Projecting 53-man roster

Projecting 53-man roster

 

There are about a handful of roster spots that hang in the balance as the 49ers get set to play their final exhibition game Friday night against the San Diego Chargers.

 

Mike Singletary said his focus will be on getting the team ready to play the regular-season opener. But there are some first-year 49ers who still have some work to do – such as Kory Sheets, Bear Pascoe, Micheal Spurlock, Ricky Jean-Francois and Eric Green – to earn roster spots.

 

Today, I’m submitting my preliminary 53-man roster and eight-person practice squad. Of course, it’s subject to change – without written notification — depending on what happens toward the end of the week.

 

Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye outlined his plan for the offense today, and that factored into part of my thinking in establishing the roster.

 

“The ultimate goal in this deal,” Raye said, “is to try to get the balance. Balance for us will be closer to 60-40 run-pass.”

 

That is why I believe the 49ers will go heavy on running backs. I’m projecting the 49ers to keep two true fullbacks on the final roster, including one thumper who turns up after the final cuts.

 

As an aside . . . mark my words: If the 49ers run 60-percent of the time this season, they will win the NFC West and the 49ers’ defense will rank in the league’s top five.

 

Wanting to run 60-percent of the time is a lot easier said than done. When teams fall behind, at some point they must abandon the run. So, really, only a successful team can expect to run the ball the majority of the time.

 

OK, now on to the 49ers’ 53-man projection:

 

Quarterbacks (3) – Shaun Hill, Alex Smith, Nate Davis.

Hedging my bets: No hedging here. Damon Huard was cut just minutes ago, so that settles that.

 

Running backs (6) – Frank Gore, Moran Norris, Glen Coffee, Michael Robinson, Kory Sheets, UNNAMED FULLBACK NOT ON ROSTER.

Hedging my bets: The 49ers will go heavy at running back because this team wants to run the ball – regardless of what happens with their personnel. Sheets is on the bubble. But the kid has a lot of talent – too much to risk the possibility of losing him when his name hits the waiver wire.

 

Wide receivers (6) – Isaac Bruce, Josh Morgan, Arnaz Battle, Brandon Jones, Jason Hill, Michael Crabtree.

Hedging my bets: Yep, I’m including Crabtree on the 53-man roster. I think he’ll sign with the club before the start of the regular season. Battle and Hill are on the bubble, but I think both have value. The only way Micheal Spurlock makes the team is if the club determines he is a better option in the return game than Allen Rossum. If that’s the case, the club would part ways with Battle or Hill.

 

Tight ends (3) – Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, J.J. Finley

Hedging my bets: Maybe I’m thinking too much on this one. The 49ers are not going to keep four tight ends. Walker is a receiver, not a blocker. Therefore, either Finley or Bear Pascoe is going to make the team as a blocking tight end in short-yardage situations. The 49ers drafted Pascoe for that job. But when the 49ers have gotten into those situations in the exhibition games, it’s been Finley’s role. It seems to me this is a tipoff that Finley is leading the competition. (Unfortunately, I can’t say with any confidence that I agree with my own projection on this one.) I think Finley would clear waivers and end up on the practice squad, while Pascoe might get claimed by the other team in the Bay Area before the 49ers can place him on the P-squad.

 

Offensive line (8) – Joe Staley, David Baas, Eric Heitmann, Chilo Rachal, Adam Snyder, Tony Wragge, Barry Sims, Cody Wallace.

Hedging my bets: The 49ers might fill a roster spot at backup tackle with a player who is not currently on the roster. I don’t think Alex Boone is ready for the 53-man roster. Jacob Bender is OK, but he might be best-suited for the practice squad, too. Wallace makes it because he was a fourth-round pick last year, though Matt Spanos is bigger and more versatile.

 

Defensive line (6) – Justin Smith, Aubrayo Franklin, Isaac Sopoaga, Kentwan Balmer, Ray McDonald, Demetric Evans.

Hedging my bets: I agonized over Ricky Jean-Francois. This final week is big for him. Although Evans has not stood out during the exhibition season, he still offers the team experience and versatility. He can line up at either end spot or bump inside to rush the passer. RJF is a work in progress. He doesn’t have much to worry about because I think he’ll be earning an NFL paycheck this season. I’m just not sure if it’ll be with the 49ers or another team.

 

Linebackers (8) – Parys Haralson, Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, Manny Lawson, Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Ahmad Brooks, Marques Harris.

Hedging my bets: This one is pretty straight-forward (well, at least in my mind, it is). I assume defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will want to keep Harris on the team because of their background together with the Chargers. Undrafted rookie Diyral Briggs showed a lot, but I expect him to keep the dream alive on the practice squad.

 

Defensive backs (9) – Nate Clements, Tarell Brown, Dashon Goldson, Michael Lewis, Mark Roman, Dre’ Bly, Shawntae Spencer, Reggie Smith, Marcus Hudson.

Hedging my bets: Here’s a difficult one. I haven’t seen enough to Eric Green to rubber-stamp him on the final roster. Hudson gets the slight edge heading into the final exhibition game because of his value on special teams. Green played pretty well against the Cowboys. If he follows that up with another strong performance, he can earn a spot. Curtis Taylor shows a lot of promise, but I think he’ll get through waivers and end up on the practice squad.

 

Specialists (4) – Joe Nedney, Andy Lee, Brian Jennings, Allen Rossum.

Hedging my bets: The first three are locks. It is conceivable Spurlock could push Rossum out of a roster spot. Rossum has added value as an emergency cornerback.

 

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Practice squad (8): WR Dominique Zeigler, TE Bear Pascoe, G/C Matt Spanos, OT Alex Boone, OL/DL Khalif Mitchell, DL Ricky Jean-Francois, OLB Diyral Briggs, S Curtis Taylor.

Hedging my bets: Pascoe, Jean-Francois and Taylor are draft picks who could just as easily make the 53-man roster. That would open a spot for FB Brit Miller, who showed some promise in his first summer after converting from linebacker, and possibly CB Terrail Lambert.

 

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Remember what coach Mike Singletary said about Michael Crabtree on draft day? Think he regrets it? Think again. Read all about right here.

 

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