Roster Holes 49ers Must Fill Before Training Camp
The San Francisco 49ers did a decent job of filling their non-quarterback roster holes in the NFL offseason to set the team up for success in Trey Lance's first season as starter.
The 49ers bolstered their defense with the signing of Charvarius Ward in free agency and they selected a handful of intriguing players in the 2022 NFL draft that could make an impact right away.
San Francisco is not expected to make any major changes outside of the potential Jimmy Garoppolo and Deebo Samuel trades that have been long rumored this offseason, but it could use one or two depth pieces to fill out its 53-man roster.
Kyle Shanahan is relying on interior offensive linemen with experience inside the 49ers system, but they are not as proven as the recently-retired Alex Mack was.
The 49ers filled up their secondary depth, but they are only an injury to Talanoa Hufanga or Jimmie Ward away from potentially struggling at safety.
The same could be said about tight end with George Kittle. If he goes down, the 49ers do not have a reliable backup plan at the position. The plan is always for Kittle to stay healthy over 17 games, but if he does not, the 49ers need to have a little more depth at tight end.
Interior Offensive Line
The 49ers' biggest non-quarterback question on offense is how the interior offensive line will hold up without Alex Mack in the middle.
As of now, the 49ers opted to replace Mack's void with internal candidates. Jake Brendel is the likely starter at center. Daniel Brunskill and Aaron Banks are the favorites to start at guard.
The 49ers landed Spencer Burford in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL draft as a depth piece on the interior. That selection is more meaningful now that Mack has retired.
San Francisco's unique run-blocking system makes it easier for internal candidates to fill those roles over free agents, but there may be concerns about how those players perform to start the season.
The experience levels on the interior do not match what Trent Williams and Mike McGlinchey bring to the table at offensive tackle and there may be some growing pains for Brendel and Co.
The 49ers are committed to their current players, but if things do not work early in the season, they may have to consider outside help.
The 49ers will go into the season with Talanoa Hufanga and Jimmie Ward as their starting safeties.
One injury to the starting duo could wreak havoc on San Francisco's defensive plans. The 49ers do not have much depth outside of special teamers at safety.
Hufanga will be elevated to a starting role in 2022 after the departure of Jaquiski Tartt, who ended up signing with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Ward has been a mainstay in the 49ers defense for quite some time. He has only missed six games over the last three seasons and he will be tasked with bringing Hufanga along so that any concerns about the safety duo go away.
If an injury does happen, like it did for cornerback Jason Verrett who featured just twice in 2021, the 49ers will be in a tough spot and may have to move around some of their secondary members to find the right fit.
Adding another safety would be more of a precaution than anything to ensure there is no drop off in depth if the worst-case scenario happens.
Backup Tight End
An argument could be made that George Kittle is the most valuable player to the 49ers offense.
At worst, he is the second-most valuable skill position player behind Deebo Samuel because of what he brings across the middle.
Kittle produced back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 and 2019, but he has only played 20 games in the last two years.
The 49ers did not have another tight end produce over 250 receiving yards in either of those campaigns. Most of their backup tight ends are suited to fit the needs of the run-blocking scheme.
San Francisco enters training camp with Ross Dwelley and Charlie Woerner, two familiar faces to the franchise, and seven-year veteran Tyler Kroft listed as Kittle's backups.
Kroft has not had more than 175 receiving yards in each of his last four seasons, Dwelley had 245 receiving yards when Kittle was out in 2020 and Woerner has been used more for blocking over anything else.
If Kittle goes down for an extended period of time, the 49ers could be screwed with their tight end production.
The free-agent market is not great for veteran tight ends right now, but the team should keep an eye on players that get cut in order to improve their pass-catching depth at the position in case the worst situation possible occurs.