Trying To Figure 49ers 53

We're still two months from the start of training camp, but it's never too early to try and guess along with the coaches and figure out who'll be the 53 guys to comprise the 49ers roster in 2010. I think last week's OTAs provided a couple of hints here and there.

Quarterbacks (3): Alex Smith, David Carr, Nate Davis

Omissions: Jarrett Brown

Comments: Brown didn't get any reps at all during the OTAs, while Davis showed considerable progress. The third string job is his to lose, but Brown could be a practice squad candidate.

Running Backs (4): Frank Gore, Glen Coffee, Anthony Dixon, Michael Robinson

Omissions: None

Comments: Robinson is too valuable of a special teams player to lose and serves as the backup fullback as well. Dixon meanwhile has enough potential that the coaches won't risk exposing him to waivers. I could see him being inactive for some games this year though.

Fullback (1): Moran Norris

Omissions: Brit Miller, Jehuu Caulcrick

Comments: Miller would have to show he's a far superior blocker to Norris – who Gore is very close to – and that's going to be an uphill battle. Plus, he still has practice squad eligibility. Coaches like rookie TE Nate Byham in an H-Back role as well.

Wide Receivers (5): Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Ted Ginn, Jason Hill, Kyle Williams

Omissions: Brandon Jones, Dominique Zeigler, Jared Perry, Bakari Grant, Scott Long

Comments: Jones and Wide Receivers Coach Jerry Sullivan were never on the same page last year and with Ginn and Williams now on the roster, the team might elect to shed his exorbitant salary. Then again, I wonder if the Niners had to do it all over again if they would still make the trade for Ginn. I can't think of anyone who was more disappointing during OTAs. Zeigler has some talent and does everything the coaches ask, but he'll be a victim of the numbers game, a fifth or sixth receiver on a club that rarely lines up more than two. One of the trio of undrafted rooks might emerge to grab a practice squad spot, though none of them have shown much yet.

Tight Ends (3): Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Nate Byham

Omissions: Tony Curtis, Joe Jon Finley

Comments: One of the most competitive battles in camp will be for the third TE spot. Curtis is the veteran and the superior receiver, but Byham was billed as the best blocking tight end in his draft class. The Niners only went with two tight ends last year but have a bevy of options now. The dark horse Finley, meanwhile, will likely spend another year on the practice squad.

Offensive Tackles (4): Joe Staley, Anthony Davis, Adam Snyder, Barry Sims

Omissions: Alex Boone, Chris Patrick

Comments: Boone has remade his body in the off-season, but his practice squad eligibility will doom him here and enable the coaches to go with the status quo. Plus, Snyder's versatile enough to play guard as well, which helps him.

Guards (4): Mike Iupati, Chilo Rachal, David Baas, Tony Wragge

Omissions: Brian de la Puente

Comments: With all due respect, de la Puente might face the longest odds of making the team of anyone on the roster outside of Isaac Bruce.

Center (1): Eric Heitmann

Omissions: Cody Wallace

Comments: Wallace was a favorite of ex-general manager Scot McCloughan, but doesn't seem to have many supporters elsewhere in the organization. It doesn't help him that he's pretty much just a center. Both Baas and Wragge took snaps during OTAs.

Defensive Ends (4): Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald, Demetric Evans

Omissions: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker

Comments: I believe this will be the year the coaches cut the cord with Balmer, a first round pick who just never could get on the field. He's rehabbing from shoulder surgery but is supposed to be fully recovered by training camp. He'll really need to impress to stick. Either way, he or Evans will get a handful of snaps per game in relief of Smith, who never wants to come off the field.

Nose Tackles (2): Aubrayo Franklin, Ricky Jean-Francois

Omissions: Khalif Mitchell

Comments: Mitchell doesn't have the quickness that Jean-Francois does, but the coaches are fond of him and I'd be surprised if he didn't land on the practice squad.

Outside Linebackers (4): Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, Ahmad Brooks, Travis LaBoy

Omissions: Diyral Briggs, Martail Burnett, Keaton Kristick

Comments: If anyone's going to make me look silly, it'll likely be Briggs, who'll be a cinch to make it if the team trades away Lawson, as some speculate. For now, I've got him on the practice squad.

Inside Linebackers (5): Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, Matt Wilhelm, Navorro Bowman, Scott McKillop

Omissions: Mike Balogun, Brandon Long

Comments: I believe McKillop is safe, mainly due to his fabulous work on special teams. The undrafted rookies will likely be auditioning for the other 31 teams during preseason mop-up duty. This might be the 49ers deepest position.

Cornerbacks (6): Shawntae Spencer, Nate Clements, Tarell Brown, Karl Paymah, Will James, Phillip Adams

Omissions: Keith Smith, LeRoy Vann, Tramaine Brock, Patrick Stoudamire

Comments: James will have to show he's fully recovered from a hairline fracture of his pubic bone, which pains me to even contemplate. Paymah gets the edge on Smith and the rest because of his special teams skills as a gunner. I'm gambling on Adams because I think the coaches will like his competitiveness and instincts. Vann is a practice squad candidate, thanks to his punt return skills.

Safeties (4): Dashon Goldson, Michael Lewis, Taylor Mays, Reggie Smith

Omissions: Curtis Taylor, Chris Maragos

Comments: Taylor's really going to have to prove he's developed his coverage skills in camp to stick. The coaches love his size and his ability to lay the wood, but he gets burned regularly in practice.

Specialists (3): Joe Nedney (K), Andy Lee (P), Brian Jennings (LS)

Omissions: Shane Andrus (K)

Comments: Andrus is under no allusions, he knows he's got no shot to make this team unless Nedney gets hurt.

Practice Squad (8): Brit Miller (FB), Bakari Grant (WR), Joe Jon Finley (TE), Alex Boone (OT), Khalif Mitchell (NT), Diyral Briggs (LB), LeRoy Vann (CB), Curtis Taylor (S)


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