Less than 24 hours after the 49ers play the Broncos on Sunday come the first cuts of the preseason. That's when the NFL requires teams to trim their rosters from 90 to 75 players. San Francisco's defense may be returning all of its starters from last season, but there are many backup positions still to be won between now and Monday.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said he needs at least one of the five reserve safeties to step up and make it clear who should back up Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson. Those five being four-year veterans C.J. Spillman and Darcel McBath, second year player Colin Jones, sixth round pick Trenton Robinson and undrafted rookie free agent Michael Thomas. My colleague, Matt Maiocco, has more on the five here:
MAIOCCO: Fangio looks for reserve safety to step up
One aspect the safeties like about Fangios system is the free and strong positions are fairly interchangeable allowing the players to learn both simultaneously. They all feel fairly comfortable in either position, but getting reps at game speed has been difficult this preseason.
The one thing thats happened in these first two preseason games, which is a little unusual, is weve been in the low 50s in both games with plays. Usually youre in the mid 60s, Fangio said. Weve lost at least 20 to 30 plays that you normally would get, that we havent gotten, just because the way the games have turned out. Weve kind of lost some reps for our younger guys that way."
Though Fangio acknowledged the players get plenty of reps in practice.
I was able to talk to three of the players about their individual situations. Here is what they had to say:
When Im given an opportunity I want to make the best of it. Special teams is primarily what Im here for, but whenever any opportunity comes up and I can help make this team better I just need to take advantage of it and do the best I can.
Actually, the last game was the first game Ive ever gotten defensive reps in before, so that was pretty exciting. (He played 10 snaps at strong safety against the Texans.) So kind of grow from there and get better, work things out on film that I did wrong. All I can do is get better each and every day.
Im very comfortable just knowing the defense but obviously you want to have the more reps in practice. The more youre out there, the more comfortable youll feel. I feel like Ive grasped it, but Ive still got a ways to go. Like coach says, he wants somebody just to step up and take it. We are given the opportunity we just got to make it happen.
When youre a guy thats being played at both positions you have to know everything, and you might not even get as many reps as other guys but whenever they put you in, you have to know it. Ive been playing strong this whole camp but whenever they do put me at free safety Im able to pick it up right then.
The way I work Im going to go out and try to get better, try to prove to the coaches that they can trust me on the field that Ill do the right thing. Im not really thinking about the third position or the fourth position, Im just trying to prove that I can be a player.
C.J. played a little bit in this system last year. I was little behind the eight ball trying to learn everything, and I dont want to think that I had a leg up on anybody, because of his NFL experience I just try to come to work and put my best foot forward.
Im feeling a lot more comfortable by the day, by the hour, by the meeting. Im happy about that. Not really thinking about the calls anymore. Just getting the call and going out and playing instead of going through it in my mind and things like that. Hopefully it will transfer over to the field, and I think it has been a little bit more and more in this past week, week and a half or so. Hopefully this week Ill get a little bit better and come up with some balls or something.