Cut Off Day Nears- 08/20/2000
The 49ers pre-season thus far has been an interesting one to watch. Every fan was expecting to see the 49ers field their young players in the hopes of finding a few gems that would bolster the team out the depths it suffered through last season. No one was expecting however, that the 49ers be forced to find a replacement for Ken Norton Jr. nor were the injuries to players such as Chris Dalman, Fred Beasely, Jr. Bryant, Tyronne Hopson and Julian Peterson anticipated. All this leaves the 49ers in a bit of a quandary heading into a week that will require them to cut the team first to 73 players on Tuesday the 22nd, then to the final 53 man roster on Friday the 27th.
First off the 49ers will have to decide if they want Winfred Tubbs to play inside or outside linebacker. Tubbs came to the 49ers to replace Gary Plummer at middle linebacker two seasons ago, but this season, the 49ers were hoping to give him a little more freedom to roam, while allowing Norton, to move to the middle and tutor first round draft pick Julian Peterson throughout the season. Now the 49ers are considering keeping Tubbs in the middle to provide Peterson with the learning experience they were hoping for. One way or another this means the team will be banking on one or both of rookie Jeff Ulbrich or back up Jeff Posey. The injury will also force the 49ers to take a look through their depth pool to find an additional player or too. At this point Edward Thomas seems to be the forerunner to make the team.
The 49ers seemed to have finally settled on a safety squad. Lance Schulters will start at strong safety while Peirson Prioleau will step in to free safety in his second season. Zack Bronson will once again back up the crew, along with fourth round draftee John Keith. The 49ers have very high hopes for Keith, who has laid down some huge hits throughout the pre-season. Keith will contribute primarily on special teams this season, but the 49ers really think he can develop into a premier player.
The cornerback position seems to have been upgraded from last season. Ahmed Plummer had received much praise throughout the season and should make quite the impact to last seasonís most suffering position. Opposite him, Monty Montgomery will get the nod. Montgomery will have to prove himself again this season, as he was injured for most of last season after arriving at the 49ers via waivers. Along with the aforementioned two, Ramos MacDonald, Anthony Parker and rookie Jason Webster will make the squad. Webster has impressed coaches all off-season, but the team is worried about his height. Parker finally saw some action this pre-season after missing all of last year. Parker has a large up side, but it will take a solid showing for him to make it into the starting line up.
Along the defensive line, the 49ers seem set with Bryant Young and Reggie McGrew inside... That is for now of course. The team is depending on McGrew to hold his own in the middle; thus allowing Jr. Bryant (coming back from shoulder surgery) to play at end. On the opposite end, Chike Okeafor and Anthony Pleasant (also returning from injury) should see significant playtime. The 49ers would like to rotate the defensive line as much as possible, also moving Julian Peterson into the mix on passing downs. Cedric Killings a defensive tackle could also make the squad, give the need for a strong pass rush, and the high risk of injury at this position.
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers seem set to go with four quarterbacks. Leading the way will be Jeff Garcia, who has looked sharp in his final two pre-season games. Garcia is starting to get in rhythm with the wide receivers thereby increasing his ability to perform. Garcia will be backed by journey man Rick Mirer - who has been impressive in pre-season, seventh round draft choice Tim Ratty - who has made a nice transition to the pro-level, and Giovanni Carmazzi - the teams future prospect drafted in the third round and who needs to learn to play in a West Coast Offence system.
At wide receiver the team will field one of the best cores with Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, JJ Stokes, and Tai Streets. All of who are strong good players and with the exception of Streets have already made their mark on the NFL. The team may elect to carry one more receiver, however with the extra quarterback on the roster, they may not have this luxury.
Along the offensive line, Jeremy Newberry may have to play at centre while Chis Dalman recovers from injury. At guard, Ray Brown will hold down the fort with the assistance of Newberry upon Dalman's return. On the outside, tackles Scott Gragg and Derrick Deese will keep the line together. Matt Willig another free agent will likely alternate in at both left and right tackle throughout the season, while tackle Dave Fiore will be used throughout the line to plug holes.
Tight End Greg Clark will start, and be backed up by Shon Bell. Clark is an effective tight end when healthy, and the 49ers will be looking to get him more involved in the offence this season.
The running back job will belong to Charlie Garner, who the 49ers are hoping will remain healthy all season. His lead blocker will be Fred Beasely as soon as he gets healthy. In the mean time Terry Jackson will be the man assigned to do the job. Jackson showed much promise last season both as a ball carrier and blocker. In this year's pre-season, he has continued to impress. Travis Jervey will see increased playtime this season, though his roll will primarily fall on special teams. The 49ers are hoping they will be able to add Garrison Hearst to the mix whom has been attempting to recover from an ankle injury for two seasons now. Hearst recently received good news about his recovery; still the 9ers can't assign a date for his return. The 49ers have been impressed by running back Jonas Lewis who may also crack the squad.
A notable omission from most of this years exhibition talk is the coaching staff of the team. Mariucci and his crew have done an excellent job in getting these players ready to play. Overall the 49ers will undoubtedly be a younger team this season. The team shows much promise, and if they can get healthy the future will be even brighter. Some how the team must find a way to build up the chemistry that will be required of them to win games.
Editors Note - I have finally returned from attending to my summer obligations. I am very happy to see that many fans have continued to look to 49ers Paradise for the best in 49ers coverage. Thanks to everyone for the continued support. I promise to only better my coverage of the team, so come by and check 49ers Paradise out a few times a day.