Roster Holes 49ers Must Fill Ahead of Training Camp

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IJuly 19, 2021

Roster Holes 49ers Must Fill Ahead of Training Camp

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The San Francisco 49ers have made a few changes to their roster this offseason. Will they be enough for them to bounce back from a 6-10 campaign and have better results in 2021?

    We won't know that for some time. However, the start of a new season is quickly approaching, as the 49ers will report to training camp July 27. At that point, they will begin preparing for what they hope will be a turnaround year.

    Even though San Francisco has made changes, its roster isn't perfect. That's the case for all 32 NFL teams, as there are always areas where a team can improve. For the 49ers, some of these holes may be ones they still want to consider addressing the near future.

    Here's a look at several roster holes San Francisco may want to fix heading into the 2021 season.

A No. 3 Wide Receiver

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The 49ers have two clear top wide receivers on their depth chart: Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk. They should both have starting roles on their offense, assuming they stay healthy heading into the 2021 season.

    Beyond that, San Francisco has plenty of other receivers on its roster. Among them are veteran Mohamed Sanu, Richie James, Jalen Hurd and Trent Sherfield. These players will all have a lot to prove during training camp.

    However, not one of them stands out as a clear No. 3 option behind Samuel and Aiyuk. Sanu would have once fit that bill, but he's turning 32 in August and is coming off a season in which he had only 17 receptions, so he may never return to the form he showed earlier in his career.

    Perhaps one of the other receivers becomes a breakout star during camp and the preseason and then lives up to the hype in the regular season. If that happens, the 49ers would not need to bring in another receiver.

    But it could give San Francisco an offensive boost if it added a clear No. 3 receiver who could give its passing game another reliable option.

Depth on the Pass Rush

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    Josie Lepe/Associated Press

    Just like at wide receiver, the pass rush is another unit on the 49ers roster that features a pair of talented starters. Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead should be the Week 1 starters on the edges, and they are sure to put plenty of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

    But Bosa and Armstead can't play every down. There's a need for pass-rushers who can step in to give them breaks. And if San Francisco doesn't have players who can do that, it's going to negatively affect its defense this season.

    Dee Ford is still recovering from a back injury. Jordan Willis will miss the first six games of the season because of a suspension for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing substance policy. Arden Key and Daeshon Hall have the potential to play well, but both have a lot to prove before that happens.

    If the 49ers can add a veteran edge-rusher with a track record and an ability to still produce at a fairly high level, it would do a lot to boost this unit. There would be less uncertainty, and they would have a reliable fill-in for Bosa and Armstead when those situations arise.

Cornerback Depth

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    This is a unit that has been heavily affected by injuries of late. Jason Verrett and K'Waun Williams both missed time in 2020, with the former having dealt with numerous ailments in recent years. Both can be solid players, but they will also need to make sure they can stay on the field.

    The 49ers don't have great cornerback depth, so they could be in some trouble if things go wrong early. Ambry Thomas could step up and have a strong rookie season after getting taken in the third round of the 2021 NFL draft, but San Francisco may not be able to rely on him as he transitions to the professional level.

    In order to take their defense to another level, the 49ers should add one more cornerback to the mix, making sure that it's a player who can bring experience to the group. It would also add competition to the position group, which is always a good thing to have during camp.

    So if San Francisco is going to sign any more free agents before the start of the regular season, a cornerback would be a good target for the team.

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