49ers: 'Play the young guys! Wait, we already are'

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The premise: 'Tis the season when disappointed NFL fans call for their teams to take a longer look at young talent on the roster.

The reality: Teams generally do not have a long list of promising players sitting on their benches.

The 49ers: We take a quick look at the 20 youngest players on the 49ers' roster. Each is listed by name, position and current age, starting with the youngest.

  1. Kentwan Balmer, DE, 22: Rookie first-round choice is playing as a backup.

  2. Reggie Smith, CB, 22: The 49ers have made him active, but the team has lots of numbers at the position. The team might need Smith in 2009.

  3. Chilo Rachal, OL, 22: Made first NFL start in Week 12. Coach Mike Singletary said Rachal struggled.

  4. Josh Morgan, WR, 23: Was starting until a groin injury sidelined him.

  5. Jacob Bender, OL, 23: Recently signed for depth from the Patriots' practice squad.

  6. Jason Hill, WR, 23: Moved into the starting lineup at Dallas. Has produced reasonably well in recent weeks.

  7. Tarell Brown, CB, 23: Would start Sunday if Walt Harris can't play. Brown has played in the nickel and performed to expectations. Also a good specialt-teams player.

  8. Patrick Willis, LB, 23: Pro Bowl inside linebacker enjoying another strong season.

  9. Cody Wallace, OL, 24: Rookie probably won't get a chance this season.

  10. Dominique Zeigler, WR, 24: Has served as the fourth receiver recently and could factor as a return specialist Sunday.

  11. Dashon Goldson, DB, 24: Has played extensively in the nickel defense, but a knee injury has sidelined him recently.

  12. Joe Staley, OL, 24: Starting at left tackle.

  13. Ray McDonald, DE, 24: Starting at defensive end.

  14. Manny Lawson, LB, 24: Top special-teams player is showing signs of improvement on defense. Collected the 49ers' lone sack at Dallas.

  15. Ahmad Brooks, LB, 24: The 49ers talked about getting some playing time for him, but Lawson's reemergence has put those plans on hold.

  16. Vernon Davis, TE, 24: Volatile starter has become a touchdown threat recently.

  17. Parys Haralson, LB, 24: Has started five games this season and has 4.5 sacks.

  18. Frank Gore, RB, 25: He's the 49ers' best player on offense.

  19. Michael Robinson, RB, 25: The 49ers have used Robinson at fullback. Robinson is also a key special-teams player.

  20. Marcus Hudson, DB, 26: Has helped the 49ers on special teams. Does not figure into the plans in the secondary.

There you have it, a look at the 20 youngest players on the 49ers' roster. At this point, "turning to the young guys" would mean playing Reggie Smith, Jacob Bender, Cody Wallace, Ahmad Brooks, Marcus Hudson and -- health permitting -- Dashon Goldson.

The Rams' decision to play David Vobora at linebacker prompted me to put together this blog entry. I'll put together similar packages on the other teams in the division. Wanted to hit the 49ers first because we've had so much on the Seahawks and Cardinals in recent days.