Training Camp Battles Part I
July 5 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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As we get closer to the start of training camp, I thought Iíd highlight some of the positions that will have heated battles at them. A quick look across the depth chart showed little competition for starting spots, but plenty of competition in the secondary and tertiary roles. Of course with twenty of twenty-two starters returning to the club this isnít quite the shocker.
The depth that the team has, or rather the competition across the roster is encouraging news for the 49ers are looking to improve upon their first round playoff exit last season. A big problem the team faced late last season is not having the depth to replace some of its injured players that should be different this season.
In part one of this series Iíll take a look at an interesting situation developing at running back.
In the 49ers backfield two things are certain: 1) Garrison Hearst is the primary running back, 2) Fred Beasley is the primary full back. From there on in, thereís a lot up in the air. Iíll start with Kevan Barlow, the standout rookie looks like heíll have a very bright future with the team. So whatís the debate here? Really itís whether he will be able to win the starting job from Hearst by the end of the season. While itís not likely heíll be able to win the job in training camp, he does have an outside shot at winning the role by the end of the season, especially with his reported great off-season.
How the roles of Paul Smith, Terry Jackson and Jonas Lewis play out will also be interesting. Technically Terry Jackson hasnít re-signed with the team yet, but that likely wonít be too big an issue. Smith has bulked up this off-season and looks to be making a play for backup full back. Jackson on the other hand has always been best suited for the Ďthird down back roleí. Meanwhile Jonas Lewis has looked very sharp this off-season too. He was in the running to win the starting back role last season before he got injured and Hearst proved to be healthy. Lewis may also have an opportunity to return kicks.
The battle in the 49ers offensive backfield is bound to be fierce. Along with the competition mentioned, NFL Europe MVP Jamal Robertson will be doing everything he can to make the 49ers roster. This is one area where the 49ers extremely deep with talent. The battles that will occur here during training camp are bound to be exciting.