The 49ers are dealing with multiple injuries at wide receiver, which has opened up a competition for the final few spots in the position group.
The timelines for Ray-Ray McCloud (wrist) and Danny Gray (shoulder) to return to the field remain uncertain. Both wideouts need to be on the final 53-man roster after final cuts are made before being placed on injured reserve (IR), if necessary, or they will not be eligible to play this season.
With that in mind, the 49ers will have to be creative when it comes to who will remain on the roster following the final preseason contest. There will be several players who will be vying to impress coach Kyle Shanahan and his staff when the club hosts the Los Angeles Chargers on Friday evening.
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Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Jauan Jennings are obvious locks to make the roster. Ronnie Bell’s performance in the club’s 21-20 preseason win over the Denver Broncos likely solidified his case to remain as well, especially if he is tabbed to step in for McCloud as the punt and kick returner.
“I think we’ve got a good group of depth to be ready for this opportunity,” Shanahan said on Sunday via conference call. “Especially losing two guys who had a good chance to make the team. They’ve been battling.”
The remaining receivers on the roster span a substantial age range. Eight-year veteran Willie Snead IV is the most likely to end up on the active 53-man roster with his punt returning experience. The 30-year old potentially could be added to the roster once the IR has been finalized.
Chris Conley, 30, also has made his share of plays while on the field. The nine-year vet has been seen mostly with the second and third team, including 24 snaps in the club’s second exhibition game on Saturday evening. The 6-foot-3 receiver is another candidate that could be added after IR designations have taken place.
San Francisco 49ers
“I do think we’ve got a good mix of some veteran guys,” Shanahan said. “Having guys like Conley and Willie, which are guys who have played in this league and are very reliable. And we’ve also got some young guys who’ve been around here, and we’ve been working with for at least a year.
“So, a lot of guys are ready for this opportunity. But as always, they’re also competing against other rosters too.”
Second-year receiver Tay Martin, 25, saw the third-most offensive snaps (28) amongst the receivers on Saturday evening. Dazz Newsome, 24, was on the field for 16 plays while rookie Isaiah Winstead was seen in club’s preseason opener, but not in the second tilt.