Now that we're through what most consider the most important preseason game of the year, writers are posting their 53-man roster projections with greater and greater frequency. The 49ers cut down to 75 players yesterday and will cut another 22 players on Saturday to meet the NFL's roster limit. At this point we've got a fairly good idea of a vast majority of the roster, but there are still some small areas to be determined.
Matt Barrows put together a 53-man roster projection yesterday. I posted my own two days ago before the 49ers defeated the Raiders. I think Barrows made the best comment in his when he stated "Margin of error +/- 53 players. But really we know it's not quite that difficult. It's more like a margin of error of 4 or 5 players probably: those bubble players.
The differences in our projection are fairly simple. I included OT Alex Boone whereas he did not. That put me at ten offensive linemen to his nine. He made up for that with Demetric Evans as a seventh defensive lineman, while I stuck with six.
Beyond that, we had the exact same projections, whether you're talking about the inclusion of Nate Byham, the exclusion of Curtis Taylor, or rolling out nine linebackers. As I said, the differences are fairly negligible when talking about these rosters. The bubble has narrowed considerably over the past week.
Barrows did appear open to the idea of adding Boone and removing one of the defensive linemen. Alex Boone would appear to be firmly entrenched on the bubble and maybe not even leaning even remotely one way or the other. Alex Boone has worked himself into much better shape and really stepped up his game, but is it enough to convince the team to go with a rare tenth lineman?
One area we agreed on was the team keeping Diyral Briggs and Travis LaBoy to give the team nine linebackers, five of them on the outside. While Briggs and LaBoy are both immensely talented, something about the situation continues to gnaw at me. Five outside linebackers just seems like a large number even with the need to keep a set number of players inactive. Assuming Brooks is healthier sooner rather than later, you've got the initial three-man rotation of Brooks, Lawson and Haralson. That is of course also assuming Lawson and Haralson haven't poached most of the starting playing time.
At the same time, LaBoy has shown he still has a very clear nose for quarterbacks and Briggs has shown an all around game at the OLB position that would be invaluable, particularly if Lawson walks after this season. Maybe that's one more reason the team tries to slide Alex Boone through waivers.
Both of these positional units raise injury concerns that might be enough to force additional players to be held on the 53-man roster. The offensive line has seen Heitmann go down and certainly can't be encouraged seeing Joe Staley get banged up on Saturday. It doesn't appear to have been a serious injury, but his absence the second half of last season can't be far from the front office's mind. As for the OLBs, we still don't know for sure if Brooks will be ready week 1. If he's not it makes all the more sense to keep both Briggs and LaBoy.
It remains to be seen how much we'll get out of Thursday's game as far as the 53-man roster is concerned. Personally, if I were the 49ers, I'd sit Staley the entire game and give Alex Boone the most playing time on the offensive line. We know what Sims can do. Unless the team already has decided to keep Boone on the 53-man roster, Thursday will be his last chance to give them a reason to keep him around.
At the end of the day all of the roster question marks are dealing with reserves. While depth is important in the NFL, it is certainly encouraging that positional security has been handled fairly well among the starters. Aside from the sheer joy of not having a QB controversy at this point, it's nice the first string is more or less figured out. Now let's pray for no injuries.