Here at Niners Nation, we're presenting a series called "90-in-90". We'll be looking at every player on the 49ersoffseason roster, one player per post, from now until the start of training camp.
The San Francisco 49ers 2012 draft class was more about developing talent for the future than it was for getting immediate impact players. We've talked about A.J. Jenkins as much as would seem humanly possible, but the rest of the class has plenty of intriguing players to go along with Jenkins. One such player is outside linebacker Cam Johnson.
The 49ers selected Johnson in the seventh round. Johnson had played defensive end at Virginia, and was brought in to potentially provide help in the pass rush. Seventh round picks are not exactly at the top of the list of expected contributions, and Johnson was hindered as well by a variety of ailments. He had a clean-up procedure on his knee in June of 2012, and while he did make it back to camp, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio repeatedly noted during camp, Johnson's need to get back to 100%.
Johnson ended up getting cut at the end of training camp, but was quickly signed to the 49ers practice squad. He spent most of the season on the practice squad, before getting promoted to the active roster the day before the 49ers Week 16 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks. He was active the final two games of the regular season, as well as the divisional matchup against Green Bay. He was inactive for the NFC title game and the Super Bowl.
What to expect in 2013
It's safe to say Johnson is in for a tough battle for a roster spot. The 49ers will have Parys Haralson back, and they also added Corey Lemonier and Tank Carradine in the 2013 NFL Draft, and Darius Fleming will be a threat if he is fine after apparently tweaking his knee last week.
If Johnson makes the roster, it will be for a couple reasons. He has proven he can handle special teams duties, and he flashes some skill as a pass rusher. If he makes the roster, a vast majority of any playing time would be on special teams. He would appear in blowouts, but I don't really see him making a lot of appearances otherwise with the defense. Any defensive snaps would require a supremely strong showing in training camp and the preseason.
Odds of making the roster
As mentioned above, Johnson faces a lot of competition. Parys Haralson took a pay cut to stick around, and is likely the veteran presence the 49ers want behind Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. That would seemingly leave Johnson competing primarily against Corey Lemonier and Darius Fleming at outside linebacker, and Tank Carradine at nickel defensive end. When the 49ers go to the four-man front, that conceivably plays into some of Johnson's strengths. However, Carradine would appear to be even stronger in that regard.
Fleming injured his knee last week, and while early reports are it being a basic tweak, we haven't heard more yet. If Fleming is out, Johnson gets a slight boost, but he still faces a lot of competition. I think he is looking at less than 50% likelihood of making the roster. If the 49ers like him, I could see him spending much of season two on the practice squad. I just don't think he can beat the numbers game.