Who will be on the 53-man roster for the 49ers when the 2010 season begins? Some of the cast members are obvious. Others, not so much. There's a long, hot summer left. A scorcher full of OTAs, training camp, and pre-season games to separate the best from the rest awaits.
Some restricted free agents are getting let off the leash, and as teams streamline their rosters, the tide of the waiver wire will roll in. Recall the 49ers claiming pass rush beast Kevin Greene in the mid-late 90's.
For rabid fans, however, it's never to early to make predictions.
Many picks are straightforward, but there's always room for a little controversy.
Taking three quarterbacks into a season is common practice. Smith and Carr are no-brainers. Davis could face a little camp competition from Jarrett Brown, but I expect him to advance much faster given the year of Jimmy Raye's offense under his belt.
Frank Gore can now take a down off every once in a while, thanks to his backup-by-committee understudies.
Norris, a work-hours blocker every week may be the most underrated back on the team, but he as as much job security as anyone.
11—Ted Ginn Jr.
Five wide receivers should be sufficient when two of them can take kicks to the house. Williams will likely be a slot guy when third-and-long situations come up. Hill and Morgan provide reasonable sized targets as well, and Ginn Jr gives them a speed threat they haven't had in the past. Do I really have to mention what Crabtree can do? Didn't think so.
Staley and Heitmann are locks to start. Rachal, Baas and Iupati should play musical chairs over the guard spots (with Iupati eventually locking the left side down) and Simms will tutor Davis for a few weeks before stepping aside for the rookie.
Captain Vernon has had his spot locked—no question. Walker and Byham have very different specialties, and each have their place on the 53.
Someone's got to kick it, someone's got to punt it, and someone's gonna have to long-snap it. Capiche?
29—Rick Jean Francois
This may seem like a lot of defensive linemen for a 3-4 scheme, but special teams will need some big bodies. Also, it they get stuck defending a lengthy drive, substitutions are available.
Only an ignoramus would believe the 49ers lack depth at linebacker. After cutting through the fat, the corp could be the best in the league. Bowman will do some on-the-job learning; they didn't draft him in the third just so they could cut him.
Nine defensive backs should do the trick, and the starters should be pretty obvious. The other fellas will either come in on passing situations or make plays on special teams. Intrigue surrounds Taylor Mays, as fans drool over the upside he might bring.
With five roster spots left, the competition is going to tight, tight, tight! lets assume Singletary is going to adopt a who-wants-it-more philosophy here—maybe make them play king of the ring for a spot or two—and see who really loves to play physical football.
Cody Wallace, with very limited playing time in two years, is hungry to prove himself; it dosn't hurt to play backup center either, should the need arise. Brit Miller, who played on the practice squad last year before being activated in week 13 last season, should make the roster based on his versatility and grit, much like McKillop and Wilhelm. Michael Robinson, the jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none special teams captain, should make the final cut.
MC / PS
Some guys just won't make the team. Hopefully they don't get discouraged, and they stick around with the practice squad. Here are some of the guys I'd like to see hang out for a while and try to improve.
Brian de la Puente—OL
Joe Jon Finley—TE
It's so har do say good bye. "Thank god Eddie didn't have to cut guys" Bill Walsh once said of Debartolo, "or they'd never have gotten cut."
It's early June, a good time to predict the roster in spite of (or because of) the excessive variables to come. Injuries, acquisitions, and players' improvements will determine the final roster. The big pieces are pretty obvious. The little ones will fill in the gaps. When a player or two inevitably find themselves on the injured reserve list, there's always an understudy somewhere on the practice squad.
But it's a long, hot road to the 53.