From a full complement of 90 starting in camp, the San Francisco 49ers cut their roster to 80 on Tuesday, then down to the 53 on Saturday. The big surprise: Quarterback Josh McCown.
Big decisions looming for Coach Jim Harbaugh and general manger Trent Baalke include decisions at fullback (Moran Norris or rookie Bruce Miller, who can also help on defense) and wide receiver (rookie Ron Johnson over incumbent backup Kyle Williams).
Perhaps the toughest decisions will come at cornerback where Cory Nelms, Phillip Adams, Shawntae Spencer and Tarell Brown all have been strong. The inclusion of Spencer is the surprise in that he started last year but has missed nearly three weeks of practices due to a sore hamstring. Brown, Adams and Tramaine Brock have played well.
Also, the cutting of linebacker Scott McKillop earlier in the week also added import to the line of thinking that the 49ers' 2009 draft turned out less than stellar. Crabtree remains the biggest disappointment in that he hasn’t performed like the 10th player taken in the draft. But there was good news: Crabtree is off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list and is ready for practice. It remains to be seen how much he plays Thursday against the Chargers.
Third-round pick Glen Coffee “retired” from the 49ers last year, and fifth-round pick McKillop did play. Another fifth-rounder, Nate Davis, is out of football, and sixth-rounder Bear Pascoe has found a slot with the Giants, though his chance for breaking into a starting role with the Niners was minimal, at best.
Free safety Curtis Taylor and nose tackle Ricky Jean-Francois were the sixth- and seventh-round picks. That means only Crabtree and Francois remain from the class of ’09, which was the last draft ostensibly run by former player personnel director Scot McCloughan.
Here’s a rundown of the 49ers cuts.
Last year “Zig” provided some decent plays but he totalled only nine catches in a backup role. A a torn ACL from 2010 hindered him all camp and it’s doubtful he is fully healthy. That’s life in the NFL
Signed two weeks ago, had a good game against San Diego, and…well, cut. Four-for-four against San Diego, including a nice completion on third-and-long, the type of throw that says here’s a vet who can come off the bench and keep the team moving. But he’s cut. Apparently, the Niner staff want something more. Perhaps a bigger arm. Perhaps more mobility. Kellen Clemons, the former Oregon star who went to New York Jets and then Washington Redskins, is available. And he’s younger than McCown.
In light of McCown’s release, this was rather surprising. The 6’4” rookie free agent out of Sacramento State by way of UCLA seemed to be a good candidate for the practice squad. With good size and a strong arm, he seemed to fit the role of learning the position over time, a la Tony Romo. Not to be, apparently.
The former Wisconsin star spent most of last year on the practice squad, but with the addition of Madieu Williams, Donte Whitner and Carlos Rogers, there were no options left for him, even on special teams.
The third-year pro out of Pittsburgh ranks as the biggest name in that he did well on special teams and in backup roles. But this is a position of strength for the 49ers. It didn’t help that McKillop was hobbled by a knee injury. Cutting him now does him a favor because he is available for teams needing extra help at LB and on special teams.
The third-year player out of LSU spent last year on IR; because of that he might be eligible for the practice squad if he clears waivers
Beiler, a rookie out of Bridgewater, had little practice and playing time. The question marks at the position remain in Michael Crabtree, but he appears ready for the practice field at least. Also Ted Ginn Jr., but he’s considered solid because he’ll handle most of the punt return duties.
Braylon Edwards, Joshua Morgan and Ronald Johnson, along with a (healthy?) Crabtree and Ginn round out this slot, or so it appears.
The rookie free agent (in red jersey) out of Washburn had too much talent in front of him.
The free agent out of Cal spent a lot of time on the third unit, and it’s a game of numbers right now. With the offensive line struggling, Harbaugh may want to focus a great deal of time in getting the starters to perform better. Even starting tackle Joe Staley said the OL performance was terrible. That means more practice time and more preseason game time for the first unit. They need it.
Same as Hastings: too much talent in front to make a dent, especially since rookie Ronald Johnson (pictured) out of USC was selected in the sixth round.
The former free agent, signed last year out of USC, also fell to the numbers game and the need for improved line play, meaning more time for starters like Mike Iupati and less time for backups.
The San Jose State product who signed as a free agent last year found himself the odd man out when it came to the five primary slots at this position. It hurt that at nearly 200 pounds he couldn’t make a name for himself as a “slot” receiver. But the 49ers have plenty of tight ends to fill that role; it left little chance for Jurovich.
This is a good sign for the 49ers. Paulescu, a former Cowboy, was signed just eight days ago because Andy Lee had a sore hip. This move suggests Lee is ready to return.
The rookie free agent out of New Mexico State (and an Oakland prep star) had little chance for a group that includes Frank Gore, Anthony Dixon and rookie Kendall Hunter, who has been impressive. The big issue at this position is whether fullback Moran Norris holds on to his roster spot against rookie Bruce Miller, who can also play defense.