49ers make tough calls on Hawkins, Jennings
Fourth-round draft pick Owen Marecic was released by the Cleveland Browns last week. (AP)
Fullback Owen Marecic, whom Jim Harbaugh once called "the perfect football player," is perfectly available for the 49ers to add to their roster.
Marecic worked out Saturday for the 49ers as the team's practice facility in Santa Clara, the team reported to the NFL. The 49ers have yet to announce any contract signing, and Harbaugh declined to comment on Marecic during a conference call Saturday afternoon to discuss the team's cuts to 53 players.
Marecic and Harbaugh overlapped at Stanford, where Marecic thrived as a two-way player. The Cleveland Browns selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft before Harbaugh could convince general manager Trent Baalke to select him.
Marecic saw equal time last season on offense and special teams for the Browns, who released him last week.
Now, let's go to the 49ers Mailbag to answer some questions submitted on Twitter:
What are your thoughts on the Niners RB situation? (@Doug_MnM)
Frank Gore is 30 years old, but he is still a reliable, capable running back. Kendall Hunter is a very good all-around back, too. Those two are clearly the top two running backs on the team.
Last year, LaMichael James never suited up for a game when both Gore and Hunter were healthy. Only after Hunter's injury did James get his chance for the final four games of the regular season and all three playoff games.
James will not be available to return punts and kickoffs for the first three or four games of the regular season due to a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He will not require surgery.
It's not a slam dunk James will have a role even when he is healthy. James struggled with his blocking and he seemed to go backward as much as forward during the exhibition season with 55 yards on 24 rushing attempts.
Marecic remains an option for the 49ers, but what would that mean? He's not better than Bruce Miller, the team's starting fullback. Marecic is a backup fullback and special-teams player. Anthony Dixon currently fills those roles. And Marecic is not as versatile as Dixon, who can fill in at halfback, if needed.
Marcus Lattimore begins the season on the reserve/non-football injury list. Do not expect to see him until the 2014 season. The 49ers would be well-served to bring back Jewel Hampton to the practice squad.
In other words, the 49ers' running back situation is in good shape.
What more did Hawkins have to do to make the team? (@odellgoes69)
There were a few factors working against Lavelle Hawkins, including the fact he did not really have much of an NFL resume. He caught just 71 passes in 54 NFL games over five seasons with the Tennessee Titans.
Once the 49ers made the trade for Jon Baldwin, whom they had rated very close to where the Kansas City Chiefs selected him in the first round of the 2011 draft, that took care of one roster spot. Baldwin's contract was guaranteed, so they were going to give him a long look and every chance to develop his potential.
Anquan Boldin and Quinton Patton were also locks. Marlon Moore showed mental and physical toughness through the offseason and training camp, practiced well and can play special teams. Kyle Williams knows the system inside and out, and might be the team's best option at punt-returner.
Hawkins does not return punts. And he does cover kickoffs and punts on special teams. He did not practice well enough to get into exhibition games against the opposition's top players, so two highlight-reel plays in the final two exhibition games were not going to be enough to leapfrog one of the other players ahead of him.
In fact, Hawkins might not have been even the sixth receiver. Chad Hall was consistent in practices, he demonstrated a great mentality to do whatever he could, including play defense and return punts. Harbaugh spoke highly of him on Saturday.
Is this an audition for Marlon Moore or Jon Baldwin to permanently stay with the team until Mario Manningham comes back? (@FriscoGiant49)
Yes, everyone is auditioning, really.
It's possible the 49ers keep a sixth receiver when Manningham is eligible to come of the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list after Week 6. We know Harbaugh likes to go with the "hot hand," so nothing has been decided at this point. Injuries could also factor into the equation of any transaction the 49ers make to clear a roster spot later in the season.
Right now, I doubt Baldwin will be among the 49ers' 46 active players for the season opener. He'll have to work his way into the action through some very good practices.
And, remember, the 49ers would have to clear another spot when Michael Crabtree is available to return to action, too.
With reports that Tolzien will be joining the Packers how much would he know of the week one game plan? (@MatthewTron)
The team is not being presented with the game plan for Week 1 until this week. The first on-field practice is Tuesday. Scott Tolzien is reportedly going to the Packers practice squad. Tolzien will not be able to give the Packers much insight into the specific 49ers plan against Green Bay. But the 49ers will have to change their verbal cues at the line of scrimmage to prevent the Packers from gaining a pre-snap advantage.
The backup OL play/talent is horrible. Do the Niners develop the same guys or look elsewhere? (@Jon_in_SoCal)
The 49ers are in a lot better shape than most teams in the NFL. A lot of teams do not even have a starting five. The 49ers feel good about the eight guys they have in their current roles. Veteran backup Adam Snyder has experience at every position on the offensive line. Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney showed plenty of promise. There's not another team in the league that would not be thrilled to have the 49ers' eight offensive linemen to open this season.