Now that we've gotten through the offensive backfield in our roster projections, I thought we'd move over to the defensive backfield, starting with the safeties. Thus far, we've discussed the quarterbacks, the running backs, and the fullbacks. As we move over to the defense, we are dealing with a position that has quite a bit of talent on the depth chart, and yet also has numerous question marks. Initially I was planning on saving this one for later in case the 49ers decided to make a run at O.J. Atogwe, but at this point, I'm fairly certain the team will not be signing Atogwe this offseason.
After the jump we take a look at some of the issues surrounding the safety position. Also, the poll isn't all that specific when it comes to middle and end of the season, but consider it more just a general estimation.
Last year, the 49ers initial 53-man roster included 5 safeties: Dashon Goldson, Michael Lewis, Mark Roman, Reggie Smith, and Curtis Taylor. For many 49ers fans, the removal of Mark Roman from the equation is reason enough to be happy heading into 2010. The proverbial addition by subtraction. Of course, Roman's final season with the 49ers ended up actually being better than expected due to his solid showing in replacing an injured Michael Lewis. Nonetheless, the time has come to move forward from the Mark Roman era, if you can call it that.
I know some folks are still clamoring for O.J. Atogwe, but for the purposes of roster projections, I'm operating under the assumption that he won't be around. Given that, the battle for roster spots comes down to Curtis Taylor and Reggie Smith. Some folks want to see the team unload Michael Lewis, but I remain convinced that won't happen if he stays healthy. Well, at least for this season. He remains a strength in run support, and if Dashon Goldson can continue improving in pass protection, the team will be fine at their starting safety positions. Additionally, while Taylor Mays likely won't get the starting nod, he's certainly guaranteed a roster spot.
A little over a month ago, following the rookie minicamp, I posted an article discussing the potential roster battle between Reggie Smith and Chris Maragos. In that post, and in the article it was based on, made no mention of Curtis Taylor. I suppose that would make the roster battle between all three. Personally, though, I would be pretty surprised to see Taylor or Maragos get a spot over Smith. Smith has been plagued by injury issues during his two-year career, but when healthy has shown some solid talent.
One big plus for both Taylor and Maragos is that the team could potentially stash either of them on the practice squad. If I had to make a prediction, I'd say Taylor makes the roster and Maragos ends up on the practice squad. Even though this isn't exactly a battle for roster domination, it will be one to keep an eye on as training camp gets going.