The 49ers’ first full block of four practices has concluded, with padded practices now in full swing and set to resume after an off day. It’s early, but training camp is shorter than ever, meaning first impressions may be increasingly difficult to shake.
Jimmy Garoppolo and Nick Mullens will make the roster. The main question is whether the numbers allow for C.J. Beathard to make the team, too. Practice squads can now feature veterans. Do the 49ers think Beathard makes it through waivers to re-sign to the practice squad? In order to keep a fourth tight end, I think Beathard gets cut and makes it to practice squad.
Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon all seem like sure things. So is Kyle Juszczyk. If the 49ers were going to cut Coleman, they would have done it before letting $2 million of his salary guarantee this offseason and McKinnon’s issue has always been health. He looks healthy thus far. The main question is whether JaMycal Hasty can make the team over Jeff Wilson Jr. My gut says no, because Wilson looks fantastic and probably should have Coleman’s job already, and is more likely than Hasty to get signed via waivers. Teams know names and while Hasty has a semi high profile from college, he went undrafted while Wilson had a game-winning touchdown on a team which went to the Super Bowl.
The 49ers go with four tight ends because outside of Kittle, they have the concussion-riddled Jordan Reed who’s not been apparent at practice the last two days, the clearly unpolished rookie in Charlie Woerner, and Ross Dwelley. Dwelley is maybe the least inspiring, but the most reliable option, which is why they take four here.
Jalen Hurd’s injury gives Jauan Jennings a roster spot, and Kendrick Bourne, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Taylor and even Dante Pettis are all locks at this point. But with Samuel hurt, a seventh wide receiver will need to make the team, especially for special teams. The question would seem to be whether that’s Tavon Austin or J.J. Nelson. We’ve not seen enough from either to properly assess the competition, but Nelson was singled out has having the fastest 40 time as a potential deep ball threat. Richie James Jr.’s injury probably costs him a roster spot and he probably doesn’t make it through waivers.
All five starters make the team, though it’s really six, with Brunskill opening the season as the starting center. Ben Garland injured his ankle on Tuesday and Compton is a more capable starting guard. Brunskill took myriad snaps at center and is well prepared to play the position. Justin Skule becomes the swing tackle backup, with Colton McKivitz the backup guard.
All the starters, plus Solomon Thomas are locks. That’s six players, with the 49ers likely to take 10. For numbers’ sake and because they love depth, they’ll have at least two more interior players, with Kevin Givens and Kentavius Street the choices because of the ability they’ve flashed and because it’s unclear if Jullian Taylor can make it back in time for the start of the season. More likely, I think he opens up the year on reserve/PUP to return around Week 7, as may be the case for Ronald Blair III. Because Blair may be slow to return, too, Dion Jordan gets the second depth spot, with the so-far impressive Kerry Hyder the primary backup.
Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw are making this team. What remains, effectively, are a pair of two-person competitions: Joe Walker vs. Mark Nzeocha and Azeez Al-Shaair vs. Jonas Griffith (and technically Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles). The former are two veteran presences with special teams acumen, but it’s unlikely the 49ers take two of those on board. The second is a young player with athletic upside and speed on special teams. Al-Shaair is quick and was a prolific tackler in college, but struggles in coverage. Griffith is a hulking linebacker who might just be the fastest in the group (even quicker than Kwon Alexnader), but may be snakebitten by the lack of OTAs, rookie minicamp and shortened, preseason-game-less training camp.
Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Emmanuel Moseley and K’Waun Williams are locks. Williams, though, is dealing with a calf injury which could be a problem. Jamar Taylor may have a route to a roster spot as the backup nickel, the spot D.J. Reed Jr. occupied last year. The issue the 49ers have is they like that backup nickel to be available on special teams. Can Tim Harris play there potentially? They’ll need to find another option. Jason Verrett may well make this team if he stays healthy, but the numbers don’t favor him. Given his injury history, the 49ers may look to try and sneak him on the practice squad as one of their veterans, giving themselves an extra corner on game days if they need one due to the NFL’s new rule allowing for two practice squad promotions to the active roster.
Jimmie Ward, Tarvarius Moore and Jaquiski Tartt are safe. The only question is if the team goes with four safeties, and if they do, if it’s Marcell Harris or Jared Mayden. Harris has absolutely horrible deep coverage skills, but he’s a great box safety option as a backup and continues to demonstrate a ball-hawking knack and affirm his propensity for turnovers and hard hits. Jared Mayden probably doesn’t have enough time to compete properly for that spot, and because the 49ers may use more dime packages this season, they may have to take four safeties.