Projected 49ers' 53-man roster and practice squad

August 24, 2012, 7:09 pm
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The 49ers are halfway through their exhibition season. After their game Sunday at the Denver Broncos, they must trim 37 players off their roster over a period of five days.NFL teams must cut from 90-man rosters to a maximum of 75 prior to Monday, 1 p.m. Then, they must arrive at 53 players before Friday, Aug. 31, 6 p.m.Injuries can still play a role in several of the final decisions, but here's my projected 53-man roster:Quarterbacks (4)
Alex Smith
Colin Kaepernick
Josh Johnson
Scott Tolzien
(Yes, that's right, four quarterbacks. It's a difficult call between Johnson and Tolzien, so the 49ers keep both of them. Let's face it, GM Trent Baalke would love to find a trade partner to pick up a late-round draft pick for Johnson or Tolzien. It might not seem likely the 49ers keep four QBs, but I don't believe it's so far-fetched, either. Tolzien has practice-squad eligibility. If the 49ers were to cut Tolzien, would they bring him back to the practice squad? If the answer is yes, then there's really no difference in just keeping him on the 53-man roster. The final seven players on the 53-man roster are just better-paid members of the practice squad, anyway. The only difference is that players retained on the 53-man roster never become available for any team to pluck off the waiver wire. Injuries happen, and at some point early in the season, a team with a need at quarterback might come calling. If I were to choose between Johnson and Tolzien at this point, I'd lean toward Tolzien.)Running backs (6)
Frank Gore
Bruce Miller
Kendall Hunter
Brandon Jacobs
LaMichael James
Rock Cartwright
(Cartwright's spot is the most tenuous. But the 49ers kept three players in addition to the specialists a year ago just for the sole purpose of their contributions on special teams. That decision paid off a year ago with outstanding coverage units. Cartwright would take the place of Blake Costanzo, now with the Chicago Bears. Anthony Dixon had a good camp, but there does not appear to be any room for him. If healthy, each of these players would be active on game days.)Wide receivers (6)
Michael Crabtree
Randy Moss
Mario Manningham
Ted Ginn
Kyle Williams
A.J. Jenkins
(This group looks solid. Williams sticks around after a good camp as a wideout. He also showed to be the second-best option on punt returns. Jenkins and Williams would probably not suit up for games unless there is an injury at this position.)Tight ends (3)
Vernon Davis
Delanie Walker
Demarcus Dobbs
(Dobbs' ability as a two-way player gives the 49ers position flexibility when it comes to their 53-man roster. He can also serve roles at tight end and on the defensive line as one of the 46 players to suit up.)Offensive line (9)
Joe Staley
Mike Iupati
Jonathan Goodwin
Alex Boone
Anthony Davis
Leonard Davis
Daniel Kilgore
Mike Person
Joe Looney
(If any of the guards or tackles had to be removed in the course of a game, Davis would enter and, if needed, Boone would shift to tackle. Kilgore would be the other offensive lineman to suit up based on his status as the team's backup center.)Defensive line (5)
Ray McDonald
Isaac Sopoaga
Justin Smith
Ricky Jean Francois
Will Tukuafu
(Dobbs, listed as a tight end, is also a backup here. So that means Tukuafu could be one of the team's inactive players. The big dilemma is Ian Williams, who was much-improved over a year ago. But the 49ers want all the backup linemen to play every position. Williams has worked primarily at nose tackle, while the other players are more versatile. If Williams is cut, there's a chance he could get claimed off waivers. If not, he'd be back on the practice squad.)Linebackers (7)
Ahmad Brooks
NaVorro Bowman
Patrick Willis
Aldon Smith
Parys Haralson
Larry Grant
Tavares Gooden
(Right now, the best guess is the 49ers will again keep three outside linebackers. That could change, of course, based on how Ikaika Alama-Francis fares in these two exhibition games. Eric Bakhtiari also has to be considered in the mix. Don't sleep on Michael Wilhoite, who has a chance to earn one of the backup roles with strong play on special teams.)Cornerbacks (5)
Carlos Rogers
Tarell Brown
Chris Culliver
Perrish Cox
Tramaine Brock
(There shouldn't be many questions about this group. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio says the 49ers need to find a role for Cox. Might Culliver's late-camp knee injury open the door for Cox to replace him? Brock could be inactive for games.)Safeties (5)
Dashon Goldson
Donte Whitner
C.J. Spillman
Trenton Robinson
Colin Jones
(Spillman appears to be in line as the No. 3 safety, but Fangio was up-front when he said none of the safeties behind the starters has stepped up and played up to expectations. Jones wins a roster spot for his special-teams coverage skills. Robinson is a developmental player, and likely might not suit up early in the season.)Specialists (3)
David Akers
Andy Lee
Brian Jennings
(The Pro Bowl trio is going nowhere.) Eight-player practice squad
WR Chris Owusu
TE Konrad Reuland
OL Jason Slowey
OL Derek Hall
DL Ian Williams
OLB Kourtnei Brown
ILB Michael Wilhoite
S Michael Thomas
(Again, another tough call with Owusu, Nathan Palmer and Brian Tyms at wideout. Chase Beeler is definitely in the mix, and Slowey is not a sure thing, despite being a sixth-round draft pick. Cory Nelms is also a serious option because he can serve a number of different scout-team roles on offense and as a defensive back.) Where does your opinion differ? Tell me where I'll be wrong and, if you're correct, you'll receive a shout-out for your incredible ability to project the 49ers' 53-man roster. Three conditions: 1) Your projection must be made before Sunday's game; 2) The first person in the comments section to correctly state any one roster adjustment wins; and 3) You can't be incorrect with any of your other guesses. (In other words, you can't take a whole bunch of shots in the dark and get lucky with one.)

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