It looks like the San Francisco 49ers are going to gamble a little with their special teams coverage units in 2012. That isn't to say it's a huge gamble or anything, as they've got some excellent players. Still, after just trading special teamer Colin Jones to the Carolina Panthers for a seventh round pick, they've apparently told running back and special teams leader Rock Cartwright that he's getting released on Friday.
His release is not confirmed (though some reporters are citing their sources now), but Cartwright did have a revealing Tweet:
Wanna thank the 49ers for the opportunity..— Rock Cartwright (@Rockgotti25) August 31, 2012
Cartwright was pegged as the replacement for Blake Costanzo, who led the 49ers on special teams last season. Costanzo's unit was one of the, if not the best, units in the NFL. When the 49ers didn't pick up Costanzo when he hit free agency, there was a moment of panic. Now there's ... decidedly less panic.
And that's because of Anthony Dixon. He was a late-round pick a couple of years ago and hasn't done much else other than dance a lot and pump everyone up. He's been great in the locker room, but not on the field, leading many to think the crowded backfield would be his undoing. But Dixon has taken this preseason to absolutely step up and make things happen.
He re-dedicated himself to playing the fullback position to add to his value, and he's been doing his best to work hard on special teams. He's got the charisma, but he's still a young guy, and his spot on the roster still is not necessarily safe. If it is and he survives the final cuts, it's likely at the expense of Cartwright. And that's where he should be looking for inspiration: Cartwright.
Cartwright has made a 10-year career on special teams and being a great teammate. For awhile it seemed like Dixon might be too immature, but this could be a turning point for him, and if it is, then that spells great things for the 49ers. As it stands, he's got some big shoes to fill when it actually counts: the regular season.