To get you prepped for Tuesday’s OTA, here are the 49ers’ top-five position battles.
1. Chris Culliver (6-0, 199 pounds, 25 years old) vs. Chris Cook (6-2, 212, 27) vs. Dontae Johnson (6-2, 200, 22) for No.2 cornerback
Culliver is the favorite – the 49ers spent a third-round pick on him in 2011. But he tore his ACL a year ago and does not seem to have fully recovered yet from that injury. He did not participate in position or team drills during last week’s open OTA. Tramaine Brock started at left cornerback, and Chris Cook started in Culliver’s place at right cornerback.
Cook got beat by Anquan Boldin during a one-on-one drill. But later during an 11-on-11 drill, Cook batted away a deep pass thrown by Colin Kaepernick intended for Brandon Lloyd.
Johnson played both left and right cornerback on the second-team defense during team drills last Thursday afternoon. During a one-on-one drills, he got beat by Devon Wylie and Kassim Osgood.
2. Jimmie Ward (5-11, 193, 22) vs. Perrish Cox (6-0, 190, 27) vs. Eric Wright (5-10, 200, 28) for No.3 (Nickel) cornerback
Ward is the favorite – the 49ers spent a first-round pick on him this year. But he will not participate in any of the OTAs or minicamps because he’s rehabbing a broken foot. If the foot completely heals by the time training camp starts, Ward probably will win this job.
He’ll have to earn it, though. Perrish Cox is extremely competitive and he tends to play well during offseason practices. Last Thursday, he broke up a potential touchdown pass from Colin Kaepernick to Kassim Osgood in the red zone. And two years ago during an 11-on-11 live-tackling team drill, Cox knocked Anthony Dixon onto his back.
Wright may be better in coverage than Cox or Ward. Wright used to be a starting CB for the Lions and the Buccaneers. He’s faster and apparently bigger than Ward or Cox – the 49ers list Wright at 200 pounds this year. But he seems to have injured himself already – he observed last Thursday’s practice from the sideline.
3. Stevie Johnson (6-2, 207, 27) vs. Brandon Lloyd (6-0, 200, 32) vs. Quinton Patton (6-0, 204, 23) v. Bruce Ellington (5-9, 197, 22) for No.3 wide receiver
Johnson is the favorite – he’s set to earn more money than the others. But Johnson didn’t play well last season, mostly due to injuries. And he seems to have injured himself already this offseason. He didn’t participate in last Thursday’s practice. Jim Harbaugh said Johnson is working through something.
Lloyd was the best receiver on the field last Thursday afternoon. He was the only receiver who caught a touchdown during team drills.
Patton played very well, too. He rotated in with the first-team offense and beat Brock twice during a one-on-one drill, and once during a seven-on-seven drill.
Ellington played with the second-team offense.
4. Marcus Martin (6-3, 321, 20) vs. Daniel Kilgore (6-3, 308, 26) for center
Martin is the favorite, even though he’s a 20-year-old rookie. The 49ers spent a third-round pick on him this year. They wouldn’t have picked him if they had confidence in Kilgore, whom they drafted in the fifth round in 2011. Don’t be surprised if Martin starts taking first-team reps halfway through training camp.
5. Tank Carradine (6-4, 273, 24) vs. Demarcus Dobbs (6-2, 282, 26) for Justin Smith and Ray McDonald’s backup
Smith is getting old and McDonald isn’t much of a pass rusher. The 49ers need a defensive tackle who can rotate in with Smith and McDonald and rush the passer on third down in the 49ers’ sub packages.
Carradine is the favorite – the 49ers spent a second-round pick on him in 2013. But he tore his ACL last year, and the 49ers are bringing him back slowly. If he does not play well during training camp, he could fall behind Dobbs because Dobbs always plays well during training camp.
Dobbs is almost ten pounds heavier than Carradine, too. Carradine might be better suited to play defensive end in the 49ers’ sub packages next season.
Check back Tuesday afternoon for a complete report on the 49ers’ OTA and an update on the top-five position battles.