49ers Mailbag: Does depth concern limit Kaepernick's running?

Three and Out: Competition fierce at QB, CB, LS

49ers Mailbag: Does depth concern limit Kaepernick's running?
August 24, 2013, 9:15 am
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Expect Colin Kaepernick to be the second-leading rusher on the team.
Matt Maiocco


LaMichael James' biggest offensive impact is likely to come as a kick returner. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

The 49ers' quarterback situation went from murky to muddled this week with the addition of veteran Seneca Wallace.

All five quarterbacks are scheduled to play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said. Wallace enters the fray, as he competes for a backup job against Colt McCoy, Scott Tolzien and rookie B.J. Daniels.

Those aren't the only questions surrounding the 49ers with two exhibition games remaining. For a few others, we enlist the help of our friends on Twitter and open the 49ers Mailbag:

Will Kap be forced not to run as much since we have no backup QB? (@SantaRosaKevin)
The read option was still a large part of the 49ers playbook during training camp. Each of the team's quarterbacks ran it.

It's something Colin Kaepernick does very well, so they will continue to do it. Kaepernick has a good feel for when to hand it off and when to keep it. He has also shown good awareness at avoiding hits.

His running ability is part of what makes him such a dangerous player to defend. He will still run with the football. Expect him to be the second-leading rusher on the team.

Should the 49ers fear cutting a QB because of their knowledge of the play book? (@TeddyVerdun)
No. I do not envision a team claiming any 49ers quarterback who gets released. The exception might be Daniels because of his youth and skill set.

Every team knows what's in the 49ers' playbook. The 49ers' offense is game-plan specific. The emphasis of it can change from week-to-week, depending on the opponent. That kind of intel is something a player who leaves the 49ers at this time of the year will not be able to take with him.

What do you see as James' role on offense? Split wide as a receiver much? On field with Gore? (@jb49ers80)
Assuming Kendall Hunter has no issues in his return from his Achilles injury, LaMichael James will be the 49ers' third running back.

James' role as the No. 3 running back could be minimal. The most likely role would be when the 49ers spread things out as part of their read-option game. I haven't seen him split out wide often and I'm not sure I've ever seen him in the same backfield as Frank Gore.

The 49ers really hope James is a reliable return man. That will put the ball in his hands several times a game in lieu of offensive playing time.

What would be fair expectations for Baldwin? (@al_guzman)
Jon Baldwin will be on the 49ers' 53-man roster. His upside is greater than anyone else the 49ers will end up cutting. It's fair to give him some time to become familiar with the offense. But this is a guy who was a first-round draft pick just two years ago.

What's fair and what isn't? I don't know. I certainly don't want to get into labeling these guys. It'll all be determined by how they perform in games and behind closed doors at practice.

Right now, Kyle Williams and Marlon Moore are the front-runners to be on the field with Anquan Boldin in two-receiver formations. If those guys are not producing, Baldwin would get his chance early in the season to become the No. 3 guy. And if that goes well, he could work his way into the starting job at split end. He probably has more physical talent than any of the other wide receivers. If his hands cooperate, he could play a factor in this offenses. That's fair, right?

Does Bubba Ventrone make Dahl expendable? (@kbreitkreutz49)
Craig Dahl has something none of the other backup safeties brings to the table. He has been a starter. In fact, he started all 16 games for the St. Louis Rams last season.

Ventrone is not a safety. I didn't see him take one rep at safety all summer. He is a special-teams guy. He has a good chance to win a roster spot based on his play as punter Andy Lee's personal protector -- a role Dashon Goldson held a year ago.

After a week of training camp, I had a strong sense Dahl might get cut. But he's been an effective player over the past several weeks. I do not believe he is totally safe, though. If the 49ers believe C.J. Spillman is a better third safety behind presumptive starters Donte Whitner and Eric Reid, then Dahl's role is in question. But I think Dahl is good insurance at the safety position. He was used as Lee's personal protector in Ventrone's absence. As I see it, Dahl can make Ventrone expendable.

Jerod-Eddie or Tukuafu? (@mvick19)
Will Tukuafu gave the 49ers some value last season as a two-way player. But I didn't see him play any fullback this summer. Tony Jerod-Eddie made his way onto the 53-man roster late last season as a defensive tackle, and he was the first player defensive coordinator Vic Fangio mentioned this week when speaking of the team's depth.

"We've been able to develop some good depth at some places, other places not as quality as we have at some of the other places," Fangio said. "But we've had Tony Jerod-Eddie, (Demarcus) Dobbs, (Glenn) Dorsey, those guys have gone in there and done a good job up front."

Jerod-Eddie made a mark with a roughing-the-passer penalty against Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith a week ago. I placed Tukuafu over Jerod-Eddie on my projected 53-man roster, but my confidence rating is not particularly high.

 

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