For 33 players on the 90-Man roster that opened training camp there will be an opportunity to have a second chance to stick around the team if they don’t make the 53-Man roster, by being designated a member of the 10 player Practice Squad. Throughout the rest of Training Camp, Niner’s Live will bring you weekly updates of the players who have the best shot of earning this second chance and making this year’s practice Squad.
What is the Practice Squad and who is eligible?
For certain players who do not make the 53-man roster after training camp and through the regular season, the NFL and NFL Players Association (NFLPA) have set up a sort of “Redshirt” year. Where players, like a collegiate red shirt year, can practice with the team and attend all meetings, but are not eligible to participate in games.
Players continue to develop with the team throughout the season while the team continues to evaluate a player’s development. Promotions can happen at any point throughout the season. Once signed, eligibility for game play happens immediately, as long as they are signed by Thursday of that week. The caveat to this is, if a player is placed on the 53-Man roster of the team signing him, any team, not just the team whose practice squad the player is on can sign him. Also, a player must be waived and not claimed by another team to be placed on the practice squad.
According to a memo posted on the NFLPA’s website about expanding the roster size limits of the Practice Squad roster beginning in 2014 from eight to 10 players, eligibility for Practice Squad consideration is limited:
Each club will be permitted to sign a maximum of two Practice Squad players who have earned no more than two accrued seasons of free agency credit. Absent this exception, a player who has earned one or more accrued seasons would not be eligible for a Practice Squad unless the player spent fewer than nine games on a club’s 46-player active list in each of his accrued seasons.
A player on the practice squad is paid a minimum salary of $6,900 per week that the player is on the practice squad. As a protection against losing players to other teams, general managers will sign players to deals that exceed past the minimum.
Who has the best chance this year?
There are currently 90 players on the roster after the last Pre-Season game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Of those, there are 33 eligible for practice squad consideration, including players such as Will Redmond, DeAndre Smelter, and Raheem Mosert, who after a few years in the league and on the team are trying their hardest to avoid the practice squad and make the 53.
Because we don’t know how the team will be broken up between offensive and defensive players come the end of the pre-season, we will take a look at each of the five players from the offense and defense that have the best chance to make the 10-man practice squad.
This list will be updated each week until the 53-Man roster comes out.
Tyler McCloskey, FB, Rookie
McCloskey has showed in both practice and in the first game against Kansas City that he is a good football player and has a good grasp of the offensive system deployed by Coach Shanahan. Unfortunately, he is playing behind the prize of free agency for the team in fullback Kyle Juszczyk, the designated “Offensive Weapon”. But what happens if an injury occurs to the team’s Offensive Weapon? The answer to this question is to simply bring up McCloskey from the practice squad. Which is why he will be stashed away as an emergency insurance policy for Juszczyk.
Cole Hikutini, TE, Rookie
Hikutini was signed as an undrafted free agent after the draft, and was handpicked by the team because he has a skill set that works well within this scheme. Well, that was the case when Vance McDonald was on the trading block during and immediately after the draft. Since that time McDonald has responded well and has even been lining up with the first team offense with the injury to fifth-round draft pick George Kittle. John Lynch has said this week that the team is, “Very pleased with him,” and even went as far as saying, “We are very proud of him.” This endorsement is great for the chances of McDonald sticking with the team, but that also means the numbers game is now pointing to Hikutini being headed to the practice squad.
Andrew Lauderdale, OL, Rookie
Showing well through training camp is why the team will want to keep Lauderdale around. His 266-pound frame is why he will benefit the most from a “Redshirt” year on the practice squad. This will allow him to get in the weight room and pack on the bulk to handle the rigors of a 16 game NFL season. With the talent and grasp of the offense Lauderdale has shown, if he were already even 295 pounds, he would be in the mix for a place on the 53-Man roster.
