It’s make-or-break time for ‘bubble’ players on 49ers’ preseason roster

49ers running back Raheem Mostert runs with the ball

First order of business for the 49ers during tonight’s preseason game against the Chargers: Don’t play important players. The season starts a week from Sunday. Keep the starters healthy.

Second order of business: Make a list of the 45 best players on the roster, the players who definitely will make the team. These are the players the 49ers do not need to scrutinize in this game.

Third order of business: Of the remaining 45 players on the 90-man roster, make a list of the guys who have legitimate chances to win one of the final eight spots on the 53-man roster. These are the “bubble players” — the players the 49ers need to evaluate most in this game.

Here’s my list of bubble players, in no particular order. And here’s where they stand before tonight’s game.

Click here to read the rest of my 49ers-Chargers preview column, and be sure to check out the slideshow at the top.

This article has 89 Comments

  1. Great breakdown, Grant. I thought the plan was to hide Dirty-Tini and sneak him onto the practice squad. Why then would they want him to make plays in this game?

    I don’t think Pita or D.J. Jones would make it to the practice squad, so I think they make the team. I agree Dial should be in, and Jones is out. Williams Jr. OT should make the practice squad.

    Whoa…you’ve already got Tomlinson slated at #18? Over Buckner? Dunno ’bout that….

      1. I read that too, but when I got to the bottom of his list, punter, kicker and long snapper seemed to call into question that dis qualifier;>)

  2. Hope situations develop where we’ll see a number of FGs and XPs. An exceptionally strong outing by Rose could upend Gould.

    1. Every Rose has it’s thorn, and if he continues to kick well, you’d think they’d be willing to take some pricks along the way, given their youth movement, and the expectations for the team this year. Might end up with a great kicker by this time next year….

    2. CassieBaalke,

      I think we should take a page out of Bill Walsh’s playbook and advertise 49er job openings in the Chronicle for postions of need……Walsh had a sense of humor, day 1.

      And Cassie, imagine the jaw dropping when Walsh 1st took a look at that ’79 roster, forcing him to place that add in the first place…..Ha, Ha, Ha.

      1. Building a roster the Oakland Invader’s way…

        (USFL Invaders Webpage) — “An October 1982 free agent tryout camp attracted 692 prospective players. From that group, the Invaders ultimately signed 3 players.”

  3. Great read Grant.

    1 Barkley will be gone.
    2 Mostert makes the team.
    3 Williams will make the team. Shanny would be sick if he didn’t make the team.
    4 Hightower will be cut. Williams is just as good at cutting and Hyde and Mostert are just as good at receiving. We needed Hightower pre draft, but not anymore.
    5 and 6 Agree that we keep 3 TEs. Hikutini makes the team. Shanny wants a move TE, There was a lot of interest in Hikutini, he won’t make it to the PS.
    7 and 8 Tough call. I like Bourne better, but our STs has me worried.
    9 Yes, we will probably keep 4 Ts. I didn’t feel this way until the Staley injury. His Tendonitis may not be serious, but it isn’t going away.
    11 Magnuson to PS.

    1. Barkley may be gone (to bee seen), but if he is released, I’d expect him to be picked up given some of the holes in the QB position across the league–particularly in the backup ranks. He won’t be confused with Brady or Cam Newton, but he has experience and can hold his own if a starter goes down. I wouldn’t be stunned if he were traded this weekend for a 7th rounder.

  4. Has Joe Williams been given enough playing time to see what he can do? I say no.
    Hopefully that happens tonight.

    1. Wait and see. Shanny didn’t promote Breida last week, he got a look with the Ones. Joe may get more featured work tonight.

    1. Jesus Ratto has truly lost it. I usually like the guy and his whit and banter, but to think that the guy is the biggest name for the niners currently shows a true lack of attention. CK is a sideshow. The protests for him and claims of blackballing are idiotic.

      This story needs to end because it isn’t a story.

      And I see the irony in me talking about the guy.

              1. Primenocchio, you can’t stop. That’s why the lady boys are more attracted to your nose than your grub worm wearing a turtle neck….

              2. And like a moth to a flame, Razor starts to unravel.
                Dude you need to not let me get under your skin so easily.
                Simmer down now!

