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July 21, 2013
90 Niners: Every-player review of the 49ers' training camp roster


So long shells, touch tackles and voluntary practices. Training camp begins this week for the 49ers, who for the second straight summer will look to build on a season that ended in agonizing fashion in the postseason. To get you ready, here's an every-player synopsis of the training camp roster, beginning with the offense. The first practice is Thursday.

Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers quarterback is exciting, dangerous to defenses and unlike any other quarterback - ever? - in the NFL. Ironically, he must work on becoming more like his staid predecessor, Alex Smith, this season in minimizing mistakes and taking the 49ers on methodical drives, especially when they have a lead.

Colt McCoy. The 49ers signed McCoy because they feel they could win games with him if Kaepernick, who will be exposed to hits at times this season, couldn't play. Look for the offense to be Alex Smith-like if McCoy ever takes the helm. He was solid this spring.

Scott Tolzien. We'll give him the incumbent's edge over B.J. Daniels for the No. 3 spot for now, but Tolzien has a fight on his hands. Tolzien is a coach's favorite because he works, acts and processes information like a coach. And that gives him value as a No. 3 quarterback.

B.J. Daniels. He occupies one roster spot but offers the 49ers three different players - a quarterback, a tailback and a punt returner. That gives the seventh-round pick true value on cut-down day. Still, Daniels must show he can move the offense during the preseason. He'll likely split second-half duties with Tolzien just as Tolzien and Josh Johnson did a year ago.

Running backs:
Frank Gore. The 49ers did a much better job of regulating Gore's snaps last season and Gore - finally - has accepted that he is more valuable to the team in the long term if he gives up a few carries to his backups. Look for another 1,200-yard season from the 49ers' workhorse.

LaMichael James. James added 10 pounds of leg muscle in the offseason, which has made him more explosive and which also should help with his pass blocking. He already has a good rapport with Kaepernick given their shared history in read-option college offenses and he looks markedly better as a punt returner than he did a year ago.

Kendall Hunter. He's listed behind James only because he will start training camp on PUP. However, if Hunter fully recovers from his Achilles' heel injury, he would be Gore's primary backup. Hunter hits the hole as fast as anyone. He must take a cue from Gore, however, in avoiding carries for -minus yards.

Anthony Dixon. Dixon was noticeably leaner during spring drills than he's been in the past, and it will be interesting to see if that is apparent in how he runs this summer. Dixon also can play fullback and was a regular on special teams coverage units last year. That resume will help in his roster battle this year.

Jewel Hampton. He has the best shot at unseating Dixon on the depth chart. Hampton is a natural inside runner and is fully healthy after spending most of last season on the non-football injury list. He will be fun to watch this summer, especially considering that Gore (the 49ers want to preserve him as much as possible) and Hunter are unlikely to get many carries.

D.J. Harper. The undrafted rookie is similar in size to Hampton but is more of an outside runner. How quickly he picks up pass protection will be a key in how early he's put on the field in preseason games.

Marcus Lattimore.* The Once and Future King? He indeed may be the heir to Gore's starting spot. For now, however, the 49ers wisely will allow Lattimore's two surgically repaired knees to heal. Next year at this time, all eyes will be on Lattimore.

Bruce Miller. General Manager Trent Baalke prides himself on his ability to pick out potential fullbacks, and Miller is his Exhibit A. He's smart, tough and is underrated as a pass catcher. Miller's biggest obstacle may be preparing and maintaining his body for the rigors of the position.

Jason Schepler. At 6-2, 274 pounds, Schepler is massive for a fullback. He was a tight end at Northern Illinois where he excelled as a blocker.

Alex Debniak.* Placed on injured reserve with an Achilles' tear.

Wide receivers
Anquan Boldin. He is the consummate professional, and he already seemed to have an excellent rapport with Kaepernick during the spring session. The biggest concern about Boldin is keeping him healthy. If he went down with an injury, the 49ers would be in dire straits. With that said, look for Boldin's preseason appearances to be mere cameos.

