So with training camp mostly complete and one preseason game already in the books, we have some clarity about our roster situation. Most of the spots have already been sewed up, and all that remains are the final backup positions and the Practice Squad. We have a ton of depth and talent this year which is a very good thing, but it also sets up some very interesting player battles.
Round 1: Tavares Gooden vs. Michael Wilhoite
This is the battle for the 4th ILB spot. Gooden is a very solid special teamer who shouldn't be counted on to play significant minutes on D. If Wilhoite can prove to be just as good as Gooden on special teams while showing more upside on D (i.e. can be groomed to take over Grant's spot next year) he could snatch away the job from the veteran.
Round 2: Cam Johnson vs. Eric Bakhtiari
Coming into camp I thought Johnson would be a shoe-in for the #4 OLB position, with his status as a draft pick and Darius Flemming's injury. But Johnson's knee hasn't been right all summer and he's been passed up by Bakhtiari on the depth chart. If Johnson can get healthy soon and show something during preseason he could still get the spot on potential alone, but he has to make it back onto the field first.
Round 3: Josh Johnson vs. Lord Tolzien.
This has been discussed ad nauseam. For the record, my money's on our Bronze God Tolzien.
I would be surprised if we keep less than 6 WR and 5 RB on the roster. Which assuming we keep 9 DB, 3 QB, 9 OL, and 8 LB only leaves us with room for keeping either 7 DL and 2 TE or 6 DL and 3 TE. Versatility is going to be a big factor in who wins this.
Round 4: Will Tukuafu vs. Ian Williams vs. Demarcus Dobbs.
Oooh our first 3-way free for all! This really depends on whether Harbaugh believes Dobbs can be counted on to be the 3rd TE. If he can then all 3 could get a spot and this would be an anti-climatic battle. But if he can't then we have to let one of these 3 go. Tukuafu has played some H-back so he has a little versatility going for him as well. Ian Williams is the least versatile of all the DL as he can only play one position, but the coaching staff was really high on him last year and he's done nothing but continue to get better this year. Decision, decisions.
Round 5: Demarcus Dobbs vs Konrad Reuland.
Continuation from round 4 here. I have to say I'm a bit skeptical that Dobbs in basically two weeks of practice after not playing TE since High School can be more than an occasional TE in short yardage plays. Meanwhile Reuland catches every thing in sight and his blocking seems to be improved some this year. But on the other hand Dobbs has made remarkable progress in a short period of time. Hmmmmmm........
How do you guys think this plays out in the end? Which deserving players don't make the cut? Are there any other roster battles that I'm not thinking of?
(P.S. I'll post the practice squad brawls in a bit, if this is popular enough ).