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49ers Backup Quarterback Battle Gears Up

The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up their veteran minicamp yesterday, and Coach Harbaugh once again had plenty of positives to say about all his quarterbacks:

Your number two quarterback, QB Colin Kaepernick, had a good practice today it seemed like. Is there a chance for a QB Josh Johnson, a QB Scott Tolzien to move up into that two spot? Or are they set for now?

"Well, they're set right now. [QB] Alex [Smith] definitely separated himself even further than what he was, which was a lot coming out of the season. He's the solid starter. I don't think anybody questions that. Nothing set in stone behind that. As you said, Colin had a near perfect day today. I was charting him, one incompletion and two drops. But, he had a heck of a day. Scott Tolzien, Josh Johnson have had really fine offseasons and really fine camps. So, I've said it before, there's all three of those quarterbacks will play in the NFL for a long time, in our opinion. And definitely the competition for the number two, the number three will be there when we get to Training Camp and that will unfold with the practices. And also a lot of it will come down to the actual pre-season games, and that will be, yeah, that'll be very exciting. And I think that competition will make them all better."

It is not particularly surprising that Alex Smith has separated himself from the rest of the group. He came out of the 2011 season with momentum and would appear to have built on it.

Where things get interesting is the battle for the number two quarterback. The 49ers entered the offseason with Colin Kaepernick and Scott Tolzien behind Smith. Many folks expected the 49ers to make a move for Josh Johnson, and after a quiet first week, Johnson agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the 49ers.

From all reports, it sounds like Johnson has done some solid work in training camp. Colin Kaepernick struggled his first two days before bouncing back with a strong day three. And according to Maiocco, Scott Tolzien appeared to have the most consistent camp among the three backups. Whether that consistency was with limited upside remains to be seen.

It's too early to be remotely certain about how the backup QB battle will play out. As many people have said, skill position players can generally look better than a lot of other players given the lack of serious physical contact in OTAs. That's not to say players are not getting something out of it, but performances need to be taken with a grain of salt. Playing against third and fourth stringers in preseason games isn't exactly ideal either, but struggles against such groups can at least tell us a little something.

As it stands, if the 49ers go into the 2012 season with three quarterbacks, how will the two and three spots look?