Today, training camp begins for the San Francisco 49ers. Here’s a last minute look at what you need to know:
1) The 90-Man Roster
Here is the 90-man roster, ranked by best player and by position by David Fucillo from ninersnation.com. The deepest groups to look at are running backs, wide receivers, defensive line, and corners.
2) Running backs
Carlos Hyde is in the best shape of his career and is a lock to be the team’s number one back. The question will be who becomes the number two back.
The early candidates are 4th round pick Joe Williams and Undrafted free agent Matt Breida.
Joe Williams has the “homerun” ability to break runs for long gains but it was Breida who looked most impressive in mini-camp thus far.
Keep your eye on veteran Tim Hightower, as he could have one more year in the tank and also on Kapri Bibbs, who was a Bronco last season.
3) Reuben Foster Has Been Cleared For Camp
When the 49ers traded up to draft Foster at the end of the first round, there were plenty of skeptics who said he won’t play much, if at all, in 2017. They said he wouldn’t be ready and his shoulder injury was stated as the primary reason he fell in the first round.
Well, the skeptics are wrong (so far). Foster has been cleared for camp and he will compete with free-agent acquisition Malcom Smith for the weak-side linebacker role, opposite NaVorro Bowman.
Smith has the experience to be the starter on Week 1, but don’t count out Foster as the starter.
4) NaVorro Bowman is at Full Speed
Bowman tore his Achilles early last season and the run defense dropped to virtually nothing in his absence.
He has been ahead of the rehab process and is said to have been running at full speed since the offseason workout program.
If Bowman can return to form, the linebacking corps will be a good one in 2017.
5) Who will be the starting Center?
The Center position has been an issue for the 49ers since Daniel Kilgore’s injury mid-way through the 2014 season. Kilgore hasn’t been able to regain his form and Marcus Martin was, well, awful.
San Francisco picked up veteran and Pro Bowl center Jeremy Zuttah from the Baltimore Ravens, via trade. They also added former Rams’ starting center Tim Barnes in free agency.
While Zuttah had a leg injury in May, all signs point to him taking the reigns as the starter.
6) What will the Defensive Line rotation look like?
I’ve looked at the personnel several times since the draft and your guess is as good as mine. I do know that there will be a lot of substitutions, similar to the George Seifert days.
On base downs, free agent pickup Earl Mitchell is the likely nose tackle and the players that will receive the most reps at this point are DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, and Arik Armstead.
As far as edge rushers go, Elvis Dumervil, Aaron Lynch, Ahmad Brooks and Armstead are the favorites, but there’s still reps for Tank Carradine, Eli Harold and Ronald Blair.
This group has a ton of potential and is very deep so keep your eye on it!
7) Who will be the “Other” Cornerbacks?
Rashard Robinson is the starter on one side and should be a real good one. The questions that remain are, who will be on the other side and who will be the Nickel back?
Ahkello Witherspoon was drafted in the second round, but it might be too early to pencil him in at a starting position. I personally like Dontae Johnson’s size and experience at this point, but Witherspoon should be able to take the job maybe by midseason.
Keith Reaser and Will Redmond are also candidates.
At Nickel, Redmond and free agent pickup K’Waun Williams look to be the leaders.
If Redmond is healthy, I still believe he could be one of the steals of the 2016 Draft. Williams might be the favorite at this point.
Other Notable Battles
– Guard – Joshua Garnett and Zane Beadles should be the starters but keep your eye on Brandon Fusco.
– Tight End – This unit will look completely different than it has. I predict rookie George Kittle will be the starter and Logan Paulsen will be a sleeper redzone threat.
– Wide Receiver – Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, and Jeremy Kerley are likely the starters with rookie slot machine Trent Taylor making the roster. I’m hoping DeAndre Smelter makes the team but can see Aldrick Robinson and Bruce Ellington getting the nod. We’ll see.
– Safety – Jimmie Ward is the guy to watch as he transitions from corner to safety. All signs point to safety being the position that brings the most out of Ward. If that happens, all of a sudden the secondary improves.
Training camp begins today and there’s a lot to take in and enjoy. More to come….