31 Aug Positional Battles – Who makes the 53-Man Roster?
Heading into the third and final preseason game, there were still several spots on the team up for grabs. There have been some impressive performances from unexpected corners of the roster, and some players with something to prove with time running out. Now that the day is here to cut the roster down to 53, let’s take a look at the positional battles on both sides of the ball. Let’s start with defense.
Let’s take a look at the DBs. CB depth is certainly one of the areas with the most question marks behind the two clear starters — Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley. Veteran Dontae Johnson would have been a favorite during the offseason, but free agency and the draft class brought some fresh faces, and those faces came to play. Davontae Harris and Alexander Myres are both looking to make an impact, whilst rookies Ambry Thomas and Deommodore Lenoir have huge potential. Lenoir has also been busy putting his play on tape. In fact “Demo” has some impressive stats in his first two preseason games: In 100 snaps, 6 targets with one allowed reception for 9 yards, plus 1 INT, 1PBU and a passer rating of 0.0 when targeted. In fact, he didn’t allow a catch until the third and final preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders. With recent tests at nickel, this would be another reason for him to make the team. Thomas appears to be still in the transition process from playing at Michigan, and will be looking to improve through the beginning of the season. With Tim Harris starting on IR, I imagine Verrett, Moseley and K’Waun Williams starting with both rookies backing them up.
Safety is quietly a strength of the team, although having Tarvarius Moore on PUP is not ideal. Jimmie Ward is the obvious starter at free safety. Behind Jaquiski Tartt, strong safety has turned into a genuine battle between Tavon Wilson and Rookie Talanoa Hufanga, who has popped out in all three preseason games, always in and around the action. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorites as well, and is a lot of fun to watch. In addition, he’s been outstanding on special teams. Veteran Ha Ha Clinton-Dix can play both safety spots and provides valuable depth, which is an important bargaining chip. He had a nice interception on Sunday against the Raiders that he almost took back to the house. Commentators Tim Ryan and Greg Papa certainly made that call memorable… to say the least.
Linebacker. With the best MLB in the game, and alongside with Dre Greenlaw and Azeez Al-Shaair, this is a solid unit. In addition, second-year linebacker Jonas Griffith has looked impressive in action, showcasing the sideline to sideline effort befitting his number 53 jersey. That said, it would be tough to bet against coach-favorite Flannigan-Fowles when it’s all said an done. Lastly, former-safety-turned-linebacker Marcell Harris is a fascinating prospect. He has looked good on the field during the preseason.
Now the defensive line is one of the most talented, and surely the deepest in the entire league. If the Niners keep 9 players on the line, there will still be players cut who can make an impact on most teams in the NFL. Let’s put some players in the safe column right away: Bosa, Ford, Armstead, Kinlaw & Givens. Next likely would bey one of my past draft crushes; Arden Key, who I think could really benefit from the 49ers system under coach Kocurek. Kentavius Street and Jordan Willis have continued to take big steps forward with their game and Zach Kerr is a stable veteran. Samson Ebukam could emerge as a key depth option, along with 2nd year Darrion Daniels. The 49ers are going to have a lot of tough decisions to make with this unit.
The 49ers offense is stable, talented, deep and exciting, and capable of scoring serious points!
The QB room is set, regardless of whether 2 or 3 QBs are on the final 53. That’s as far as I’m going with that discussion, as we’re looking at who makes the roster, and #5 and #10 aren’t in danger.
The running back corps is full of talent. Mostert will be at the top of the depth chart, followed by rookie Trey Sermon and probably Hasty, who has shown some serious talent in the preseason and training camp. Newly-signed veteran Wayne Gallman, who stepped in for Saquon Barkley and looked impressive for the Giants; has also looked strong in the preseason action we’ve seen so far. I’d have loved to get a look at rookie Elijah Mitchell, so hopefully but unfortunately he wasn’t able to show much in the final preseason matchup vs the Raiders. I still really think he can compliment the group and earn playing time behind Mostert. Juice retains his roster spot easily at FB.
Last season, the 49ers carried 4 tight ends on the 53-man roster. With Kittle and Dwelley at the top, I’d imagine Charlie Woerner gets a spot along with ex-WR Jordan Matthews, who has been a surprising addition to the team.
The WR bunch is very exciting, with speed and strength from top to bottom. Deebo and Aiyuk are no brainers at the top of the depth chart The preseason breakout star for the entire team has to be Trent Sherfield. He has continuously impressed — specifically with Lance under center. However, what happens next isn’t so clear. Sanu brings a veteran stability, along with his trademark size and speed, and his name popped up a lot in camp highlights. I’d love to see Jauan Jennings make the team, as he shown improvement from last year. Kyle has reiterated how much confidence he has in Jalen Hurd’s abilities, but posed the question of whether he can be relied upon to stay healthy (he hasn’t played a single meaningful NFL game in his 2 years in the league). He finally returned to the field on Sunday, but wasn’t as impressive as the hype from the fans warranted. HE finished the day with 4 catches for 25 yards (on 6 targets). His return to the field was definitely promising, but was it enough?
Now that Richie James has been waived, I’d like to think that Shanahan has been as impressed with the special teams contributions of Nsimba Webster, and that might just help him punch his ticket onto the team. In addition, the 49ers gave River Cracraft a 1-year contract extension, which suggests he’ll at the very least be in consideration for the last spot in the group.
The offensive line has looked great at the top of the depth chart, with Trent Williams retaining the title of the league’s best LT. Laken Tomlinson is a rock at LG and new addition Alex Mack has just slotted in and been performing at his high level. Rookie Aaron Banks seems to be still adjusting to playing guard at the pro level, so the starting RG will likely be Brunskill. RT will remain McGlinchey’s. Behind the starters are a few players with the versatility to step into multiple positions and perform well enough to keep the QB upright and create gaps just for a half second, so Raheem can zip on through. Tom Compton and Colton McKivitz can do this, along with hopefully rookie Jaylon Moore. In addition, I’d love to see a little more of big Alfredo, but it’s very unlikely he makes the cut. The final spot might go to Shepley or Kelemete.