Roster surprises

Josh Shaw in, Michael Landry out. Rob Murphy in, Dwayne Ledford and Scott Rehberg out. Kevin Ware in, Gabe Crecion out. Yes, the 49ers had a few surprises Sunday when they cut down to their final 53-man roster.

The biggest surprise may have been Landry, the 317-pound veteran who distinguished himself earlier this spring and summer as a viable option along the defensive interior, then spent the past four weeks as the third tackle on the team's depth chart behind starters Bryant Young and Anthony Adams.

But Landry struggled against front-line players in the preseason, failing to use his size as leverage in the trenches, and the team went with latecomer Josh Shaw instead. The Niners also will use ends Riddick Parker and Brandon Whiting - when he's healthy - as tackles in some situations. It's also possible - and perhaps even likely - that the Niners will take a close look at the waiver wire and acquire another defensive tackle in the next few days.

When asked what happened with Landry, who appeared to have a roster berth locked by his status on the depth chart, Niners coach Dennis Erickson said, "Basically, just one thing. Josh Shaw beat him out. They competed against each other, they competed ever since camp (began). At one time Mike was ahead, but Josh the last 2 1/2 weeks has played very, very well. It has nothing to do with Mike. Josh has just emerged and ended up being the guy we kept."

Murphy was the pick over Ledford and Rehberg, each of whom has experience and can play several positions along the line. At one point, Ledford looked to be the seventh or eighth option along the line, but Murphy squeezed past him into the eighth slot.

Rehberg and Ledford both were left out when the Niners opted to keep nine defensive linemen and just eight offensive linemen instead of the other way around. The Niners made that decision to keep injured defensive ends Andrew Williams and Brandon Whiting on the roster while they heal from injuries. Unheralded end Chris Demaree also made it along the defensive line.

"Rob Murphy gives you a little bit more versatility is what happened," Erickson said. "Dwayne can play center and guard, but Murphy can play center and guard and tackle and that is what it boiled down to. We feel that Murphy can move out to left tackle to right tackle to guard and he can even play center. So his versatility was the difference there."

Ware also offers the Niners some versatility at tight end, since he can line up at H-back and the team can move him as a blocker from the backfield. Although Crecion had a fine preseason, tying for the team lead with 11 receptions, it's more important for the Niners that their third tight end is a strong blocker.

Since the Niners are hurting at fullback with Fred Beasley and Jasen Isom still banged up with the season opener looming next Sunday, Ware also provides insurance as a blocking H-back.

"Exactly," Erickson said. "We can move him and he can do that kind of thing. That is why we kept him. He can block ends. We can move him and, really, we have got Eric (Johnson) and he is an outstanding pass receiver. So, really, our third tight end has to be a move guy, a guy that can block. That is the No. 1 priority at that position. Kevin, before he got hurt, we thought he was as good a blocker as we had at the position. The reason that he is here is that he can block. We feel that he can do some things that we need to have done at tight end."

The Niners also decided to keep five cornerbacks on their final roster, which secured a roster berth for second-year player Joselio Hanson and probably slid either Ledford, Rehberg or impressive running back/kick returner Maurice Hicks off the final list.

"We have always done that, and that's because of the nickel (coverage package)," Erickson said. "You have to have guys that can play outside, you have got to have guys that can move inside and play man in four wide receivers. You have to have corners that can go inside and cover those receivers and in dime you have got to be able to do that, so that is why we kept five corners. We feel Joselio Hanson can go in and cover guys inside or go outside and have someone else come inside. So, to me, it is all about having nickel and dime and keeping five corners."

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