49ers training camp battles heading into the stretch

A month ago we did our rundown of training camp battles, adding an additional battle three weeks ago.  My how things have changed...Some of the battles have been won and others are no longer really the same battle they were at the beginning of training camp.  Additionally I think we can add a battle or two given how things have changed in the past week or so.

Quarterback
Participants: Shaun Hill, Alex Smith
Winner: Shaun Hill
And there you have it.  Shaun Hill didn't exactly inspire confidence with his performance last weekend, but it apparently was just enough.  Hill will be the starting quarterback week 1 at Glendale, Arizona and Alex Smith will be on the sideline.  As somebody mentioned in the Hill post yesterday, Smith sprained his thumb making the post-interception tackle.  It sounds like he won't be practicing this week, and thus won't be playing this weekend.  Of course, that makes for an interesting question with our newest addition to the training camp battles:

QB #3/Practice Squad/Cut
Participants: Damon Huard, Nate Davis
Leader: Nate Davis
According to Barrows, Nate Davis took all the back-up reps in yesterday's practice.  While Davis did not blow anybody away against the Raiders, he showed solid signs for a rookie who faced a lot of criticism coming out of college.  The question in all this is whether the team would dare place him on waivers in order to put him on their practice squad.  I've said no from the beginning.  I started to question it a bit when he had no pass attempts against the Broncos.  It will be interesting to see how the snaps break down this Saturday.  I'd imagine Hill and the first team offense will play the entire first half.  Maybe then go Davis in the third quarter and Huard in the fourth quarter?  Or do you know what Huard can do and give Davis the entire second half?  Either way, Davis is getting enough playing time that it might be tough to sneak him through waivers at the end of the preseason.

Right Tackle
Participants: Adam Snyder, Marvel Smith
Winner: Adam Snyder
In his post-practice press conference, Mike Singletary stated that Adam Snyder would be the starting right tackle week 1 at Arizona.  Snyder was knocked out of last weekend's game with a knee sprain and will sit out this Saturday at Dallas.  He'll be day-to-day next week but I wouldn't expect to see much of him at San Diego anyways, given that it's the last preseason game of the year.  However, I was certainly a bit surprised to see Snyder grab hold of the first team reps and run with it.  Marvel Smith was supposedly going to get his crack and take over the starting job.  However, looking at Singletary's comments, it sounds like Smith really isn't completely healthy (or at least we can infer that from the comment):

"Well, right now we need to look at how Marvel is progressing. That’s the thought right now, but we don’t want to rush the program that we have Marvel on. We want to make sure that he is ready to do that, full time."

Smith is practicing once a day (as opposed to the normal two-a-days).  Rotoworld said that Marvel Smith would be the "swing" tackle, backing up Snyder and Joe Staley, but that seemed more like random speculation on their part.  At this point, if Smith isn't completely healthy, I'd hope the 49ers think Sims or Boone will be a sufficient backup.  We'll definitely keep an eye on Marvel Smith's situation.  Snyder may have won the job, but I wouldn't be surprised to see some instability at right tackle this season.

Backup Offensive Tackle
Participants: Alex Boone, Barry Sims
Leader: Barry Sims
I realize folks are high on Boone and might strongly disagree with me on this.  And Alex Boone may very well end up making the roster.  However, at this point, playing time would seem to dictate that Sims has the lead on this job and Boone could be headed to the practice squad.  I see this primarily because Sims is playing ahead of Boone so far.  This weekend could be interesting because of Snyder's absence.  Marvel Smith played last week so I'd imagine he'll get the start at right tackle.  After he and Staley leave the game, we might get a chance to see Boone AND Sims on the field at the same time.  Obviously different sides of the line, but I'm still intrigued to see what they do at the same time.  I'd really like Boone to win the backup job, but time is running short.  Speaking of this battle, any thoughts on Jacob Bender at this point?  Folks seem to like him, but it doesn't seem like he's gonna end up with enough love to make the roster.

4th? Wide Receiver
Participants: Arnaz Battle, Dominique Zeigler, Micheal Spurlock
Leader: Arnaz Battle
Battle is seeing the most immediate playing time as he filled in for Isaac Bruce when Bruce left after the first series.  Battle continues to hang around and seems to be look at some serious playing time this season.  Heck, he might even be ready to move past Jason Hill on the depth chart if Hill isn't too careful.  I've found the positioning of the wide receivers to be fascinating in light of Michael Crabtree's holdout and Brandon Jones' injury.  At this point, Micheal Spurlock could very well be playing his way into a roster spot, at least until Crabtree signs.  The problem in all this is the albatross hanging around the 49ers neck in Brandon Jones.  He was looking good in camp until the injury, but now the team has to hang on to him until he gets healthy, as they cannot place him on the PUP list.  Unless the team keeps Spurlock around special teams' purposes, it's gonna be a tough sell at this point.

Left Defensive End
Participants: Isaac Sopoaga, Kentwan Balmer, Demetric Evans
Leader: Isaac Sopoaga
Balmer really seems to be showing some skills in the preseason, but the team is pushing Isaac Sopoaga as well.  He got a ton of playing time last week, even moving over to nose tackle for a bit in the second half.  This rotation could be rather interesting.  The team will be rotating bodies along the line so all of these guys will need to be read and able to jump right in at a moments notice.  Although one person will win the "starting" job, I think all three of these guys will see significant playing time this season.

Cornerback
Participants: Dre Bly, Tarell Brown
Leader: Dre Bly (but maybe closer than expected)
Bly has gotten almost all the first team reps in camp thanks to Tarell Brown's toe injury early on.  And yet, I think this race somehow remains tight.  Brown has finally returned to practice and at times both Brown and Bly have been getting first team reps, sometimes at the same time, with Clements sitting out.  Additionally, in the team's game release for this weekend, they've included an unofficial depth chart which still lists Tarell Brown as the #1 cornerback.  Hmmmmmmm?  Reason to be suspicious, or nothing to consider all that much?  I'm not all that sure at this point what's going on with this.  Maybe they figure the #3 corner will see a ton of playing time so it's worth getting them both time with the 1s.

We'll be back again later next week to provide one last round of these battles coming down the home stretch heading into the final preseason game of the year.

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