The 49ers quarterback competition? That's sooo mid-August. These days, it's all about split end, left guard and "Ted" linebacker, all of which are in a state of flux. Here's the inside scoop on each ...
- Split end. Mike Nolan insists that it's still a dead heat between veteran Bryant Johnson and rookie Josh Morgan, who were arguably the team's most productive two receivers throughout the entire offseason. But pencil in Johnson to start Sunday against Arizona. Here's what Mike Martz had to say on the matter: It's hard with Josh because he's a rookie. The tempo of a regular season and preseason game is substantially different [especially] to play under that pressure all of a sudden if you're a rookie that's assured. The timing's not really like it was in the preseason because you're panicky. There's that growth process for those guys that you've kind of got to fight through. So to say that Josh is the guy that's going to start excelling at stuff, he's in it obviously but we're really kind of depending on [Bryant Johnson] to step up now and be healthy and ready to go." Nolan also said that Morgan would be playing special teams in the regular season. Morgan's been practicing on several special-teams units but didn't play there in the preseason because he was a starter at receiver (In games 1-3). If he's playing specials teams on Sunday it only stands to reason that he won't be a starter at receiver.
- Guard. This one is tougher to sniff out. The 49ers feel very confident about four out of five of their offensive line spots. Left guard, however, has become a conundrum. Do you give the job to Adam Snyder, who has practiced there for most of the offseason but who struggled early in training camp? Or do you give it to David Baas, who played well at right guard in the second half of the season but who hasn't practiced extensively on the left side since 2006? It may come down to who looks better in practice this week.
- "Ted" linebacker. No, Ahmad Brooks wasn't brought in to shore up the "Ted" spot like many have speculated. Brooks is tall, fast and athletic, and his skill set fits best at "Mike" linebacker or the strong-side outside spot where Manny Lawson plays. The "Ted" competition is still between Jeff Ulbrich and Takeo Spikes. Ulbrich has the edge for Week One. But once Spikes digests the entire defense, look for him to get the starting nod. One risk is that the 49ers have a pair of 31-year-olds playing a position that has a heavy load of violent collisions. The 49ers are betting that at least one is healthy all season. If not, Larry Grant or even recently released Dontarrious Thomas could be back in the mix.
-- Matt Barrows