The San Francisco 49ers welcome rookies and quarterbacks to training camp on Monday, July 27 and veterans on Friday, July 31. They then kick things off in earnest when they hold their first practice on Saturday, August 1. The team's first preseason game is not until August 15, but in the meantime, some semblance of football is almost back in our lives!
Thus far we have looked at the depth chart bubble watch, and salary cap questions about each position. I wanted to close out the offseason by figuring out the questions left to answer for each position as we head into training camp. We won't get all the answers we seek in training camp and the preseason, but we will get a much better handle on what this team looks like heading into the 2015 season.
The idea behind this is just to figure out what we are going to be looking for in training camp reports and preseason games. When final roster cuts are made, we will look back at these questions, and ahead to questions for the regular season.
The tight end position presents all sorts of questions for training camp and the preseason. The 49ers have more tight ends coming to camp than running backs and fullbacks combined. Eight tight ends plus Kyle Nelson will likely be on the roster when the first practice kicks off a week from Saturday. The team will cut down to likely no more than four tight ends for the regular season. I would have suggested three, but given last year's injuries and the types of players and contracts involved, I suspect the team keeps four.
At this point, Vernon Davis and Blake Bell are making this team, and I see only the slimmest of chances Vance McDonald does not make the team. That likely leaves only one spot for a group that includes Garrett Celek (the most significant veteran), Derek Carrier (signed a two-year extension this offseason), Busta Anderson (an intriguing seventh round draft pick), Asante Cleveland (emergency use last year), and Xavier Grimble.
And so, here are some of the questions I see for the tight ends heading into camp:
1. What does Vernon Davis look like in preseason action? Not training camp, but actual preseason games. There have been consistently positive reports about Davis's work in the offseason workout program. Training camp adds a level to that, but it's game action where I want to see something.
2. Can Vance McDonald keep his back healthy through camp?
3. How exactly will practice and game snaps operate in August for such an extensive group?
4. Will Blake Bell get any sort of additional red zone work, or quarterback work?
5. How do they use Busta Anderson, and can he stay healthy?
6. Will Derek Carrier show improvement in blocking?
Feel free to throw out any of your own questions for the group. We won't address every one of these position group questions every single week, but I do plan on checking back on these as August moves along. Again, this is not about what questions face the group in the regular season. Rather, it is about what we can learn from the six weeks of training camp and preseason games.