A.J. Jenkins. He's listed as a starter here because, well, someone has to be the No. 2 wide receiver opposite Boldin. Jenkins likely will have the best opportunity to win that role given his status as a former first-round draft pick. Jenkins is stronger and noticeably more confident than he was a year ago. Still, there has been no hitting, tackling or rough stuff so far this offseason, and handling that remains the slightly-built receiver's biggest challenge.

Ricardo Lockette. Who was that dude in the sunglasses sitting next to Kaepernick during the ESPY's? Why it was Lockette, who is Kaepernick's housemate. Will the fact that they are best friends give Lockette an edge in the chemistry department this summer? If it does, it could be something special - Kaepernick has one of the strongest arms in the league while Lockette is one of the league's fastest players.

Quinton Patton. The fourth-round draft pick doesn't jump out as far as size, speed or athletic ability. He is merely good in each of these categories. But he does excel in energy and eagerness, and those attributes may trump the others. He has as good a shot as any to win the No. 2 job or at least be part of a rotation of receivers opposite Boldin.

Marlon Moore. He's the dark horse of this group. Moore is tough - a gunner on special teams - and has deep speed. He must refine his route running, but the Sacramento product has a decent shot of making the final roster given special teams ability.

Kassim Osgood. At 6-5, Osgood is by far the 49ers' biggest receiver. And aside from Boldin, he has the most experience. That's a rare quaility among the 49ers' receiver challengers and it could be something that gives Osgood the edge when it comes to composing the final roster.

Chad Hall. The 49ers coaches obviously like Hall, who was elevated to the active roster late last year and who had a play specially designed for him in the NFC Championship Game. Still, you have to wonder if Hall's career arc with the 49ers is like Joe Hastings' last year. That is, the 49ers know what they have and ultimately will decide to kick the tires on other candidates.

Charly Martin. Martin is the most recent 49ers' acquisition. He seems to have good size - 6-1, 212 pounds - and he caught four passes for 42 yards last season with the Seahawks.

Chuck Jacobs. The undrafted rookie from Utah State will see plenty of action this summer with so many receivers coming back from injuries.

Michael Crabtree*. Look for Crabtree to be placed on an injury list - PUP or injured reserve - later this week. So far he is on schedule to return to the field six months after his May 21 right Achilles' tear.

Kyle Williams*. It was a bit of a surprise that Williams, who seemed very close to being at full strength last month, was placed on PUP. Perhaps it's a precaution and Williams will be back in action sooner rather than later. He suffered a torn ACL Nov. 25.

Mario Manningham*, Manningham is at least a month behind Williams in his rehabilitation from an ACL injury suffered in mid December.

Brandon Carswell*. He was placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL suffered in June.

Tight ends
Vernon Davis. The 49ers' tight end is best used at the end of the offensive line where he can either run block or burst off the line of scrimmage against a linebacker in pass coverage. Davis must continue to work on chemistry with Kaepernick. He warmed up slowly with Kaepernick last season but seemed to find a rhythm in the playoffs when he caught 12 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown in three games.

Vance McDonald. He was perhaps the most impressive of all the rookies in spring drills. He's close to 270 pounds, but still was able to contort and twist his body and make all sorts of athletic catches. McDonald is tall and has long arms (34 ½ inches). All of that together makes him an easy target for quarterbacks. He could start in Week 1 depending on whether the 49ers open the game with a two-tight end alignment or not.

Garrett Celek. Celek has a solid shot of maintaining his role as the No. 3 tight end who enters the game in short-yardage situations. He's got good size as 6-5, 252 pounds and began to develop as a pass catcher last season.

MarQueis Gray. He's an intriguing blend of size, speed and - as a former quarterback - smarts. You can easily see Gray eventually finding his way onto an NFL team's 53-man roster, but it's hard to see it happening on this team this year.

