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What the 49ers bubble watch tells us heading into preseason Week 3 vs. the Colts

The 49ers are set for their preseason dress rehearsal game, against the Indianapolis Colts. Time to look at the latest bubble watch.

The San Francisco 49ers are headed into their third preseason game on Saturday, which means the starters will get their largest chunk of playing time of August. That cuts down on the work that players fighting for a roster spot can get. With that in mind, we’re back with our latest bubble watch. You can check out our bubble watch from a week ago here.

This week we’ll see at least a couple bubble players get some time with the first string. Alfred Morris will get first team work at running back with Raheem Mostert, Jeremy McNichols, and Jeff Wilson slotting in behind him in some capacity. Cole Wick and/or Cole Hikutini is likely to get first team work at tight end opposite Garrett Celek in two-tight end formations with George Kittle still sidelined.

I did a decent amount of shuffling heading into the second half of the preseason schedule. We have a much better handle on the depth chart and who seems to be making moves. Add in recent transactions, and the puzzle is slowly coming together.

I moved Dekoda Watson from strong bubble to lock. Mark Nzeocha is starting at SAM this weekend, but I have a feeling Watson ends up getting some work there this season. Nzeocha and Pita Tauomoepenu both could make the roster, but the Harold trade does throw me for a bit of a loop as to who might make it.

I have also bumped Brock Coyle up from strong bubble to lock. He has been starting in place of an injured Malcolm Smith, and seems all but assured of having a role on defense during Reuben Foster’s suspension.

Jimmie Ward remains listed as a lock, but a trade is not out of the realm of the possible. It would need to be with someone willing to take on his $8 million salary, but I just don’t see the 49ers cutting him. They can afford the cap hit, but he’s sufficiently versatile that it makes sense to keep him around as a utility guy if they can’t find a trading partner.

The offensive line gets a little more confusing with Erik Magnuson’s injury and the right guard competition. Mike Person is getting the starting work, but Joshua Garnett put together some impressive second team work last week. Jonathan Cooper did not have a great outing, and his status remains up in the air. I bumped Person to a lock, as even if he does not get the right guard job, he’ll be the primary interior utility guy. I also bumped up Erik Magnuson, who is a candidate for the IR to return midseason. That leaves Garnett and Cooper potentially competing for one roster spot.

I also bumped Garry Gilliam from strong bubble to lock. He won’t play on Saturday because of a concussion, so that is something to consider. Darrell Williams and Andrew Lauderdale have put in work at the two tackle spots, but neither seems to have done enough to convince me the 49ers are going to replace Gilliam after signing him to a contract extension this offseason.

On the defensive line, I’m struggling with a couple decisions. I moved Sheldon Day and D.J. Jones from strong bubble to lock given their strong work in practice and through two preseason games. But what of Earl Mitchell? I was tempted to either elevate both Mitchell and Jones to lock or leave both a strong bubble. But as I look at it, I find myself wondering if Jones is able to take Mitchell’s roster spot. Both are primarily nose tackles in the 4-3 look, so could the team find itself making a move to have more versatility elsewhere?

In the secondary, I moved D.J. Reed up from strong bubble to lock. He’s put together solid work through two preseason games, and with nickel/safety versatility, I would be stunned if the fifth round pick did not make the 49ers roster.

Where do you disagree with this list?

Lock (41)

QB: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard
RB: Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida
FB: Kyle Juszczyk
WR: Pierre Garçon, Marquise Goodwin, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis
TE: George Kittle, Garrett Celek
OT: Joe Staley, Mike McGlinchey, Garry Gilliam
OG: Laken Tomlinson, Mike Person, Erik Magnuson (likely short term IR)
C: Weston Richburg

DL: DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead, Cassius Marsh, Jullian Taylor, Sheldon Day, D.J. Jones, Kentavius Street (NFI)
LB: Reuben Foster, Malcolm Smith, Dekoda Watson, Fred Warner, Brock Coyle
CB: Richard Sherman, Ahkello Witherspoon, Jimmie Ward, Tarvarius Moore, D.J. Reed
S: Jaquiski Tartt, Adrian Colbert

K: Robbie Gould
P: Bradley Pinion
LS: Kyle Nelson

Strong Bubble (18)

RB: Raheem Mostert
WR: Kendrick Bourne, Aldrick Robinson, Aaron Burbridge, Richie James, Victor Bolden Jr.
OG: Joshua Garnett, Jonathan Cooper

DL: Earl Mitchell, Ronald Blair, Jerry Attaochu
LB: Korey Toomer, Pita Taumoepenu, Mark Nzeocha
CB: K’Waun Williams, Greg Mabin, Tyvis Powell
S: D.J. Reed

Weak Bubble (17)

RB: Joe Williams, Jeremy McNichols, Jeffery Wilson, Alfred Morris
TE: Cole Hikutini, Cole Wick, Ross Dwelley
OT: Darrell Williams

DL: Will Sutton, Chris Jones
LB: Elijah Lee
CB: Tarvarus McFadden, C.J. Goodwin
S: Antone Exum, Dexter McCoil, Marcell Harris, Chanceller James

Longshot (13)

QB: Nick Mullens, Jack Heneghan
WR: Max McCaffrey, Steven Dunbar
OT: Andrew Lauderdale, Pace Murphy
OG: Najee Toran, J.P. Flynn, Chris Gonzalez
C: Coleman Shelton

DL: Niles Scott
CB: Emmanuel Moseley

P: Jeff Locke