The first cutdown: Defensive line

The 49ers must cut down their roster from 81 players to 65 by Tuesday, and <EM>SF</EM> <EM>Illustrated</EM> is analyzing the six major positional categories and forecasting who is staying and who is on the way out. Today: Defensive line, where 14 players currently reside on the roster.

Starters: Chike Okeafor, Bryant Young, Dana Stubblefield, Andre Carter. You wouldn't exactly call this one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, but it is a solid unit that is improving and has some upside with the strong development of its young ends.

Roster locks: John Engelberger, Jim Flanigan, Sean Moran, Reggie McGrew: A strong group of backups who will challenge for playing time and mix into the rotation. There was some talk McGrew might be expendable because of his exorbitant salary for a backup, but he seems to have secured a roster spot with commitment and solid performance.

Where it gets interesting: Bobby Setzer, John Schlecht. Both made the team last year and proved they could compete in the NFL. But Setzer has a lot more competition this year, and injuries have left Schlecht behind and put his roster spot in jeopardy.

He deserves better: Jerome Davis. This defensive end can make plays, but he appears to be with the wrong team since the Niners have so many veterans they are counting on in front of him.

Headed for injured reserve: Josh Shaw. Watch out for this guy next year.

On the bubble: Darryl Sanders. He has shown some ability, but the Niners have to slice players during this round, and he's a likely casualty.

Looking for work on Aug. 28: Cleveland Pinkney. No room at this position to keep this guy around another week.


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