The San Francisco 49ers are approximately 40 days from their first practice of 2015 training camp. Once camp gets going, there will be daily media reports leading up to the preseason opener on August 15. That time will give us a better grasp on the depth chart, and which players have climbed onto the bubble.
As we approach training camp, we'll be assessing the roster in several ways. We'll start with this bubble watch post. We'll go position-by-position, and break down whether players are locks, strong bubble, weak bubble and longshots. The discussion for each article will not follow a specific format, but rather will focus on the more interesting aspects of the particular roster competition. In July, we'll follow this with a look at contract numbers for each position, and we'll close with a look at key questions facing each position.
Locks: Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, Mike Davis
Strong Bubble: Kendall Hunter
Weak Bubble: Jarryd Hayne
Longshots: Kendall Gaskins
The 49ers will feature a new starting running back for the first time since 2005. Reggie Bush got first team reps in the offseason workout program while Carlos Hyde recovered from a minor leg injury. Hyde was back practicing in minicamp, and all indications are he should be fine for training camp. Odds are pretty good Hyde will be the starting running back, but it would appear Bush is in line for extensive work.
I initially listed Bush as strong bubble, but I decided to move him to lock. He got $500,000 in guaranteed money, and while that is not a crazy amount of money, it is a decent commitment to him. And considering he was getting first string work and brings a bit more to the passing game, I would be shocked if he was not on the roster this fall. I imagine some will disagree.
Kendall Hunter is the tougher one to figure out, most notably in light of the drafting of Mike Davis. I think Hunter probably makes the roster, but the numbers game will make it a bit more interesting. And of course, there is also Jarryd Hayne to consider. His best chance at making the roster is as a return man, but if he can show sufficient development in his running technique, he could surprise.
As it currently stands, my 53-man roster projection would include Hunter, and not Hayne at this point. However, training camp and the preseason will tell us a lot about both men. Hunter is returning from his torn ACL and will be taking hits for the first time. Hayne has never played in an NFL game. He has to show he can transition from an upright running style, he has to show he can maneuver in pads, and really he just has to show he can fully make the transition to American football. His guaranteed money was the equivalent of a season on the practice squad, so it would seem he is guaranteed at least that. We'll see if he can establish himself as more than that.