Consequential decisions

Upon further review, it wasn't as bad as it looked Thursday night, Dennis Erickson insisted Friday. The defensive deficiencies that were on display for the second straight week "can be corrected," Erickson said, "and that's got to be done. We did a lot of different things, and we're sitting down to see what is the best thing to do with the players we have. When we make that decision we'll be a lot better against the run and overall defensively."

That's only one of several consequential decisions the Niners must make over the next 48 hours. They must have their roster down to the NFL-mandated 53-player limit by Sunday.

Here's where the Niners stand on several subjects entering the weekend:

--- Running back Terry Jackson and receiver Curtis Conway both will make the team, Erickson said, quelling rumors that those two veterans might be possible roster casualties because of their veteran salaries.

--- Running backs Jamal Robertson and Maurice Hicks are competing for one roster spot, and the Niners have yet to make that decision.

--- Erickson said backup center Brock Gutierrez, backup fullback Jasen Isom and starting safety Tony Parrish all will return to practice on Monday - the players are off for the next three days - which, in effect, is another way of saying both Isom and Gutierrez will make the team.

--- That means reserve Matt Stanley - who started the past two games at fullback with Fred Beasley and Isom out with injuries - is unlikely to make the 53-man roster, though Erickson said Stanley had "a tremendous camp. We're evaluating what we're going to do with Matt. We haven't made that decision. Obviously, he's on the bubble, but he's had a great camp."

--- Beasley, who suffered a high ankle sprain Aug. 14, is "50-50" to play against Atlanta in the Sept. 12 season opener. If Beasley can't go, Isom would start in his place, Erickson said.

--- Erickson said the team would announce who will start at right guard between Kyle Kosier and rookie Justin Smiley by Monday's practice.

--- Rashaun Woods has apparently vaulted back into the plans at receiver after his impressive performance Thursday against the Chargers, and is now battling Arnaz Battle for the role as the team's fourth receiver. "Right now, you'd say he's five, but he's working his way up," Erickson said. "He just hasn't played."

--- Battle will play a huge role on special teams this year, which may actually help Woods' chances of being used before Battle as a receiver. "Arnaz is so valuable on special teams," said Erickson, who said Battle's fumble on a punt return wouldn't shake the team's confidence in making him its punt returner to start the season. "Arnaz is our most reliable guy. He dropped one last night, but he never drops them. Yes, I feel comfortable with him back there."

--- Second-year defensive end Andrew Williams, who broke his left leg in early August, is probably four or five weeks from playing, Erickson said.

--- Josh Shaw helped his chance in a big way Thursday in the running for a roster berth at backup tackle. "He played the best he has all training camp," Erickson said.


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