The San Francisco 49ers announced their roster cuts Saturday afternoon, and officially presented us with the first 53-man roster of the year. I say first because we all know there will be changes at some point or another. Whether it be Sunday with waivers, or injuries or other moves down the line, there will be changes.
The 49ers worked through a variety of position competitions over the past few months. We still don't have all the answers we want, but the roster cuts do provide us an opportunity to infer a few things about the team. We'll start to get actual answers next week against the Minnesota Vikings, but in the meantime, we can speculate to our heart's content!
49ers to wear black alternates for MNF opener
The San Francisco 49ers have their new black alternate uniforms, and will wear them for no more than two games this season. It sounds like one of those games could be Week 1.
The decision to cut Darnell Dockett was the first big surprise of cuts. Given his age it was not a shocker, but I was still somewhat surprised. The decision to release Dockett indicates the team is happy with the development of their young guys. The belief was that Dockett and Tank Carradine would handle nickel defensive tackle work. This likely moves Tank into the forefront. After that, Arik Armstead would be a significant beneficiary. Mike Purcell and Tony Jerod-Eddie will also be in line for more work, but we don't quite know yet who will pair with Tank as a regular in the nickel. My guess is we see more rotation than in year's past
Well, the team did make a move for an outside offensive lineman on Saturday, as people hoped. It was not quite who most were expecting, as the team traded a conditional seventh round pick for Baltimore Ravens UDFA reserve center NIck Easton. The team cut Joe Looney on Friday then cut Dillon Farrell on Saturday. Erik Pears will remain the right tackle, but Trenton Brown earned himself a spot in reserve. Brown would seem to be Pears backup, but we'll see if he can supplant him at some point.
This is where we had our biggest Saturday surprise. The team cut Nick Moody, and is sticking with Shayne Skov as the primary backup. Nick Bellore is on the roster as well, but I was under the impression he was primarily a special teams guy. We'll see if he gets any opportunities at ILB. Moody was always best on special teams, but got a lot of opportunities this offseason while NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite worked their way back onto the field. The team saw enough, and was willing to roll the dice without him.
Fooch's update: I forgot to include this note. The decision to go with three ILBs (with Bellore being a special teams guy) means we can expect to see Tartt used in big nickel and dime packages.
Well, the team found a way to do something with Kendall Hunter. His placement on IR means Reggie Bush, Mike Davis and Jarryd Hayne are your backup running backs. I don't expect to see a lot of Hayne on offense, but rather on special teams. I could see Bush being the third down/passing down back, and Davis being the complementary option when they want to give Carlos Hyde a breather.
They found a way to stash Busta Anderson! If they did not have four guys they were comfortable with already, I have a hunch Anderson would have made the team. They lose a year of service time by placing him on injured reserve, but I liked what I saw and am willing to sacrifice that to avoid losing him on waivers.
The team went with the guys we thought we could be on the roster, so I suppose we have not learned anything of significant yet. But there is a lot of young talent on this group, and we still don't know who will be starting where next week against the Vikings. Tramaine Brock is the No. 1, but we don't know how his leg strain is at this point. My guess is he'll be fine, which leaves us with a question of who is No. 2, and who comes off the bench in nickel and dime situation.
The team has their veterans in place, but is looking to the future among the reserves. The team released Craig Dahl, and will stick with Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt and L.J. McCray as the reserves. Bold move, but the talent is undeniable in that group. Ward spent last season as the slot corner, but seems to have already begun his transition back to safety. With the talent at cornerback, it might just afford the 49ers an opportunity to have strong depth at the cornerback and safety positions.
The 49ers kept all their preseason kick and punt returners. Jim Tomsula would not commit to one of them for the starting role, but Bruce Ellington, DeAndrew White and Jarryd Hayne all looked really good as returners in the preseason. This is the deepest this position has been in quite some time. At least one of these three will probably be inactive Week 1, and my guess is it is White.
Here is the full 53-man roster.
QB: Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert
RB: Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, Mike Davis, Jarryd Hayne
FB: Bruce Miller
TE: Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Blake Bell
WR: Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Quinton Patton, Bruce Ellington, DeAndrew White
OL: Joe Staley, Alex Boone, Marcus Martin, Jordan Devey, Ian Silberman, Nick Easton, Brandon Thomas, Erik Pears, Trent Brown
DL: Glenn Dorsey, Ian Williams, Quinton Dial, Tank Carradine, Mike Purcell, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Arik Armstead
OLB: Ahmad Brooks, Aaron Lynch, Corey Lemonier, Eli Harold
ILB: NaVorro Bowman, Shayne Skov, Nick Bellore, Michael Wilhoite
CB: Tramaine Brock, Dontae Johnson, Keith Reaser, Kenneth Acker, Shareece Wright
FS: Eric Reid, Jimmie Ward, Jaquiski Tartt
SS: Antoine Bethea, L.J. McCray
P: Bradley Pinion
K: Phil Dawson
LS: Kyle Nelson
Reserve/PUP: C Daniel Kilgore
Reserve/NFI: WR DeAndre Smelter
Reserve/Suspended: Jerome Simpson
IR: WR Dres Anderson, TE Busta Anderson, RB Kendall Hunter