While plenty of 49ers players have been working out in Santa Clara over the last few weeks, and really throughout the entire offseason, the first mandatory report date is tomorrow. Rookies report to camp, along with some of the veterans. The rest of the veterans report next Thursday, with the first full-squad practice slated for a week from today. Yes, we are all getting a little bit excited by this.
Earlier this week, I put together my thoughts on the 49ers roster bubble watch from top to bottom. As we head towards next week, I thought I'd start breaking down the roster bubble watch position by position. Each position features battles that will help form the eventual 53-man roster. It gets particularly interesting given the versatility the coaches are trying to draw out.
We'll start with the quarterback position. Although Alex Smith is always a lightning rod for discussion, dealing with the bubble watch will allow us to focus a bit more on other guys. Although a lot of crazy things could happen between now and the beginning of September, a healthy Alex Smith will be the 49ers starting quarterback. The roster bubble watch really focuses on the battle between Josh Johnson, Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien.
In the bubble watch post earlier this week, I listed Josh Johnson and Colin Kaepernick as locks, with Scott Tolzien clocking in as weak bubble. While I do think Tolzien is more of a weak bubble, I am more inclined to move Johnson from lock to strong bubble. While Tolzien is younger, I still think Johnson has the edge given his existing relationship with Jim Harbaugh. That relationship won't necessarily guarantee him a spot ahead of Colin Kaepernick, but I would be surprised if Tolzien was able to secure a roster spot over Johnson.
The preseason game plan will require looking at Alex Smith and how the new offense is implemented, while also sorting through the three potential backup quarterbacks. There are only so many touches to go around, so it will be interesting to see how that sorts itself out.
Scott Tolzien retains practice squad eligible, but if he puts together a solid preseason performance, it would likely be tough to sneak him through waivers. The Chargers tried that last year and saw the 49ers snatch him up. Is that enough to give him a boost in this battle? I don't really know how to value that versus Josh Johnson's pre-existing relationship with Coach Harbaugh. Again, I don't think having a prior relationship locks up a spot for Johnson, but Harbaugh would seem to like something about him.
For now, here is my updated lock/bubble look at the 49ers quarterback position. Some will not change between the original post earlier this week and the positional breakdown, but some will. I've also included a poll on which quarterbacks will join Alex Smith on the 53-man roster. I think the team keeps three QBs total, but I've included options for if the team decides to go with one QB or four QBs. This is not about the order of the depth chart, but rather just who makes the roster.
Lock: Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick
Strong Bubble: Josh Johnson
Weak Bubble: Scott Tolzien