Breaking down the Niners' final roster cutdowns

The biggest surprise was Willie Middlebrooks. Or maybe that wasn't such a big surprise. The 49ers are going young this season with a refreshed roster, and a veteran such as Middlebrooks had to be better than other new talent at his position to make the team. He wasn't. It was like that for a few other veteran holdovers, along with a pack of youngsters who aren't quite ready for NFL jobs. Here's a detailed look at each of the 15 players waived by the 49ers on Saturday, along with the reasons why.

CB Willie Middlebrooks: Middlebrooks joined the team in a July trade that sent DE John Engelberger to Denver, and the purpose of that trade was for the fifth-year veteran to come in and grab hold of the third cornerback duties and push starters Ahmed Plummer and Shawntae Spencer. Middlebrooks started in place of an injured Spencer in the first two exhibition games, and he didn't look bad during the preseason, tying for second on the team with 16 tackles in four games, then recording an interception Thursday against San Diego. But those tackles were part of the problem – receivers were catching too many balls in front of Middlebrooks. Another problem was, while Middlebrooks turned it up in the games, he often practiced poorly. He also didn't exhibit the skills needed to perform in the nickel back role covering slot receivers – one of the primary reasons the 49ers traded to get him. With Mike Adams showing he can handle nickel back duties, and rookie Derrick Johnson coming on strong as a third corner, the Niners felt Middlebrooks and his significant veteran salary were very expendable.

DE Tony Brown: Brown tied for second on the team with 16 preseason tackles, and he also produced a sack and knocked down a couple of passes at the line. That was almost good enough to keep his job on the roster, but the switch to a 3-4 defensive scheme – and the roster addition of veteran Travis Hall on Friday – spelled the end for Brown. The Niners decided instead to go with just three true defensive ends – though some of their linebackers can easily morph into that role. Brown started four games and made 27 tackles for the Niners last year, and he was probably one of the last – and perhaps the very last – players squeezed off the roster.

G Scott Peters: It was a swift summer fall for Peters, who spent the last three games on the 53-man roster last year and then produced a solid spring and early summer that gave him an opportunity to start the Aug. 13 exhibition opener at left guard. But Peters was terrible in that game, and that wasn't his only poor effort in live combat during the preseason. The Niners decided they liked Tony Wragge as a backup guard instead.

LB Ray Wells: Wells, as he did last year, showed some flashes in training camp and the preseason, but he was in tough at the team's strongest position. He didn't have a good game Thursday in the preseason finale, and couldn't impress San Francisco coaches enough on special teams to keep his job.

LB Richard Seigler: Seigler, a fourth-round draft pick in 2004, never showed the kind of production he exhibited in college at Oregon State and clearly was behind Brandon Moore and Saleem Rasheed, the top backups at inside linebacker. He had trouble getting on the field this summer and needed to make a difference on special teams to stay on the roster in the preseason, and that didn't happen. His holding penalty Thursday that nullified Rasheed Marshall's potential game-winning 96-yard kickoff return also was a killer.

CB Rayshun Reed: The 49ers wouldn't have minded keeping Reed around as a fourth true cornerback, but with the team going heavy at several offensive positions – six running backs, six wide receivers and four quarterbacks – the Niners decided to keep only eight defensive backs. Reed made one start last year and had a decent summer, but he also was beaten a few times and made some mistakes in the preseason. He needed to do better to make the roster.

WR Marcus Maxwell: Maxwell – big, fast and skilled – was making it difficult on 49ers coaches this spring and during the early stages of training camp, when the seventh-round draft pick started quickly and looked like one of the team's most promising young receivers. He made several spectacular catches in camp, displaying good hands, awareness and leaping ability. But during the preseason, Maxwell looked like the rookie he is, lacking the polish he displayed in practice and finishing the preseason with just one catch for six years. He's still a legitimate prospect, and the Niners no doubt are hoping they'll be able to sign him back to their practice squad since other NFL teams won't see much of his ability on preseason game film.

CB Daven Holly: Holly, selected in the seventh round eight picks ahead of Maxwell, is another talented rookie that the 49ers like, but there simply wasn't a place for him on the roster with the team keeping just eight defensive backs. Holly had eight tackles during the preseason and flashed some real ability, but he more often displayed his rawness and lack of technique at the NFL level. The Niners surely would like to bring Holly back to their practice squad to give him the time he needs to develop.

LB Max Yates: Yates played just about as well as he could have in the preseason and also was steady in practice situations, but he was just too much of a long shot at linebacker to push one of the quality players ahead of him off the squad. A decent special teams player, Yates spent two games on San Francisco's practice squad last year and may be headed there again this year.

OT Tim Provost: If the 49ers had opted to keep more than three offensive tackles on their roster, Provost would have been the fourth. After spending 11 games on the practice squad last year, he displayed some development in the system this year. But the Niners like the potential of seventh-round pick Patrick Estes more at tackle, and third-rounder Adam Snyder is destined to switch back to that position once the Niners get healthy and settled at guard.

FB Tony Ficklin: The big kid from San Jose State showed the 49ers some things they liked this summer, and the converted defensive end looks like he could be a comer as an athletic blocking fullback. But the 49ers already have two of those in Fred Beasley and Steve Bush. Look for Ficklin to be asked back to the practice squad.

C Norm Katnik: The 49ers definitely considered keeping Katnik around after he continued to display steady development this spring and summer after spending the entire 2004 season on San Francisco's practice squad. But with Jeremy Newberry able to make it to the opening bell of the 2005 season, and Eric Heitmann ready behind him, there was no need to keep Katnik on the 53-man roster – for now. The Niners probably will look to keep him on the practice squad again unless they can find a better backup center prospect on the waiver wire.

RB Bobby Purify: Purify rushed for 79 yards on 20 carries this preseason, mostly against second- and third-teamers, and he showed enough ability to stick around until the final cut. But with Kevan Barlow, Frank Gore, Maurice Hicks and Terry Jackson ahead of him at tailback, Purify basically had no chance to make it past the final cut.

OT Brendan Darby: Darby played in NFL Europe this spring, but he still needs plenty of seasoning to make it as a viable backup tackle at the NFL level. The team's three NFL Europe roster exemptions is what allowed him to get this far.

CB Allan Amundson: Another player who made it to the final cut only because of the team's three NFL Europe roster exemptions. Amundson doesn't appear to have NFL size or skills, and he produced virtually nothing in the preseason – finishing with no tackles or other statistics in four exhibition games.

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