        1. I don’t read him much, because I generally don’t care for his articles. This is the worst of those.

  5. Defense

    12 I like DJ, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t make the team.
    13 Pita is a keeper. I hope the Niners agree.
    14 C Jones is a gritty guy. Good to have around, but replacable.
    15 Dial M for makes the team. Unless he is traded.
    16 I’ve been swayed. We will keep more that 9 DBs. Colbert makes the team.
    17 The sun sets on Vinnie.

  6. Shanahan’s career indicates he’s ready to adjust on the fly as head coach
    By Mindi Bach August 31, 2017 12:24 PM

    Change is the one constant in life and definitely, the one constant in life in the NFL. Mastering that change is why Kyle Shanahan is now the 49ers head coach.

    “You have to learn how to adjust. Me, going around having to work with different quarterbacks, being on different teams, I’ve been forced to do that,” Shanahan told NBC

    The crux of Shanahan’s experience came as he managed two starting quarterbacks in each of his four seasons as the OC in Washington and continually reworked the offense for three starting quarterbacks in his one season in the same position with Cleveland. But the difficulty of the task before him now is the most monumental.

    “I’m not sure who the 53 are going to be. The 37-year-old was hired to figure out what something will give the 49ers a chance to be successful again.

    There are a lot of things that can happen, a lot of things that could change.”

    Such as sending a draft pick to the Lions in exchange for offensive lineman Laken Tomlinson, as the 49ers did Thursday. Teams have until Saturday at 1 p.m. PT to determine their 53-man rosters. But as the trade for Tomlinson hours before kick off indicates, that deadline doesn’t mean much for the 49ers this season.

  7. Unless your a black that has been harassed been and attacked by the police like myself you have no right to speak on CK and his protest most of our kind truly understands the attack that we have faced since slavery even after slavery, so called being free, things haven’t changed too much for us @eMJay

    1. “Most of our kind truly understands………….”.

      I thought I was one of your kind-a human being who is going to answer to the same judge.
      But then, you’ll have to excuse my naive thoughts. I don’t differentiate by race. That’s what racists do.


    The 49ers, however, appear to have an issue with Zane Beadles at left guard. When they traded for Jeremy Zuttah in the offseason, there was talk that he could slide into Beadles’ left guard spot. Then the team was eager to see how well Joshua Garnett played left guard after he spent all of his rookie season on the right side. Garnett is now out for the near future — the first month of the season? — with a knee injury and Beadles is back at left guard. All evidence suggests the 49ers want Tomlinson to take his spot, which is a shame considering all the accolades Beadles received last year for his adaptability and dependability.

    1. # 80,

      Tomlinson has a nasty streak….Check out this block on a Seattle LB:

      click on Cam Inman, twitter. Go to the 3rd post down and click on the Seattle vs. Detroit video. He destroys a Seahawk LB.

          1. Show me where Tomlinson pulls, and pancakes a linebacker on his own. Then I’ll call it destruction. I call that chipping a guy that was double teamed, and off balance spinning into the chip block….

        1. Well…. Not exactly a sucker punch. I do like the attitude. How many other lineman would have just stood there, or lunged and whiffed? On that one clip it looks like 1970s football. I’m okay with the acquisition–we’ll see how it works out.

          Gotta give the guy credit that he didn’t slap the Seahawk LB on the head.

  9. Listening to the Better Rivals podcast. They mentioned that Armstead was playing big end against the Vikings and they thought he looked good and it might be a better spot for him than Leo. I haven’t seen this mentioned by anyone else.

    1. Hmm. Would Lynch start at LEO? Was Tank being damn near elite just trade bait? Will Thomas get reps at LEO this season?

      1. They mentioned that Tank took snaps at the LEO position. They also mentioned that Lynch is the 10th highest PFF rated player this preseason in the entire NFL. He’s played mostly against the twos, but maybe he’ll be the LEO.

    1. Now, understand, Commander, that torpedo did not self-destruct. You heard it hit the hull. And Iwas never here.

    2. Cubus,

      Looks like Armstead will be to the 49ers what 323 Lb, Red Bryant was to the Seahawks. It’s the perfect position freeing up Tank Carradine of ‘the King.”

      1. Then you have a bookend, with Aaron Lynch who PFF graded out the highest in the NFL last week for most QB pressures, pressuring from the opposite side.

        2017 49er 3rd down pass rush:

        Tank Carradine, Arik Armstead, Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Aaron Lynch

        1. During scrub time. Let’s face it, the guy have never been better than a second-tier pass-rusher with his 6.5 sack career best.

