Since the cutdown deadline is tomorrow, I think it makes sense to put together one last 53-man roster projection for discussion. For those interested in comparing the development of my projection, the first projection was July 19 and the second was August 28. And of course we've had our official FanPost for 53-man projections.
While there normally aren't a whole lot of huge developments in the preseason finale, there were a few players that might have done some damage to their respective causes. I'll go into more detail after the jump, but for now, here's my final 53-man roster projection:
QB (3): Alex Smith, David Carr, Nate Davis
RB (4): Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook, Michael Robinson, Anthony Dixon
FB (1): Moran Norris
WR (5): Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler
TE (3): Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Nate Byham
LT (2): Joe Staley, Barry Sims
LG (2): Mike Iupati, Tony Wragge
C (2): David Baas, Eric Heitmann
RG (2): Chilo Rachal, Adam Snyder
RT (1): Anthony Davis
4 5): Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald, Khalif Mitchell, Demetric Evans
DT (2): Aubrayo Franklin, Ricky Jean-Francois
OLB (5): Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, Ahmad Brooks, Travis LaBoy, Diyral Briggs
ILB (4): Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, Navorro Bowman, Matt Wilhelm
CB (5): Nate Clements, Shawntae Spencer, Tarell Brown, Karl Paymah, Phillip Adams
FS (2): Dashon Goldson, Reggie Smith
SS (2): Michael Lewis, Taylor Mays
K: Joe Nedney
P: Andy Lee
LS: Brian Jennings
Last 5 on: Tony Wragge, Khalif Mitchell, Nate Byham, Travis LaBoy, Phillip Adams
First 5 off: Jason Hill, Curtis Taylor, Brit Miller, Will Tukuafu, Alex Boone
I know everybody loves them some Nate Davis talk, so I'm happy to open with some Davis discussion. Davis had a less than stellar outing last night and naturally that got folks chattering about cutting him. I think this comes down to a question of Singletary's patience. We all know Nate Davis has a cannon. There's no arguing that fact.
The question is whether he can get the mental aspects figured out. And whether you think he can or not, it all comes down to whether Mike Singletary and QB coach Mike Johnson are willing to take their time with Davis. I actually started writing up this post in the fourth quarter of the game. Nate Davis was really struggling and I was starting to write about how I would be less and less surprised if the team decided to part ways with him, or at most waive him and try to get him on the practice squad. Next thing you know, Davis has led the team to a go-ahead touchdown with a couple of nice touch passes.
This is exactly the conundrum with Davis. He's such an up and down quarterback that if the coaching staff is going to keep him around they need to have the patience to develop him. At this point, the 2010 regular season is all about Alex Smith, and to a lesser extent David Carr (hopefully to a very lesser extent). On the other hand, if the 49ers keep Nate Davis around, the 2011 offseason is about Davis. Not that he's the QB of 2011, but rather he'll get another chance (and potentially his final chance) to show that he's committed to becoming a good NFL quarterback.
I think Singletary and Johnson want to see one more offseason of Nate and see what kind of progress he makes. Thus, I think he makes the final cut.
Fooch's Update: I initially wrote this post up last night towards the tail end and immediately after the game. In looking over Coach Singletary's preliminary post-game comments, there's now a discussion planned on Nate Davis' roster spot and Davis himself said after the game:
It's all up to him. I've just got to, you know, hope he keeps me on the roster. If not I've got to move on. ... If he doesn't keep me, I've got to find a new team.
I honestly have no idea what the team is going to do at this point.
You may have noticed Alex Boone was moved down to my first 5 off list. Here's my thinking: The team is looking at Joe Staley and Anthony Davis as their tackle tandem of the future. Joe Staley may never be a stud OT, and Anthony Davis has plenty of question marks around him, the team has invested in the two and is prepared to go forward with them. That means the team is looking for depth at offensive tackle and will hopefully only be looking for depth for the next decade.
It'd be nice to keep Boone around to develop into a solid backup, but I think the team puts more trust in Barry Sims at this point. He can play both tackle positions and proved himself big time last season when Staley went down. Boone has some upside and is considerably younger, but given the stakes at this point and the potential long term solutions at the starting positions, the coaches might find it hard to justify keeping a guy who still is a bit of a project. If they can sneak him onto the practice squad that'd be great, but if not, I don't know if they'd lose a ton of sleep over it.
I'd argue that there is one way Alex Boone survives the cut: the team gave Adam Snyder some snaps at center in OTAs and minicamp, but I haven't heard anything since then. I could see Boone sticking around if the team decides Adam Snyder is an adequate emergency center and they decide to unload Tony Wragge. The reason I say this is because as long as Heitmann is on the sideline, the team would be foolish to not have a second player that could play center. After all, Baas could get hurt before Heitmann returns. Since Cody Wallace would seem to be out the door, that leaves Tony Wragge as the only other option unless the team thinks Snyder is an adequate backup.
Now, I realize if Baas got hurt the team could get somebody off the street during the week, but that wouldn't exactly help if Baas went down in the middle of a game. So I'd say consider my exclusion of Alex Boone contingent on the team not thinking Adam Snyder could fill in at center in a pinch.
Well he certainly screwed the pooch last night. While he hasn't been fantastic in the preseason, I felt like he'd done enough, and more importantly hadn't been blown up too badly, so that he would stick around. Then he goes out last night and gets torched on some big plays and generally performs rather poorly. If the 49ers cut him, who becomes the fifth corner, if they even keep a fifth corner? The team lost Will James to a high ankle sprain two weeks ago. Do they take a chance with just four corners, with rookie Phillip Adams being that fourth corner, until James is healthy?
Talk about your up and down evenings. Byham was actually the leading receiver for the 49ers but had just as many drops and certainly didn't look too fantastic in the receiving game. Of course, thankfully the 49ers have a couple decent tight ends ahead of him on the depth chart so they may not need much in the receiving game from him. I continue to believe that he's going to make the roster because he brings a lot to the table. He has shown he can catch some balls, he's shown some blocking skills (although he certainly has some work to do there), and he has gotten enough fullback time to potentially knock some other folks off the roster.
Two specific guys fit in this category: Jason Hill and Brit Miller. Hill didn't do himself any favors leaving with an eye injury, although I certainly hope he feels better. Nobody likes getting poked in the eye. However, in the cut throat world of NFL rosters, that might have been the stake to the heart. However, he gets a lot of love for his special teams ability. While that's all well and good, it seems like the 49ers have numerous guys who can contribute well on special teams.
This holds true as well for Brit Miller even more so. Hill has shown some skills at wide receiver in the past. Brit Miller has had some flashes of skill, but he hasn't shown nearly enough to justify keeping him around.
Will Tukuafu/Demetric Evans
Demetric Evans has been fairly quiet this preseason but he's a veteran presence that would seem to be in good shape whatever the case may be. Tukuafu put together an impressive run after the 49ers added him, culminating with a potentially game-saving sack (albeit in an unimportant preseason game). If the team waives him and he clears I'd think he'd be virtually guaranteed a spot on the practice squad. The question is whether he'd clear waivers.