Offensive tackle
Joe Staley. Staley is proving that perennial Pro Bowl tackles don't have to be 345-pound monsters. The 49ers' left tackle is a shade over 300 pounds (after a big meal). Instead of brute strength, Staley uses light feet and technique in pass protection and is perhaps the most mobile offensive lineman in the game today when it comes to run blocking.

Anthony Davis. Davis, on the other hand, is more of a throw-back offensive tackle, and he has the feisty attitude to go with his size. Davis made tremendous strides since his up-and-down rookie season and was rewarded with a contract extension this offseason. The 49ers' starting tackles are locked up through the 2017 season.

Kenny Wiggins. He was the 49ers' starting left tackle this spring while Staley sat out after minor knee surgery. Wiggins, who spent last season on the practice squad, is deceptively athletic for someone is size. Does he make the team? He must prove he's better than seventh-round pick Carter Bykowski. The fact that Adam Snyder can play tackle doesn't help, either.

Carter Bykowski. The 49ers are looking for a swing tackle for the future. Bykowski (6-7, 306) played left tackle at Iowa State but mostly lined up on the right side for the 49ers this spring.

Patrick Omameh. The undrafted rookie lined up at right tackle this spring and also played a little guard.

Luke Marquardt*. He's intriguing because of his blend of size (6-9, 310 pounds). Marquardt, however, still is recovering from a foot injury suffered prior to the 2012 season. Marquardt watched the spring practices seated and with a boot on his foot, signaling that it still may be a while before he steps onto the practice field.

Mike Iupati. The big left guard has recovered from the arthroscopic shoulder surgery he had this offseason and will be ready for the first practice Thursday. There had been talk about a contract extension for Iupati. The plan right now, however, is for him to play through this season and address the contract at the end of the year. If Iupati has another Pro Bowl season, you have to wonder if he'll demand Carl Nicks-like money and if the 49ers will go that high for a guard.

Alex Boone. If cornerback Tarell Brown is the most underrated 49er on defense, Boone has that distinction on offense. His conversion from tackle, the position he had played his entire life, to guard last year was as seamless as possible. That Boone accounted for just three penalties all season - Iupati had 10 by contrast - shows how focused and in control he was last year.

Adam Snyder. Welcome back, Snyder. The longtime 49er was resigned after a one-year sojourn in Arizona. Snyder is best known for his versatility. He can play every position on the line, although guard is perhaps his best spot. That will be an advantage when the 49ers are composing their final roster, and Snyder is the top candidate to grab the roster spot occupied by Leonard Davis last year.

Joe Looney. The 2012 draft pick was injured to start his rookie season and never played a snap. This is essentially the first year we'll see Looney at full strength. If he's impressive it could prompt the 49ers to say goodbye to Iupati. Looney also has taken snaps at center.

Al Netter. Netter, who spent 2012 on the 49ers' practice squad, turned down an opportunity to join another team's 53-man squad last year. Though the team did not draft a guard this year, it still has two youngsters - Looney and Daniel Kilgore - waiting in the wings ahead of Netter.

Wayne Tribue. He spent time on the Broncos' and Saints' practice squads in recent years before the 49ers signed him after last season. Tribue has good size - 6-4, 324 pounds - but is a longshot to make the roster. He was lining up at left guard in the spring.

Jonathan Goodwin. Goodwin is in the final year of his contract, and he accepted a lower salary to remain with the team this year. The smart, patient, low-key veteran has been the perfect personalty to go along with the 49ers' mostly young and high-strung offensive line in recent years. The team, however, is likely to move on next year and allow Kilgore or Looney to take over the role.

Daniel Kilgore. The excellent health of the team's starters has meant that Kilgore, a 2011 draft pick, has received scant playing time in the last two years. Knowing that Goodwin is likely on his way out, however, means that Kilgore promises to see plenty of snaps in training camp and the preseason.

Sherman Carter. The undrafted rookie from Syracuse will work with the third-team offense this summer.

Bold -- starter
Italics -- rookie
* -- injured

-- 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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