As we begin to rev up the engine for training camp, here’s some food for thought:
A tentative depth chart. This is how I think the roster stands as of today.
LWR: Randy Moss, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins
Analysis: Moss starts at split end. Kyle Williams backs him up and backs up Crabtree in the slot, but mostly plays as the second slot receiver in four-wide receiver formations. A.J. Jenkins backs up left WR, right WR and the slot.
RWR: Michael Crabtree, Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins, Ted Ginn Jr.
Analysis: Crabtree starts at flanker, but moves to the slot in the three- and four-wide receiver formations. Manningham is the first flanker off the bench. Ginn Jr. receives limited snaps to run the fly sweep.
LT: Joe Staley, Mike Person
LG: Mike Iupati, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney
C: Jonathan Goodwin, Daniel Kilgore, Jason Slowey
RG: Alex Boone, Daniel Kilgore, Jason Slowey
RT: Anthony Davis, Mike Person
TE: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Demarcus Dobbs
Analysis: Rather than devote an entire roster spot to a blocking tight end (Nate Byham), the Niners give the job to backup defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs. Konrad Reuland goes to the practice squad.
QB: Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Josh Johnson
Analysis: Scott Tolzien goes to the practice squad.
FB: Bruce Miller, Will Tukuafu
Analysis: Tukuafu, not Isaac Sopoaga, plays Jumbo fullback.
RB: Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter, Rock Cartwright
Analysis: Gore starts but splits carries with three other running backs. James gets most of the snaps in three- and four-wide receiver formations, Jacobs plays when the offense is near the goal line, and Hunter gets about ten touches a game on sweeps and screen passes.
LDT: Ray McDonald, Will Tukuafu
NT: Isaac Sopoaga, Ricky Jean Francois, Ian Williams
RDT: Justin Smith, Ricky Jean Francois, Demarcus Dobbs
Analysis: Tukuafu and Jean Francois are the primary backups. Williams is a project who could potentially take Sopoaga’s spot at nose tackle in the future. Ditto for Dobbs, who could replace Justin Smith when the aging defensive lineman retires in a few seasons.
LOLB: Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson
LILB: NaVorro Bowman, Larry Grant, Tavares Gooden
RILB: Patrick Willis, Larry Grant, Tavares Gooden
ROLB: Aldon Smith, Parys Haralson
Analysis: The Niners roll the dice and carry just three outside linebackers once again. They stash undrafted rookie defensive end Kourtnei Brown on the practice squad.
LCB: Carlos Rogers, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox
Analysis: Rogers moves to the slot against three-wide-receiver formations. Perrish Cox is the second slot corner. Culliver plays left cornerback in nickel and dime defenses.
SS: Donte Whitner, C.J. Spillman, Colin Jones
Analsysis: Whitner plays almost all of the snaps at this position. Spillman and Jones are key special team players.
FS: Dashon Goldson, C.J. Spillman, Trenton Robinson
Analysis: Like Whitner, Goldson plays almost all of the snaps at this position. Spillman is the main backup at both spots, and Robinson is a special teams contributor.
RCB: Tarell Brown, Tramaine Brock
P: Andy Lee
K: David Akers
LS: Brian Jennings
PR: Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, LaMichael James
KR: Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, LaMichael James
Analysis: Williams starts the season as the main backup, but James challenges him midway through the season as he improves his hands.