The San Francisco 49ers return to practice Tuesday afternoon, beginning preparations for their preseason Week 2 contest against the Dallas Cowboys. The team opened their preseason schedule last weekend with a 23-10 loss to the Houston Texans. We saw some good and bad things in the game, and we are able to start formulating answers to the many questions facing the 49ers roster. We don't have full answers yet, but we are seeing more pieces to each puzzle.
Now that the 49ers are getting ready for the new practice week, it makes sense to take a look at a new 53-man roster projection. I am looking through the roster, and it's just not that easy to figure out some roster cuts. There are some young guys that showed up well on Saturday, but they will need to build on that these next three weeks. I suspect we see some trades, but it is impossible to know how discussions are going on that front.
The only change I made was adding Jarryd Hayne and removing Kendall Hunter. Some will say it is an over-reaction after only one game. However, Hayne's performance, while only one small sample size, likely has him on the radar of the other 31 NFL teams. Things could change the next three weeks, but Hayne very well might have played himself onto a 53-man roster on Saturday. The big run, two solid punt returns and solid kick return could land him somewhere off waivers if the 49ers elect to cut him at the end of camp. If he can build on this, he might very well play himself into the returner role, with some occasional running back work. Considering Bruce Ellington's legs have developed into an issue during his 49ers career, this would not surprise me at all.
As for removing Hunter? It's a tough call, and if he gets on the field this Sunday and can show off his wheels, I might think twice about this. I would not be at all surprised if Hunter earns a roster spot, but with Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush and Mike Davis already locked into roster spots, it seems to make more sense to go with the upside of Hayne over Hunter.
A Manimal brought up a few potential adjustments earlier in the week. Most of them make sense at some point, but I am not entirely comfortable with them quite yet. The big debate will continue to be Craig Dahl. He is the only notable veteran presence behind Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea. His pass coverage has been questionable at times. PFF rated him out with three positive coverage games last year, and three negatives games. They have him with a really bad performance in Week 16 against the Chargers, which resulted in a negative grade for the season. L.J. McCray and Jaquiski Tartt had some big hits, and will be strong contributors on special teams, but I don't know that they have done enough to give the 49ers comfort in having one of them as the primary backup safety.
The Vance McDonald discussion is another one that will continue throughout the preseason. Garrett Celek had a solid game on Saturday. At this point, I think the 49ers will do anything in their power to trade away a tight end. Whether they can actually find a trading partner remains to be seen, but I have to think Trent Baalke is working furiously to unload a tight end or two.
Mike Purcell had himself a solid game on Saturday. Jim Tomsula praised his work, and his development in year three. Only Arik Armstead and Quinton Dial got more work among defensive linemen than Purcell's 23 snaps, while Tony Jerod-Eddie had 15 snaps. I have to think the 49ers know exactly what TJE brings to the table. That could bode well or poorly for Jerod-Eddie. Purcell has not overly impressed in the past, but he has also been a work in progress. Another strong game this Sunday might have me thinking twice.
Shayne Skov is an interesting name in all this. He led the team in defensive snaps, and I think that ends up the case most of the next three weeks. He had a solid game at times, but it remains to be seen if the 49ers will think he can be big enough and fast enough to play inside linebacker. If he can shine on special teams, that certainly boosts his case. The inside linebacker position is a tough one in particular given the injuries Michael Wilhoite and Philip Wheeler (muscle strains) are dealing with right now.
As for the wide receivers, DeAndrew White and Quinton Patton both had quiet days on Sunday. Jerome Simpson had two catches for 31 yards, on three targets. White had a great training camp by all accounts, but needs to build on that in the preseason. Similar to the running back situation, with Boldin and Smith locked in as starters, I am inclined to go with youthful upside over Simpson's veteran presence. I think plenty of arguments can be made to include Simpson, but for now I am holding off.
Finally, Nick Bellore is reportedly expected back to practice this week. He is a vested veteran, so if he is on the team's Week 1 roster, his 2015 salary becomes guaranteed. My thought is the team releases him with the plan of bringing him back after the first week. If they don't, I am honestly not sure what to do with him.
QB (2): Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert
RB (4): Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush,
Kendall Hunter, Mike Davis, Jarryd Hayne
FB (1): Bruce Miller
WR (5): Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Bruce Ellington, Quinton Patton, DeAndrew White
TE (4): Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Blake Bell, Derek Carrier
OT (3): Joe Staley, Erik Pears, Trenton Brown
OG (3): Alex Boone, Marcus Martin, Brandon Thomas
C (2): Joe Looney, Dillon Farrell
DT (7): Darnell Dockett, Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Quinton Dial, Tank Carradine,Tony Jerod-Eddie, Arik Armstead
OLB (4): Aaron Lynch, Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold, Corey Lemonier
ILB (4): NaVorro Bowman, Michael Wilhoite, Philip Wheeler, Nick Moody
CB (5): Tramaine Brock, Shareece Wright, Dontae Johnson, Kenneth Acker, Keith Reaser
FS (3): Eric Reid, Craig Dahl, Jimmie Ward
SS (3): Antoine Bethea, Jaquiski Tartt, L.J. McCray
P (1): Bradley Pinion
K (1): Phil Dawson
LS (1): Kyle Nelson
Reserve/PUP: Daniel Kilgore
Reserve/NFI: DeAndre Smelter