Week 1 of the NFL Preseason is in the books and, despite last week being a win for the Niners, there wasn’t much to write home about. What we did see, though, were some players who had sub-pay performances. San Francisco is at the point where they are going to have to make some tough decisions when it comes to trimming down the roster.
Here is a list of four players who need to step up their play in week 2 (and beyond) if they want to make the team come week 1 of the regular season:
If there is one absolute truth about backup quarterback CJ Beathard, it’s that he can take a hit just about as well as anyone else. The real issue with that, though, is that he shouldn’t be taking that many big hits week in and week out. His performance against Dallas last week was abysmal: he had 3-4 throws that had no business of being thrown and, honestly, should have thrown more than just the 1 INT he had thrown. Beathard has struggled with processing information on the field which has led to him standing in the pocket for longer than needed and throwing unnecessary interceptions. He’s going to have to improve in those areas because it appears that Nick Mullens is the front-runner for the backup gig (despite head coach Kyle Shanahan saying that there is no separation between the two).
Richie James, Jr
The wide receiving corps in San Francisco is crowded, to say the least, and that’s still true even with the recent revelation of Trent Taylor’s injury and subsequent foot surgery. The likes of Dante Pettis, Jalen Hurd, Deebo Samuel, and the aforementioned Taylor are as close to “locks” as we can get with the wide receivers. It is also safe to assume that Coach Shanahan will choose to keep 6 WRs on the roster so with the previous four listed that leaves two spots between Richie James, Jr, Kendrick Bourne, Jordan Matthews, and Marquise Goodwin. With Goodwin and his speed, it is very safe to wager that he will make the team, which leaves the proverbial final WR spot to either James, Bourne, or Matthews. Richie James has potential, but he needs to produce - against Dallas he had a couple of drops in open space. Look for him to bounce back heading into the midway point of the preseason.
“The best ability is availability.” If there’s any veteran who should be worried about the sudden surge of rookie Dre Greenlaw, it’s Malcolm Smith. Smith signed a lucrative deal in 2017 and has not lived up to it. He has struggled to remain healthy and, when he has been healthy enough to play, he hasn’t done much on the field. Smith also had his contract restructured to make it more team-friendly, so you better believe if the Niners coaching staff doesn’t see any sort of signs of life int he coming weeks then, well, it may be time to cut bait and move on.
The 49ers secondary has a lot of question marks: Jimmie Ward cannot seem to remain healthy but has stuck around on the team, and Jaquiski Tartt is solidified as a starter but is also dealing with injuries that have sidelined him from indiscriminate amounts of time over the last two seasons. With Tarvarius Moore being moved from cornerback to safety and getting better every day at his natural position, Colbert must find a way to return to the big play ability we saw from him during his rookie campaign in 2017. There is an opportunity for him at the free safety position, so if he can improve along with not getting ejected from any other games, then he stands a solid chance at retaining his starting spot.