On Friday, the San Francisco 49ers (and all teams in the NFL) cut down to the official regular season roster limit of 53 players. With these cuts did come a considerable amount of surprises. It was surprising to see the team keep Anthony Dixon over special teams ace Rock Cartwright, and it was certainly surprising to see them go so light on the linebackers this time around.
Many questions spring to mind - namely about who is going to actually be inactive on gamedays. There's six running backs on the official roster ... which one of them is inactive? Does LaMichael James ride the inactive list here and there, or do the 49ers use him, considering he cost a second-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft? Will first-round pick A.J. Jenkins be active the entire season, and will he get playing time?
The point is there are so many unanswered questions with this roster. There's positions that seem more like they're akin to a logjam than well-seated depth. Below, we'll take a look at the offensive side of the ball position-by-position.
Quarterbacks (3): Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Scott Tolzien
No change in the depth chart here. Tolzien beat out Josh Johnson for a roster spot, presumably due to the fact that he's got more upside, because the battles were pretty even at this point. Alex is the unquestioned starter and Kaepernick showed some solid progression this year.
Running Backs (6): Frank Gore, Bruce Miller, Kendall Hunter, Anthony Dixon, Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James
Gore, of course, is the starter going forward and he'll get the bulk of the carries. It's also very obvious that Hunter will get plenty of carries behind him. Then you have Dixon grabbing a carry or two and backing up Miller at the fullback position, and Jacobs grabbing short-yardage carries here and there. Where does that leave James? Nobody really knows at this point, but it's likely that one of these guys will have to spend some time inactive - a running back's worst nightmare.
Wide Receivers (6): Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, Ted Ginn, Kyle Williams, A.J. Jenkins
When the 49ers took Jenkins, it was never a matter of forcing him into playing time sooner rather than later. The 49ers can afford to bring him up slow, but the fact remains that he needs to see the field this season to gain some seasoning. Receivers have to see the field, they're not like quarterbacks. Jenkins doesn't have many opportunities with this grouping, though if he shows some stuff early on, he could leap frog Ginn and Williams, given that they are the primary return specialists.
Tight Ends (4): Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker, Demarcus Dobbs, Garrett Celek
This is possibly the weirdest position on the team. Celek is a huge surprise given his camp struggles, but he has a lot of potential if he can stay healthy. He'll likely be inactive often, though. Dobbs is a player that isn't really a tight end but the 49ers are doing their damndest to not have three players who only play tight end active on gamedays. This will probably hurt them at some time during the season, but it does unquestionably give them some versatility here and there.
Offensive Linemen (8): Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Leonard Davis, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney
It's surprising to see that the 49ers aren't carrying nine offensive linemen, but they needed to cut some space somewhere on offense. Boone is the starting right guard but is also the backup tackle, so if a tackle goes down, Davis will step in at guard. Kilgore is likely the backup center, while Looney will almost always be inactive. It was surprising to see Jason Slowey released during the earlier roster cuts. Mike Person is a practice squad candidate.
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