  10. There is loud speculation that safety T J Ward might be released by the Broncos outright, since they have been able to negotiate a trade. His salary is around 5 million per. I wonder, would he be a viable upgrade at our safety position along with Ward? Not sold on Tartt and Ward is susceptible to injuries as we know . . .

      1. Expect an exciting weekend, 49er in the Andes.

        If you found TJ Ward, you know Lynch /Shanny know him…..Imagine what this group can do this weekend after reshaping our passing game in only a few months to lightyears ahead of Baalke’s.

  11. Another interesting thing from the Better Rivals podcast is that Neumann feels the niners might only keep two TEs. Juice would effectively be the third TE, when needed.

      1. Curious… The long snapper is often viewed as a low-grade TE. Wonder if the 9ers have had Nelson practice with the TEs in any form?

            1. Agreed, just curious if he’s taken a rotation with the 2nd or 3rd team…


              “He played College football at New Mexico State as the backup Tight end, Fullback and Long snapper.”

              “You played all kinds of positions – and we saw you catch two touchdowns in Week 4 of the preseason – so at what point did you start specializing in snapping? [After college.] I grayshirted at Baylor and redshirted at University of Tulsa. Basically, when I redshirted at Tulsa, I got to play every position. I played cornerback, fullback, wide receiver, tight end, everything. It was awesome. But then I transferred to New Mexico State.”

              More context…


            2. Agreed, just curious if he’s taken a rotation with the 2nd or 3rd team…


              “He played College football at New Mexico State as the backup Tight end, Fullback and Long snapper.”

              “You played all kinds of positions – and we saw you catch two touchdowns in Week 4 of the preseason – so at what point did you start specializing in snapping? [After college.] I grayshirted at Baylor and redshirted at University of Tulsa. Basically, when I redshirted at Tulsa, I got to play every position. I played cornerback, fullback, wide receiver, tight end, everything. It was awesome. But then I transferred to New Mexico State.”

              1. Sorry for the dupe post. First one was swallowed by the ‘under moderation’ monster. Appears it ran all the way to the end and was pooped out. Good news.

  12. I said a couple of weeks ago there would be a few surprises in building the 53 man roster.
    Two players, A.Brooks and VMac are now gone and Kerley (who I also mentioned) may be out next.

    1. That tough catch by Taylor could have sealed Kerley’s fate. They might hold on to him this year for STs, but a trade or cut wouldn’t surprise me.

      Good call.

  13. It’s hard to predict an exhibition game with backups, so I’ll just be a homer.

    LA 0
    SF 49

    Witherspoon has 3 INTs.

    1. 31-19 9ers. Pita has a 70+ yard TD run on a fumble recovery. Rose gets another 55+ yard FG. Williams is pushed out of bounds after a 22 yard gain and takes out Shanahan’s knee.

  14. Apropos of nothing, I’m really hoping to see some unexpected signings once the cut comes…like an offensive lineman or two, plus a corner or two, and maybe a safety. Wouldn’t put it past our creative new Coach and GM.

  15. Lynch on Tomlison.

    “We just felt like we needed some depth there at the interior position and, heck, he’s a guy who was a first-round draft choice for a reason,” Lynch said. “It didn’t go as expected in Detroit. But we liked the film. The consistency probably needs to be there. You never know happens — new regime there (in Detroit), you never know with him. We feel like he fits well with what we do and we were thrilled to get him.”

    He said that Shanahan also evaluated Tomlinson during the 2015 draft process when Tomlinson was coming out of Duke.

  16. HA!
    Dee Phiant called it again!!!
    Grant NOW you are looking like the inside/insight sports writer with the shirt loose button/tie!!! Great pick!
    (See my previous posts)

  17. I can’t see Williams on the bubble. Given how infatuated Shanahan apparently was with him in the draft and the moments in which you’ve seen his flashes is more then enough to secure his spot for this season at the very least.

    “But Mostert and Matt Breida seem to have passed Williams on the depth chart”

    Which depth chart is that? Kyle is seeing what he needs to of his rookie RB in practice and would prefer to give the league as little tape on him as possible entering the season. If depth charts were created off of preseason performances most starting QB’s would be the #2 or #3 QB listed. Marcus Rush would have been our #1 OLB.

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