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August 29, 2012
53 pickup: Where things stand as preseason finale approaches


Ninety four of the precincts are reporting, but this race still is too close to call. According to my eye, 47 players are locks to make the 49ers' final roster. That means six spots are still up in the air, including the No. 3 quarterback, which promises to be the focus of Thursday's preseason finale.

Also, Demarcus Dobbs' recent injury complicates things. He was seen on crutches this week, and the severity of his injury is unknown. Dobbs is a three-way player now - offense, defense, special teams - so his injury, if serious, has impacts across the roster.

2 Quarterbacks: Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick.
The quandary is whether the 49ers keep Scott Tolzien or Josh Johnson. Or both. It's hard to see the 49ers keeping four quarterbacks on the active roster, but Jim Harbaugh also isn't shy about bucking convention. Tolzien is the only one of the group with practice-squad eligibility. But the 49ers would have to expose him to waivers before getting him on the squad.

4 Running backs: Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James.
Anthony Dixon or Rock Cartwright or both? Dixon has been getting heavy praise in recent weeks and is a stalwart on special teams. If Brad Seely gets to keep a few core special teamers, Cartwright could get the job.

1 Fullback: Bruce Miller
With Will Tukuafu and Isaac Sopoaga able to play the position, there's no need for two pure fullbacks. The 49ers kept both Miller and Moran Norris last year, so this will be a roster savings.

6 Wide receivers: Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins.
No, fan favorites Nathan Palmer and Chris Owusu will not make the list, but either could go on the practice squad. Brett Swain is quiet but productive. He could be this year's Lance Long. He is not practice-squad eligible.

2 Tight ends: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker
With so many other players capable of playing tight end, will the 49ers feel secure with just two? That would be bad news for Konrad Reuland, who is eligible for the practice squad. Does Dobbs' injury affect this position (and others?)

8 Offensive linemen: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Leonard Davis, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney.
Versatile Mike Person also figures to make the squad, but he's eligible for the practice squad. If the 49ers feel they have to go deep elsewhere, they could borrow from the offensive line. Derek Hall, Chase Beeler, Jason Slowey and Al Netter are other p-squad candidates.

6 Defensive linemen: Ray McDonald, Isaac Sopoaga, Justin Smith, Ricky Jean Francois, Demarcus Dobbs, Will Tukuafu.
The question here is whether Ian Williams makes the final roster. He did last year, and both of the players ahead of him at nose tackle, Sopoaga and Jean Francois, are in the final year of their contracts. Tony Jerod-Eddie flashed early, hasn't done much of late. The team may like his potential as a practice squadder.

4 Inside linebackers: Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Larry Grant, Tavares Gooden.
Michael Wilhoite has been solid and has special teams value. Rookie Joe Holland can move, but needs to get bigger. Either could land on the practice squad; Wilhoite even could sneak onto the 53.

3 Outside linebackers: Ahmad Brooks, Aldon Smith, Parys Haralson
This is one of the fuzzier positions. The 49ers didn't want to go into the season with only three players here. Eric Bakhtiari likely will not play Thursday after suffering a concussion on Sunday. But the 49ers probably know what they have in him. Rookie Cam Johnson is still a mystery. He promises to play his first preseason game Thursday, and the 49ers' plans for him are unknown. They would have no trouble getting him on the practice squad; Kourtnei Brown, cut on Monday, also has practice-squad potential.

5 Cornerbacks: Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox, Tramaine Brock
This position appears straight forward. Will Anthony Mosely make the practice squad? This could be a position in which the 49ers find practice squadders from the group of players cut Friday.

3 Safeties: Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner, C.J. Spillman.
Who will be the fourth safety? When in doubt, go with the draft pick, Trenton Robinson. After all, he's been pairing with Spillman in the second-team defense. Darcel McBath has more experience and Michael Thomas has more versatility. Thomas is practice-squad eligible.

3 Special teams: David Akers, Andy Lee, Brian Jennings.
Colin Jones is likely to get a lifeline from Seely as a pure special teamer.

Another way to try to predict the roster: See who was playing special teams at the start of the game. When the 49ers kicked off Sunday in Denver, here's who was on the field: Akers, Jones, Bakhtiari, Cox, Robinson, Cartwright, Spillman, Dobbs, Dixon, Brock and Gooden

Here's who was on the field for the first kick return: Jones, Grant, Miller, Robinson, Cartwright, Spillman, Dobbs, Dixon, Kilgore and Gooden, Ginn

-- 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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