Preseason is a time when the best of the best play 4-15 snaps and sit back and watch the young guns and long shots fight for their respective slots on the 53 man roster and practice squad. It can be underwhelming to fans due to inconsistent play, however, these games will determine the depth chart for the next season. The 49ers have all 11 starting defenders returning and most of the starters on offense as well, with the exception of right guard (Adam Snyder signed with Arizona Cardinals). But that does not mean there won't be exciting position battles to watch! There are lots of new faces on the roster, some will rise to the occasion, others will fail. Either way, we will all have fun watching!
Right Guard - Leonard Davis/Alex Boone/Joe Looney: Alex Boone is the former backup tackle from last season. He has an inside track to the starting role due to his familiarity with the offense. Leonard Davis is a 3 time pro bowler who will likely take over the job once he gets use to the offense, I guess around week 5. Joe Looney is the likely heir to the position. He was drafted in the 4th round from Wake Forest this past draft. He has been hindered by injuries during the offseason and has just been cleared to practice.
#2 Quarterback- Josh Johnson/Colin Kaepernick/Scott Tolzien: Colin Kaepernick is 6-foot-4, 230-pounder and is the only player in college football history with three seasons in which he passed for at least 2,000 yards and ran for at least 1,000. Having a full season under his belt, Kaepernick is confident and told reporters that his goal for the preseason is “To go and show that I can be a starter in this league, I want to go out, perform my best and show everybody what I’m capable of.” I expect Kaepernick to perform well and maintain his role as backup QB, hopefully able to surpass Smith in the near future. Josh Johnson has history with Harbaugh, being coached by him in college at UCSD. Johnson is similar in build and speed to Kaepernick but has under performed while he was in Tampa Bay. Tolzien is a long shot to make the roster despite being the #3 option last year
#2 Running back – Kendall Hunter/Brandon Jacobs/LaMichael James/Jewel Hampton/Anthony Dixon: Hunter was the unquestioned #2 last year and performed admirably with quick decision making and even quicker acceleration. Hunter will be a cornerstone of the Niners rush attack for years to come. However, the addition of big man Brandon Jacobs might mean a lesser role for Hunter for at least this year. Jacobs signed a one year deal and the 49ers make the most of his body during that time. he is 6 foot 4 and around 260 lbs. I expect the 49ers to use him a lot in short yardage up the middle. Hunter and James will recieve a fair amount of touches as well but look for Jacobs to get most of handoffs while Gore rests on the sideline. Hampton is a longshot to make the roster and is currently on the PUP. Dixon will likely be cut unless Jacobs has a poor showing in preseason.
Return Specialist – Ted Ginn/Kyle Williams/LaMichael James/Kendall Hunter/Perrish Cox: Ted Ginn is expendable if someone shows flashes of brilliance. Every other person on the list is very likely to have prominent role on offense or defense as well, besides Ginn who has trouble locating the ball on deep routes. I expect Williams to assume duties as the kick returner and James to take the reigns as punt returner. The question is will it be this season or next?
#3 Cornerback – Perrish Cox/Tramaine Brock/ Chris Culliver: Rogers is the unquestioned starter and played as the nickel back during such situations. Tarell Brown had his first year as a starter last season and got better each week. Culliver was the #3 last year and performed well for a rookie. He should make great strides in his second year and is my pick to earn the number 3 spot. Cox will push hard for the job. He has come back to the NFL reinvigorated after being given a second chance after facing a number of off the field issues. In August 2009, Cox was arrested for driving with a suspended license. He was also suspended from the Cotton Bowl in his senior season at OSU by head coach Mike Gundy for violating the team curfew rule. He was expected to be a first round pick but fell to the fifth due to character concerns and a disappointing 40 time at the combine(4.58). Cox was arrested on December 9, 2010, for felonious sexual assault and taken to a Douglas County jail. He was released on December 10 on a $50,000 bond. His sexual assault charges were classified as class three and class four felonies which carry a sentence of two years to life in prison. He faced a possible sentence of ten years to life if convicted. However, on March 2, 2012, Cox was found not guilty of sexual assault charges in Douglas County, Colorado criminal court. Cox started 9 games and played in 15 during the 2010 season with the Broncos and aquired 58 tackles, 1 INT, 2 FF, and 14 passes defended.
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