Leaping Up The Depth Chart
July 21 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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As 49ers players begin to filter in to the University of Pacific Stockton to open the 49ers training camp today, there will be several players on the team that will be looking to make extreme leaps up the depth chart. Players must report to camp by three PM today with the first practice taking place tomorrow morning. It is at that practice, and after the two hour orientation meeting that these players will begin their climb. This is the first time under Mariucciís tenure, that rookies and veterans will report to camp on the same day (the reason for this is to accommodate the trip to Japan to play in the American Bowl).
Cedrick Wilson is one player that is really looking to make a difference on the team this season. Wilson was practically invisible in his rookie season, but feels like he can become the star that he was in college now that he has had some time to learn how to play at the pro level. Given that the 49ers did not sign any big name free agent receivers, Wilson will be the primary competition for JJ Stokes and Tai Streets. Heís likely the fast receiver on the team with at least a yearís experience and will try and use that speed to get on the field.
Paul Smith is another player that will try to make a huge improvement this season. Smith has shown some great flashes in his time with the club. Heís bulked up significantly and will be pushing Terry Jackson for the backup full back and single back position. Given his outstanding power, he may be able to win the spot too.
Al Blades is yet another player that will be looking to move up the depth chart this season. Blades was placed on the practice squad last season, but will try and find his way into a safety position this season. The 49ers are likely to carry four safeties, three of which are likely to be Zack Bronson, Tony Parrish and Kevin Curtis (as they likely wonít waste a draft pick). It will be up to Blades to beat out John Keith, who before being injured was the teamís starting strong safety.
Finally Jamie Winborn will challenge for a starting linebacker position. Winborn looked very good last season, and has the speed to contend with running backs like Marshall Faulk. However, jumping ahead of Jeff Ulbrich, who has had a terrific off-season so far, will be very tough to do.
There will be plenty of competition throughout the 49ers roster this training camp. All of that was outlined in the Training Camp Battle series of articles written over the past two weeks. It is my belief though, that these four underdogs are in the best position to climb up the depth charts. They will all use whatever means necessary, including special teams play, to advance their standings with the 49ers.