49ers' 53-man roster projection 1.0: Just two quarterbacks


SANTA CLARA – The 49ers have two more practices and an exhibition game on Friday against the Green Bay Packers before being required to submit their first round of cuts.

The 90-man roster must be trimmed to 75 players by Tuesday, Aug. 30. On Saturday, Sept. 3, teams must reach their regular-season limit of 53 players.

“What we’re going to try to do is take a look at who our best 53 players are, keeping in mind you got to still practice,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said last week, explaining his philosophy on the team's initial 53-man roster.

“You have to have the bodies to practice, but the ultimate goal is the keep the best players. And we’re going to try to work the roster to accommodate the best 53 players.”

There remain some injury questions after two games in the 49ers’ exhibition season. Linebacker Nick Bellore and receiver Bryce Treggs sustained knee sprains on Saturday against the Denver Broncos. It's unclear how -- or if -- those conditions will impact the 49ers' decision-making process.

So here’s a projection of the 49ers’ 53-man roster at the halfway point of the preseason:

Quarterbacks (2): Blaine Gabbert, Colin Kaepernick
Bubble watch: Last season, 14 teams, including the 49ers, opened the regular season with just two QBs. None of those teams had a rookie on their roster. This year, Driskel was the 14th QB selected in the draft. So that probably eliminates those other 13 teams from being interested in claiming Driskel off waivers. Ideally, the 49ers would like to keep him around on the practice squad. Still, the final two games could determine the 49ers’ decision whether to keep two or three QBs. Christian Ponder had a fun opening game, but his late start makes him a long shot.

Running backs (3): Carlos Hyde, Shaun Draughn, Mike Davis
Bubble watch: Obviously, the 49ers could have a fourth running back heading into the season. DuJuan Harris and Kelvin Taylor are the candidates. Taylor could remain on standby during the regular season with a spot on the practice squad in case an injury makes it necessary to add another running back.

Wide receivers (7): Torrey Smith, Bruce Ellington, Quinton Patton, DeAndrew White, DeAndre Smelter, Jerome Simpson, Dres Anderson
Bubble watch: Smelter is ultra-raw, and he has yet to play in a preseason game due to a hamstring strain. Baalke recently said Smelter is not a candidate for injured reserve. Devon Cajuste is coming on strong, and Aaron Burbridge and DiAndre Campbell remain very much in the picture. It’s not known when Treggs, the No. 3 slot guy, will return from injury.

Tight ends (4): Vance McDonald, Garrett Celek, Bruce Miller, Blake Bell
Bubble watch: Bell, Busta Anderson and Je’Ron Hamm are all in a fight for a spot. Miller seems to have the edge of being a strong special-teams contributor.

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Offensive linemen (10): Joe Staley, Zane Beadles, Daniel Kilgore, Andrew Tiller, Joshua Garnett, Trent Brown, Anthony Davis, Marcus Martin, Erik Pears, John Theus
Bubble watch: The veterans whose roster spots appear to be the most in jeopardy are Martin and Pears. But, right now, they appear to be in line to be in uniform on game days due to their versatility. Martin is the only O-lineman who plays center and both guard, and Pears is the swing tackle. Brandon Thomas, Ian Silberman and Fahn Cooper enter the final two weeks with legitimate shots, too.

Defensive line (7): DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Quinton Dial, Glenn Dorsey, Ronald Blair, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Mike Purcell
Bubble watch: Keep an eye on Garrison Smith and Demitrius Cherry. Both had good strong showings -- Smith in particular -- against the Broncos. Smith could unseat Purcell for a roster spot. Dorsey continues to rehab from last year's season-ending knee injury. It's uncertain whether he will be ready for the start of the regular season.

Linebackers (7): Ahmad Brooks, NaVorro Bowman, Michael Wilhoite, Eli Harold, Tank Carradine, Ray-Ray Armstrong, Gerald Hodges
Bubble watch: Inside linebacker Shayne Skov and outside linebacker Marcus Rush have put together very good camps, putting themselves in serious consideration for roster spots. Harold and Carradine have clearly out-performed Corey Lemonier, who seeks his fourth season with the club. Bellore has a knee sprain that clouds his future. If healthy, he makes the team as a special-teams performer – perhaps at the expense of Hodges, who remains in the picture for a starting job next to NaVorro Bowman.

Defensive backs (10): Tramaine Brock, Jimmie Ward, Antoine Bethea, Eric Reid, Chris Davis, Keith Reaser, Jaquiski Tartt, Will Redmond, Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson
Bubble watch: This is a very difficult group to sort out. L.J. McCray is coming back from a torn ACL. He could figure as one of the team’s top special-teams performers. Marcus Cromartie has the versatility of playing corner and safety, which conceivably could make him a valuable asset. Prince Charles Iworah, a seventh-round draft pick, has some talent. And, heck, Kenneth Acker is no pushover. He started 13 games last season. Some very good players are going to end up getting bad news.

Specialists (3): Phil Dawson, Bradley Pinion, Kyle Nelson
Bubble watch: John Lunsford, and his dynamic leg, is auditioning for jobs elsewhere in the NFL.

Reserve/suspended list (first four games): OLB Aaron Lynch
Injured reserve (out for the season): WR Eric Rogers, QB Thad Lewis
Reserve/non-football injury (out for the season): NT Ian Williams
Other injury list possibilities: DL Glenn Dorsey, LB Nick Bellore, WR Bryce Treggs

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