Eric Magnugson, OL, Rookie
Magnugson handled the second and third team defensive line of the Chiefs very well, making the calls that opened the lanes for the 49ers running backs to lead the charge in the comeback victory last Friday. Also keeping the calls coming to do something that the Faithful have not seen since the Jim Harbaugh Era, run the clock down to secure a victory. Daniel Kilgore and Tim Barnes are the front runners for the starting and backup jobs at center this season leaving Magnugson to the practice squad. At this point, only an injury would move him up to the 53-Man roster.
Kendrick Bourne, WR, Rookie
“Momma, there goes that man again,” is what defenders must have felt during a key drive last Friday night when Bourne was the go-to target on a drive that would produce 8 points and put the team in the lead for good. On back-to-back plays, Bourne scrambled the feet of the defensive back covering him in route to a 46-yard touchdown and then out jumping another defensive back to make a “Moss-Like” catch on a fade route for a 2PT conversion. He is a real NFL wideout and had he not missed most of the off-season work due to an NFL rule that keeps rookies from joining their teams until after their school has completed classes for the year. Once again, as with most of the players on this list, it’s not about them lacking the talent to make the cut, it’s about the numbers bumping them down the list. Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Jeremey Kerley, Aldrick Robinson, and rookie Trent Taylor have played themselves into a locked-in roster spot. With most teams keeping only six receivers on the roster, there is only one spot left. Special teams are going to be the determining factor and with that, based on comments made by Kyle Shanahan about Aaron Burbridge and his special team’s value makes the numbers game play against Bourne.
Adrian Colbert, DB, Rookie
A defense switchblade being used during camp as both a cornerback and a safety, Colbert has shown value this summer. But once the secondary is at full strength, Colbert will bounce back to reality and the practice squad. The off-season emphasis on special teams means it will be difficult for the young defenders to back door their way onto the team based on special teams play. Once cuts are made and the season gets into full swing, the chances for Colbert to be called up will greatly increase due to his versatility.
Lorenzo Jerome, DB, Rookie
Lining up as the first team free safety will greatly increase anyone’s chances of breaking camp on the 53-Man roster. Having established players return from injury will greatly decrease the chance of anyone to hold on to their spot on the 53-Man roster. Just like Colbert, Jerome was the benefactor of the injuries that befell the secondary in Santa Clara. As players return, we will see Jerome fall back to earth, and the practice squad.
Austin Calitro, LB, Rookie
Calitro was all over the field against Kansas City, making plays so often one would think he was the only defender playing in a 49ers’ uniform. But this was in the second half of the first pre-season game, meaning the dominance he displayed was against mostly players who will not be on active rosters this season. But Calitro did show that he knows the system and will, in the future, be an asset to this team. Additions in the linebacker room such as Dekoda Watson, who have special teams value, make it difficult for Calitro to climb the depth chart and break camp on the 53.
Pita Taumoepenu, LB, Rookie
The signing of Elvis Dumervill basically pigeon holed Taumoepenu to the practice squad. Pita has shown some ability to rush the passer and drop into coverage as an outside backer and rush end. But once again, it comes down to numbers, and General Manager John Lynch has done a great job this offseason of bringing in the numbers to make competition in Santa Clara fierce at all levels of both the offense and defense. Pita seems to be one or two injuries away from an active roster spot, but it looks for now like this hard-working young man will come up just short of making the cut, and finding himself “Redshirting” his rookie season.
Will Redmond, CB, Third Season
Redmond was a member of the infamous “All ACL Team” former General Manager Trent Baalke created each season during the draft. While Redmond has shown to be recovered from the ACL that sidelined him his rookie season, once again, General Manager John Lynch brought in competition in the form of K’waun Williams that will make it difficult for the former Mississippi Bulldog to win a spot on the 53-Man Roster. Redmond has been lining up as the Nickle Corner with the second-team defense through training camp. Barring an injury to Williams, it does not seem like Redmond will win this battle. Also to note, as of yet, Redmond has not shown up big on special teams, which is a requirement for a player looking to make the roster as a fourth or fifth corner.
Practice Squad final thoughts
Check back each week to see who has the best shot of Making the Cut BY Missing the Cut………..
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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, Edward Erving Staff Writer @NinersLive.net and Content Creator, Editor, Sequoia Sims