The Many Roster Battles of the San Francisco 49ers
With one preseason game in the books, we still have no idea who will be the No. 2 receiver.
A.J. Jenkins fumbled the ball after making his first catch for the team, and all of Candlestick Park collectively cringed. Jenkins has shined at times during training camp, but after investing a first-round pick in him in 2012, the team has yet to see any return from the speedy receiver in regular or preseason action.
What about the 49ers’ fourth-round draft pick this year Quniton Patton? Patton fractured his finger trying to catch a Colin Kaepernick fast ball, and is currently sporting the blue no-contact jersey. He has been considered by many to be a steal in the draft because of his run-after-the-catch ability and sharp route running skills. If you haven’t seen Patton’s 21 receptions, four TD performance against Texas A&M last year, it’s a must see.
That said, with Patton on the shelf he doesn’t have much of a chance to truly compete for the No. 2 receiving spot.
Veteran wideouts Kassim Osgood and Ricardo Lockette have shown flashes of brilliance in the preseason opener and in training camp respectively. However, neither has distinguished themselves from the pack.
Kyle Williams has shown as much big play ability as he has inconsistency in his career thus far, and Marlon Moore surprised everyone when he earned the start Thursday against the Denver Broncos. Moore demonstrated great hands on a diving catch on a low and away delivery from Kaepernick on the 49ers’ first drive, but didn’t see much of the field after.
The signings of Austin Collie and Chad Hall (who played on the practice squad most of last year), show that head coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t sold on anyone as a starter opposite Anquan Boldin.
Collie has been a stud thus far in camp and looked good in his playing time Thursday. Don’t forget, Collie had 15 TDs in his first two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts before a litany of concussions sidetracked his career. If he can stay healthy, Collie is a definite option as a No. 2.
Hall is an effective return man and slot receiver with good hands. However, his diminutive stature and the numerous options the team has at the position, will probably see him land on special teams or back on the practice squad by the time preseason ends.
What about the backup QB position?
The 49ers seemingly locked up that position when they traded a pair (fifth and seventh) of draft picks for the Cleveland Browns‘ Colt McCoy. However, McCoy has underwhelmed in training camp and in the preseason opener.
After floating an inaccurate deep pass for an easy interception, skipping a throw five yards in front of a receiver on a short crossing route, en route to getting injured — again — against the Broncos, the 49ers got to see a glimpse of why the Browns felt McCoy was dispensable.
Harbaugh told CSN Bay Area analysts before Thursday’s game that Scott Tolzien and rookie B.J. Daniels are still legitimately in the battle for the backup QB job. From what we saw against the Broncos, this may be a battle that goes down to the wire.
The third cornerback (nickel-back) battle is just getting started.
Third year DB Perrish Cox made a pair of great plays on special teams and in the open field Thursday. Tramaine Brock, who earned the start, was solid in his limited playing time; Nnamdi Amomugha made a crunching open field tackle as well as showed that he still has some speed.
Meanwhile, the newly acquired Erick Wright hasn’t even taken the field yet.
The starting FS job, vacated by the departure of All-Pro Dashon Goldson, is still up in the air.
The newly acquired Craig Dahl and hard-hitting rookie Eric Reid are in a dead heat. Reid appears to have the slight edge based upon his performance Thursday, but hasn’t run away with the job yet.
It’s always good to have depth on a roster, and the 49ers certainly aren’t lacking it. However, with only 53 roster spots to fill, determining “who wins, and who goes home” before August 31st is going to be tough for Harbaugh and his staff.