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September 3, 2010
53-man roster analysis

The first lesson of cut-down day: Things aren't always what they seem. That is, the list of 53 players can, and usually does, change a bit in the next few days when teams get a crack at the avalanche of players suddenly available on the waiver wire. Mike Singletary is scheduled to talk about the cuts at 3:40 p.m. Until then, here is a quick roster analysis:

In: Alex Smith, David Carr, Nate Davis
Out: Jarrett Brown
Analysis: Davis was probably safe when the team cut former PSU quarterback-turned-running back Michael Robinson. Singletary contemplated cutting Davis. But with only two QBs on the roster, Robinson would have been the de facto No. 3. Without him, the team needs Davis.

Running back
In: Frank Gore, Brian Westbrook, Anthony Dixon, Moran Norris
Out: Robinson, Brit Miller, Jehuu Caulcrick
Analysis: Nate Byham's blocking ability was not only detrimental to his fellow tights ends but to the team's fullbacks. That Byham could line up in the backfield and play fullback made Miller and Caulcrick expendable. Robinson's ouster is the biggest surprise of the day.

Wide receiver
In: Michael Crabtree, Josh Morgan, Ted Ginn, Dominique Zeigler, Kyle Williams
Out: Jason Hill, Kevin Jurovich, Bobby Gillory
Analysis: Hill was conspicuously quiet throughout the offseason and his release is no surprise, especially with the way Zeigler has played. As expected, Williams makes the team based on his punt-return skills. The team also loves his acceleration, and he could be a slot receiver in the future. that also spelled doom for Hill who was best in the slot. Jurovich is a smart, plucky player who is a practice-squad candidate.

Tight end
In: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Nate Byham
Out: Tony Curtis, J.J. Finley
Analysis: This one was decided two weeks ago when Byham started taking Vernon Davis' first-team repetitions when Davis was out with a knee injury.

Offensive line
In: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, David Baas, Chilo Rachal, Anthony Davis, Eric Heitmann, Barry Sims, Tony Wragge, Adam Snyder, Alex Boone
Out: Cody Wallace, Brian de la Puente, Matt Kopa
Analysis: Everyone who said the 49ers were afraid they might lose Boone on the waiver wire was right. Of course, the 49ers will probably suit up only seven or eight o-linemen per game, which means that, barring injury, Boone and another lineman -- Wragge, Snyder? -- might not see much action. Kopa and de la Puente have practice-squad potential.

Defensive line
In: Justin Smith, Aubrayo Franklin, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald, Demetric Evans, Ricky Jean Francois
Out: Khalif Mitchell, Derek Walker, Will Tukuafu.
Analysis: The 49ers have kept seven defensive linemen in the past. They seem prepared to keep six in 2010. Sopoaga and Jean Francois can play all three positions. Look for Mitchell to land on the practice squad.

Inside linebackers
In: Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes, NaVorro Bowman
Out: Matt Wilhelm, Mike Balogun, Keaton Kristick
Analysis: The 49ers went light on inside linebackers so they could go heavy on outside linebackers. As I speculated during the week, the team cut Wilhelm but probably would have no problem re-acquiring him if he were needed. After all, they signed him off the street last year. Kristick or Balogun could make the practice squad. **UPDATE** SIngletary said the team is shopping for another ILB.

Outside linebackers
In: Parys Haralson, Manny Lawson, Ahmad Brooks, Travis LaBoy, Diyral Briggs
Out: Bruce Davis
Analysis: LaBoy or Briggs? The answer was both, and deservedly so. Both played well during the preseason, better in fact than starter Haralson. Davis came on strong, and he is a much better linebacker than he was early in his career. He's another practice-squad candidate.

In: Dashon Goldson, Michael Lewis, Reggie Smith, Taylor Mays, Curtis Taylor
Out: Chris Maragos
Analysis: The 49ers go with five safeties. Taylor is obviously No. 5. But he is a good special teams player. Perhaps more important, the team could be without Lewis and Goldson, a looming free agent, next season. That is, the 49ers need depth. Maragos is a great practice-squad candidate, but that's unlikely given the depth at the position.

In: Nate Clements, Shawntae Spencer, Tarell Brown, Will James, Phillip Adams and Tramaine Brock.
Out: Karl Paymah
Analysis: Wow. The 49ers go with six cornerbacks, including two rookies, Adams and Brock. Meanwhile, Will James makes the team despite participating in only a handful of practices. He must have made a very good impression on Greg Manusky. Brock gets this year's "Diyral Briggs Award" for playing his way onto the team with a great performance in the preseason finale. (Note: Briggs went to the practice squad a couple of days after making the 53-man roster last year)

Special teams
In: Joe Nedney, Andy Lee, Brian Jennings
Out: Shane Andrus
Analysis: No surprises here. But without Robinson, Jeff Ulbrich, Scott McKillop and Marcus Hudson, who steps to the special teams forefront?

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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