49ers

Breaking down the 49ers' 53-man roster entering Week 1

breida-matt-49ers-chiefs.jpg
USATI

Breaking down the 49ers' 53-man roster entering Week 1

The 49ers open the regular season on Sunday against the Carolina Panthers at Levi's Stadium. And after a weekend of cuts and one waiver claim, here is how their 53-man roster shapes up at the beginning of the regular season:

Quarterback (2)
C.J. Beathard*
Brian Hoyer
There was never a question from the moment the 49ers targeted and signed Hoyer on the first day of free agency that he was the starter. Beathard beat out Matt Barkley for the backup job, but Barkley is only a phone call away in case he is needed due to an injury. The 49ers also have undrafted rookie Nick Mullens in the building to serve on the practice squad.

Running back (4)
Matt Breida*
Carlos Hyde
Kyle Juszczyk
Raheem Mostert
Hyde was the No. 1 running back all along, a status he strengthened during training camp when he reported in great shape. At 228 pounds, he said it’s the lightest he has been since high school. Breida, an undrafted rookie from Georgia Southern, clearly outperformed fourth-round draft pick Joe Williams, whom the 49ers placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury. “Carlos is going to be featured in this deal, but Matt Breida is very much a part of our plans,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said. Mostert figures to be a core special teams player. The 49ers could also re-sign veteran Tim Hightower if they need help at any point in the season.

Wide receiver (6)
Victor Bolden*
Kendrick Bourne*
Pierre Garçon
Marquise Goodwin
Aldrick Robinson
Trent Taylor*
The 49ers retained six wide receivers, and their leading receiver from a year ago is not one of them. The new 49ers regime signed Jeremy Kerley to a contract extension in March – before they began adding the six receivers who ended up making the 53-man roster. Garçon and Goodwin are the starters, and Taylor takes over in the slot. Bolden and Bourne, both undrafted rookies, played their way onto the roster with their play on offense and special teams.

Tight end (3)
Garrett Celek
George Kittle*
Logan Paulsen
The trade that sent Vance McDonald to the Pittsburgh Steelers all but assured these three players of their spots on the 53-man roster. Kittle, a fifth-round draft pick, had a good offseason program and training camp. He could be in line to open the season as the starter, ahead of the two veterans. Paulsen is considered a blocking specialist.

Offensive line (9)
Zane Beadles
Trent Brown
Brandon Fusco
Garry Gilliam
Daniel Kilgore
Erik Magnuson*
Joe Staley
John Theus
Laken Tomlinson
The 49ers did something about their shortage of guards on Thursday with the acquisition of Tomlinson in a trade with the Detroit Lions. It will be difficult for Tomlinson to win a starting job for Week 1, but it appears as if Beadles’ spot at left guard is the most vulnerable. Fusco is the starter at the other guard spot. The 49ers feel secure with left tackle Joe Staley, right tackle Trent Brown and center Daniel Kilgore. Joshua Garnett, a first-round pick in 2016, will spend the entire season on injured reserve after undergoing knee surgery.

Defensive line (10)
Arik Armstead
DeForest Buckner
Tank Carradine
Xavier Cooper
Elvis Dumervil
D.J. Jones*
Aaron Lynch
Earl Mitchell
Pita Taumoepenu*
Solomon Thomas*
As training camp wound down, the 49ers had three defensive tackles competing for one backup job behind Buckner. In the end, the 49ers cut Quinton Dial and Sen’Derrick Marks, and placed Chris Jones on injured reserve. The 49ers claimed Cooper, a 2015 third-round pick of the Cleveland Browns, off waivers to replace all of them. Carradine, Mitchell, Buckner and Armstead appear to comprise the line on base downs. There will be a significant role for Thomas, the No. 3 overall pick. Pass-rushers Dumervil and Lynch also figure into the rotation.

Linebacker (6)
Ray-Ray Armstrong
NaVorro Bowman
Brock Coyle
Reuben Foster*
Eli Harold
Dekoda Watson
The combination of Harold and Watson convinced the 49ers that Ahmad Brooks was expendable at the strong-side linebacker position. The 49ers feel very good about Bowman and Foster on the inside. Foster, who might already be the team's most dynamic player, has made a strong case to remain on the field for all of the 49ers’ defensive packages.

