. Fullington can play both tackle spots, and even kick into guard if needed.
When it comes to the practice squad, versatility is key.
Ryan Seymour, the other candidate for a practice squad spot, was claimed by the Cleveland Browns. In response to Ian Rapoport's tweet, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reported that the 49ers wanted to add Seymour to the practice squad.
This is a relatively deep roster, so it's not surprising to see other teams poaching the 49er's talent.
Chase Thomas, OLB
Chase Thomas wasn't a surprising cut, especially since the 49ers are carrying four outside linebackers, minus Aldon Smith. When Smith returns, the 49ers will be loaded at outside linebacker.
Thomas, who played for Jim Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio at Stanford, had a very solid training camp and preseason. He's a relentless and high-energy type of player when rushing the football, and he has shown to be a good tackler. Thomas could even make the switch inside, though he would struggle in coverage.
If Thomas made the roster, he would only contribute on special teams this season. However, Thomas does have a good shot to make the roster if Dan Skuta departs in free agency next year.
Lance Lewis, WR
The 49ers had a few options at receiver, but ultimately decided to add Lance Lewis to the practice squad. If not for the season-ending injury to Chuck Jacobs, Lewis may have not made the squad all together.
Lewis was quite impressive in the last preseason game, making one of the biggest plays on offense with a 49-yard catch from Josh Johnson. His performance likely opened some eyes, but don't expect the 6'2'' receiver to be called up from the practice squad.
The 49ers are loaded at receiver. You never know with injuries, though I highly doubt they get to the point where Lewis is on the active roster.
Nonetheless, it was a solid move signing Lewis to the practice squad.