The San Francisco 49ers face a lot of questions surrounding their roster in 2016, and it will take some time to figure out where this team stands. The team was fairly quiet in free agency, but did plenty of work in the 2016 NFL Draft. Additionally, they will welcome back some injured players, and look to further develop young talent from the past few drafts.
With that in mind, I thought we would take a look at each position, compare it to various points last year, and consider whether the unit is better, worse, or the same compared to last year. The table includes the current group of players, and then a list of players on the 90-man roster for the first preseason game, the players on the Week 1 53-man roster, and the players on the Week 17 53-man roster. The idea is to compare this year with last year across the board. The roster changes from August to December, so I’m including three separate markers just to provide an overall view of the position last year.
|Current||2015 preseason||2015 - Week 1||2015 - Week 17|
|Tramaine Brock||Tramaine Brock||Tramaine Brock||Tramaine Brock|
|Jimmie Ward||Shareece Wright||Jimmie Ward||Jimmie Ward|
|Dontae Johnson||Jimmie Ward||Shareece Wright||Dontae Johnson|
|Kenneth Acker||Dontae Johnson||Kenneth Acker||Kenneth Acker|
|Chris Davis||Kenneth Acker||Dontae Johnson||Keith Reaser|
|Keith Reaser||Keith Reaser||Keith Reaser||Marcus Cromartie|
|Rashard Robinson||Marcus Cromartie||Chris Davis|
|Will Redmond||Leon McFadden||Kyle Sebetic (PS)|
|Marcus Cromartie||Myles Hicks|
|Prince Charles Iworah|
The 49ers listed Jimmie Ward as a safety for most of the last two seasons, even though he played almost exclusively as the team’s nickel back. This year, Ward is getting work at outside cornerback, and looks like he might take over as a starter alongside Tramaine Brock. That leaves last year’s starters, Dontae Johnson and Kenneth Acker, competing for some kind of rotational reserve role.
If Ward ends up playing outside, that also means the 49ers need to figure out their nickel back. The team drafted Will Redmond, but he is still a question mark coming back from injury. Chris Davis got some slot work in the offseason workout program, and the team also used Dontae Johnson outside and Jimmie Ward in the slot. One of the big questions to be answered early in camp is whether or not Redmond can practice. If he can’t, guys like Davis and Reaser will be among those competing in the slot position.
Oh, and let’s not forget Rashard Robinson. The fourth round pick has the kind of length the 49ers like, but he has not played in a game in a year and a half. He impressed the beat writers during the offseason workout program, so it’s going to be interesting to see what he is doing early in training camp.
Ward quietly put together a very solid season last year, and moving him into the base defense starting lineup could bode well for this secondary. I like what this unit is turning into. We are left to speculate quite a bit about some of these guys, but I like where this group can go. Yep, more of that offseason optimism is at hand!