Cornerback (5)
Dontae Johnson
Keith Reaser
Rashard Robinson
K'Waun Williams
Ahkello Witherspoon*
Robinson and Johnson convincingly won the starting jobs on the outside. And Williams may have come through with the best camp of any of the 49ers’ defensive backs. But after those three, there are some question marks. Reaser won the job over veteran Asa Jackson, who will remain with the club on a practice squad exemption. Witherspoon, a third-round draft pick, is worth developing.

Safety (5)
Adrian Colbert*
Lorenzo Jerome*
Eric Reid
Jaquiski Tartt
Jimmie Ward
Reid and Ward are big keys to Robert Saleh’s defense. While Reid looked good in his role as a box safety, there remain questions surrounding Ward. He sustained a hamstring injury during the conditioning test on the eve of training camp and has yet to fully recover. It is unclear if Ward will be available for the opening of the regular season. Tartt or Jerome would fill in at free safety if Ward is not cleared to play.

Specialists (3)
Robbie Gould
Bradley Pinion
Kyle Nelson
Gould has big shoes to fill, as he takes over for Phil Dawson, who now kicks for the Arizona Cardinals. Pinion is expected to make a big jump in production in his third season on the job.

Injured reserve
DL Ronald Blair (designated to return)
WR Aaron Burbridge
G Joshua Garnett
LB Jimmie Gilbert*
CB Prince Charles Iworah
DB Chanceller James*
WR B.J. Johnson*
DT Chris Jones
DB Don Jones
LB Donavin Newsome*
CB Will Redmond
LB Malcolm Smith
RB Joe Williams*

*-Rookies

Inactives: 49ers third-round pick yet to make his debut

ahkello-us.jpg
USATSI

Inactives: 49ers third-round pick yet to make his debut

As the 49ers take on the Rams on Thursday Night Football, the team will be without five defenders and two from offense. 

Ahkello Witherspoon, who the team drafted in the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft, will have to wait to make his debut another week. 

Below is the full list of inactives from Insider Matt Maiocco. 

49ers building defensive identity: 'We can help ourselves a lot by...'

49ers-gang-tackle-seahawks.jpg
AP

49ers building defensive identity: 'We can help ourselves a lot by...'

SANTA CLARA – After spending the past three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, inside linebacker Brock Coyle knows how it is supposed to look.

And he believes the 49ers have gotten off to a good start under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who has installed a scheme based on the Seahawks’ blueprint.

“What’s really cool about this defense is if you look at Seattle, Jacksonville and Atlanta, they all have their different traits, their different personalties and their characteristics,” Coyle said. “And we’re building our own identity on defense.

“You see guys flying around and growing. And this was just our second regular-season game together in this defense.”

Saleh uses such terms as “all gas no brakes” and “extreme violence” to describe the kind of style he wants to see from his defense. In the 49ers’ 12-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the 49ers seemed to compete physically with the Seahawks for the first time in a long time.

On the first possession of the game, 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt set the tone when he separated Seattle tight end Jimmy Graham from the ball with a big hit. Graham was never a factor in the game, catching just one pass for 1 yard.

“If you’re looking from a progress standpoint, I don’t look at so much production as much as what it looks like on tape and the violence, the speed, attacking the ball, that’s what I’m excited about,” Saleh said.

The 49ers will have another chance on a quick turnaround to establish that identity on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium.

Rookie linebacker Reuben Foster will miss his second game in a row with a high-ankle sprain. Ray-Ray Armstrong started against Seattle, alongside NaVorro Bowman, but Saleh said Coyle also fits into his plan.

Coyle entered the game at Seattle in the first half in place of Armstrong, and Saleh hinted he could use both players more interchangeably until Foster returns.

“He deserves it,” Saleh said of Coyle. “He works his tail off and he works hard and we wanted to make sure that we got him some more reps. And to be honest with you, I feel he should probably get a little bit more.

“He’s a great communicator and knows everybody’s job on the football field. He’s very, very strong at the point of attack and he is pretty athletic and fast.”

The 49ers' physicality is showing up on the early downs, as the defense leads the league in allowing just 2.7 yards per play on first downs. But the 49ers have to get a lot better on the down that matters most. The 49ers rank 23rd on third downs, allowing the opposition through two games to convert 46.9 percent of their opportunities.

“Third down is a major emphasis -- every week it is," Saleh said. "We faced 12 more plays than we needed to that first drive just because a lack of execution on that first third-down and 9. We were in great position to get off the field.

"We’ve got to tackle and that takes all 11 running to the ball because a lot of times that first guy does miss, but we can help ourselves a lot by being better on third down for sure.”