Closing off the past two weeks of camp and the first preseason game, Niners Live provides a sequel to “The Right 53” defensive roster series with the defensive casualties based on a postgame (August 12th) deadline.
Nose tackle 0/1 technique (keep three)
- Earl Mitchell
- Quinton Dial
- J. Jones
Quinton Dial has made some impressive plays here and there thus far in camp but hasn’t shown up on the “made plays” list as much as the competition listed in front of him in training camp, nor in the preseason opener. Dial wasn’t a stand out in the preseason opener, but he helped his case by playing with max effort and hustle as he chased down a runner stopping the play for no gain.
Earl Mitchell played, but was just about nonexistent and was even pushed backwards on the Chiefs’ first touchdown on a run right up the middle. He didn’t exactly make a strong case for his campaign as a starter. Fortunately for Mitchell, there’s time left in camp and the preseason to make his case and prove his worth. At this point, it’s more a matter of numbers than it is talent when determining who to keep on the roster from this position group.
D.J. Jones didn’t record a single tackle in his NFL debut, but he did show good power and hustle as he recovered a fumble.
Each of the of three players listed above will have to truly bring their A game every time they see the field, as not doing so could land them on the casualty list due to lack of production.
Important to note: the names on this list to make the roster were also reflected in the initial depth chart vs. the Kansas City Chiefs (which has changed with recent injuries) this past Friday (via Eric Branch).
Defensive end, 5 tech (Big end/LEO (keep five)
- Arik Armstead
- Elvis Dumervil
- Aaron Lynch
- Tank Carradine
- Solomon Thomas
Tank Carradine was the starter and has been playing like a man possessed as of late. Besides showing up on the list of names that have made plays in practices frequently, Tank also showed why he belongs on this team and list with a smashing hit recently at the team’s open practice. He looked like a Tank in the process, as seen in this video. Carradine will have to sustain his recent dominance if he wants to remain the starter. Solomon Thomas played big minutes and made big plays during his time on the field. Fans and analysts alike would assume Thomas will eventually unseat Carradine as the starter at the big end spot. With his performance last Friday night, that may end up being the case. Thomas has a motor that doesn’t stop and is rarely denied.
Lynch had an active, productive, and even quite impressive game this past Friday night against mostly 2’s and 3’s, but he looked like the Lynch we know and love nonetheless. As Niners Live discussed in San Francisco 49ers: Does Aaron Lynch Want to be Great?, his performance in the preseason opener will have to be consistent throughout the preseason in an attempt to solidify his spot on this roster.
Defensive tackle 3/4 tech (keep four)
- DeForest Buckner
- Chris Jones
- Quinton Dial
- Ronald Blair
Casualties: Ronald Blair
Ronald Blair managed one tackle last Friday night before leaving the game with a groin injury that kept him out for the game. Prior to his departure, he didn’t quite impress as he spent most of the night on his heels, having a hard time making his way to the backfield. As talented and versatile as Blair can be when healthy, this injury could very well seal his fate in terms of making the final roster. Regardless, let’s hope it’s not too serious and he has a speedy recovery.
Dial’s name shows up on both the nose tackle and defensive tackle list because of his versatility. One would think he’d make the team in one of the two spots. The jury is still out, but he’ll have to continue to play like he’s trying to make this roster. Especially with the arrival, performance, and undeniable talent of the young rookie D.J. Jones who looked solid in his NFL debut, and the veteran presence of Earl Mitchell at the nose tackle spot. This will definitely be a group to keep a close eye on.
Inside linebacker (keep four)
- NaVorro Bowman
- Reuben Foster
- Ray-Ray Armstrong
- Brock Coyle
Casualties: Donavin Newsom
In the initial final roster breakdown that Niners Live presented in San Francisco 49ers: The Right 53 Featuring the Defense Part 1, Malcolm Smith was listed as a keep, but after a season-ending torn pectoral (per Ian Rapoport), Smith has been placed on IR.
Unfortunately, the injuries don’t stop there at the linebacker spot. Both Coyle and Newsom both hold value for different reasons, but are out with injuries. Coyle has experience in the system and is known as an ace on special teams.
Newsom was said to be a steal prior to his injury and will need a very strong performance once he is cleared to practice, again having an opportunity to prove that to be true to make the 53-man roster. Will it affect their chances of both making the roster? Only time will tell. The two are expected to make full recoveries and both may make the roster due to lack of depth at linebacker. Either way, heal up fellas and best of luck to you.
Outside linebacker SAM/WILL (keep five)
- Ahmad Brooks
- Eli Harold
- Dekoda Watson
- Reuben Foster
- Ray-Ray Armstrong
Casualties: Pita Taumoepenu
This group is pretty much set besides taking hits to the depth chart via injury. Ray-Ray Armstrong and Reuben Foster can play both MIKE and WILL and did so on Friday in the preseason opener. The question mark is the rookie Taumoepenu. He showed a good burst in his limited action, but didn’t record a tackle. It’s still early in the preseason so he’s got time to try and make a name for himself.
Cornerback (keep five)
- Rashard Robinson
- Dontae Johnson
- Keith Reaser
- Ahkello Witherspoon
- K’Waun Williams
Casualties: Will Redmond, Adrian Colbert, Prince Charles Iworah, Zach Franklin, Will Davis
This list hasn’t changed much from the first one. Rashard Robinson is still the clear #1 with Dontae Johnson the clear #2 once he concludes the league’s concussion protocol and is cleared to practice. There is still plenty of young secondary talent to evaluate throughout the preseason. Thus far, no one player has established themselves as a sleeper, but again there’s plenty camp and three preseason games left to do so. Let’s go fellas, the time is now.
Safety (keep five)
- Jimmie Ward
- Eric Reid
- Jaquiski Tartt
- Lorenzo Jerome
- Chanceller James
Casualties: Don Jones, Vinnie Sunseri
Based on the numbers game, the 49ers decided to retain six corners that would ultimately leave room for only three safeties. The issue with keeping just three is the health of the three kept, so keeping five may not be a bad idea. Chanceller James and Lorenzo Jerome are both assets to this 49ers’ secondary. It may behoove the team to try and find a way to keep five safeties, rotating them to keep them fresh and healthy while simultaneously maximizing the talent and skill sets of them all based upon the given game situation.
Interesting to note: Unfourtantley James was recently waived due to a season ending knee injury.
Team notes: The 49ers have two joint practices in preparation for and ahead of Saturday’s week two preseason home opener against the Denver Broncos. And: 8 Observations from 49ers Training Camp: Aug. 14.
Jimmie Ward will test the status of his hamstring that has kept him out of training camp thus far Sunday in hopes to see his first preseason action at home Saturday against the Denver Broncos (per Eric Branch).
The 49ers have had a colorful offseason full of change and optimism. This front office and roster have both seen its share of overhaul and now have the daunting task of putting the puzzle back together with the newly added pieces. After one preseason game, it’s hard, or better yet impossible, to say whether a turnaround will be seen sooner or later, but both the offense and defense seem to be improved from that of the 2016 season.
The 49ers still have an uphill battle and plenty of work to do to shake the shadow of a 2-14 season or again be considered a contender. A large majority of that work will start with selecting the right players to fight the uphill battle. There are still many question marks (?) (due to injury and unproven talent) where there need to be periods (.) before week 1 of the regular season. While there are still many unknowns between the dedication to changing the culture and the moral of the organization, the faithful should feel confident that this team is headed in the right direction. Go Niners!
On a Niners Live side note:
As always, keep your eyes wide open, 49er fans. Niners Live will be watching with you. #eyeswideopen and often imitated but never duplicated… Go Niners.
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All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus, 49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author, Kevin Mitchell Staff Writer at Niners Live and Co-Author, Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims.