NFC West: Matt Spanos

Catching up with the 49ers' cut list

September, 10, 2009
9/10/09
10:55
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


49ers Player Released on Cutdown Pos. Current Team Capacity
Brit Miller
RB 49ers Practice Squad
Kory Sheets
RB 49ers Practice Squad
Alex Boone
OL 49ers Practice Squad
J.J. Finley
TE 49ers Practice Squad
Dobson Collins
WR 49ers Practice Squad
Dominique Zeigler
WR 49ers Practice Squad
Terrail Lambert
DB -- --
Matt Spanos
OL -- --
Pannel Egboh
DL -- --
Khalif Mitchell
DL -- --
Bill Rentmeester
RB -- --
Jacob Bender
OL -- --
Kyle Howard
OL -- --
Jay Moore
LB -- --
Justin Roland
LB -- --
Mark Washington
LB -- --
Joe Toledo
OL -- --
Bear Pascoe
TE -- --
Maurice Price
WR -- --
Eric Green
DB -- --
The tough decisions teams face in reducing their rosters to 53 players sometimes aren't so tough.

"The 49ers released Kory Sheets!" loses some of its drama when Sheets quietly re-signs to the 49ers' practice squad after none of the other 31 NFL teams submit a waiver claim for him.

I've gone through the initial NFC West cut lists -- those players released at the 53-man deadline -- to see which ones have returned to their teams or caught on elsewhere.

The chart shows results for San Francisco.

The 49ers' initial cut list featured only one vested veteran, cornerback Eric Green. The other 19 players had practice-squad eligibility and the 49ers brought back six of them in that capacity.

The remaining 14 players are unsigned.

Offensive lineman Jacob Bender had a tryout with the Seahawks. The Jets showed interest in tight end Bear Pascoe, only to receive another tight end via waivers.

Sheets impressed during the preseason, but the 49ers were stacked at running back with Frank Gore and Glen Coffee. They valued the versatile Michael Robinson far too much to carry a rookie runner on their 53-man roster in his place.

Ex-49ers with practice-squad eligibility

September, 6, 2009
9/06/09
11:12
AM ET
Ex-49ers eligible for
practice squad
Pos.
Jacob Bender
OL
Alex Boone
OL
Dobson Collins
WR
Pannel Egboh
DL
J.J. Finley
TE
Kyle Howard
OL
Terrail Lambert
DB
Brit Miller
FB
Khalif Mitchell
DL
Jay Moore
LB
Bear Pascoe
TE
Maurice Price
WR
Bill Rentmeester
FB
Justin Roland
LB
Kory Sheets
RB
Matt Spanos
OL
Joe Toledo
OL
Mark Washington
LB
Dominique Zeigler
WR

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


NFL teams can begin forming eight-man practice squads once released players clear waivers this afternoon.

Every player the 49ers released on the reduction to 53 players -- minus cornerback Eric Green -- possesses eligibility for the practice squad. Tackle Alex Boone, guard Matt Spanos, fullback Brit Miller, defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell and running back Kory Sheets could make sense as options. The team will presumably keep one of the tight ends it released, Bear Pascoe or J.J. Finley. Cornerback Terrail Lambert could provide another option.

Some 49ers fans have expressed to me surprise over Sheets' release in particular. The depth San Francisco enjoys at that position made Sheets' release likely.

We likewise should not be surprised if backup running back Glen Coffee plays sparingly as a rookie. Like Sheets, Coffee showed promise during the exhibition games. But with offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye having already committed to Frank Gore as the workhorse back, there won't be many carries left over.

As long as Gore is healthy and his usually productive self, I think Coffee would have to break long runs when given opportunities to siphon significant carries in the No. 2 role.

49ers: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
5:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando


Biggest surprise: The 49ers kept only four running backs, two tight ends and eight offensive linemen on the initial cutdown to 53 players, suggesting the team will consider adding players at those positions. This is a power running team, after all. The decision to release both Bear Pascoe and J.J. Finley was a bit of surprise. One of them was expected to serve as the third tight end. Undrafted free agent Diyral Briggs earned a spot at linebacker, edging out Jay Moore. Fullback Brit Miller, running back Kory Sheets and receiver Dominique Zeigler had made positive impressions with fans, but none enjoyed strong roster security. Their releases were not surprising in that context. Coach Mike Singletary had said the 49ers faced few significant roster decisions heading into the final exhibition game. The team did not cut any big-name players.

No-brainers: The 49ers' cut list ran 20 deep and also featured tackle Jacob Bender, tackle Alex Boone, receiver Dobson Collins, defensive end Pannel Egboh, cornerback Eric Green, guard Kyle Howard, cornerback Terrail Lambert, defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell, receiver Maurice Price, fullback Bill Rentmeester, linebacker Justin Roland, offensive lineman Matt Spanos, tackle Joe Toledo and linebacker Mark Washington.

What's next: The 49ers could use a veteran offensive tackle after Marvel Smith retired. They will presumably scan the waiver wire for a fullback. The team will also likely want to add a third tight end.

Practice-squad report: 49ers

August, 21, 2009
8/21/09
11:29
AM ET
49ers eligible for
practice squad
Pos. Perceived Status
Terrail Lambert
DB
Likely cut
Reggie Smith
DB
Keeper
Curtis Taylor
DB
Likely cut
Carlos Thomas
DB
Likely cut
Jahi Word-Daniels
DB
Likely cut
Pannel Egboh
DL
Likely cut
Ricky Jean-Francois
DL
Bubble
Khalif Mitchell
DL
Bubble
Diyral Briggs
LB
Likely cut
Scott McKillop
LB
Keeper
Jay Moore
LB
Bubble
Justin Roland
LB
Likely cut
Mark Washington
LB
Likely cut
Brit Miller
FB
Bubble
Matt Spanos
OL
Likely cut
Cody Wallace
OL
Keeper
Jacob Bender
OL
Likely cut
Kyle Howard
OL
Likely cut
Alex Boone
OL
Bubble
Joe Toledo
OL
Likely cut
Nate Davis
QB
Bubble
Glen Coffee
RB
Keeper
Bill Rentmeester
RB
Bubble
Kory Sheets
RB
Likely cut
Alex Romero
ST
Likely cut
J.J. Finley
TE
Likely cut
Bear Pascoe
TE
Keeper
Mark Bradford
WR
Likely cut
Dobson Collins
WR
Likely cut
Maurice Price
WR
Likely cut
Dominique Zeigler
WR
Bubble

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The quarterback race between Shaun Hill and Alex Smith commands much 49ers-related attention.

The race for the No. 3 job behind them deserves some attention. Veteran Damon Huard has a 15-12 record as an NFL starter. He provides value as an experienced backup. The team also wants to develop fifth-round rookie quarterback Nate Davis.

What to do?

Davis is a project. He will not help the 49ers this season. The question becomes whether another team would sign him to its 53-man roster if the 49ers waived Davis and tried to sign him to their practice squad.

As noted, NFL teams selected 19 quarterbacks in the fifth round from the 2000 through 2008 drafts. Eighteen earned opening-day spots on 53-man rosters as rookies. The Steelers' Omar Jacobs was an exception in 2006, the year Ben Roethlisberger opened on the bench following a motorcycle accident.

The factors that pushed down Davis in the draft -- notably a learning disability that the 49ers see as overstated -- still exist. If teams fear Davis might struggle to learn their system -- and for the sake of this discussion, it doesn't matter if such fears are justified -- the 49ers might have an easier time getting
Davis onto their practice squad.

What would you do?

The chart shows all 31 current 49ers players with eligibility, arranged by position. I left first-round choice Michael Crabtree off the chart because he has not signed with the team.

NFL teams must reduce rosters from 80 to 75 players Sept. 1. They must reduce to 53 players Sept. 5. They can begin forming eight-man practice squads Sept. 6 at noon ET.

As the NFL puts it:

After 12 noon, New York time, clubs may establish a practice squad of eight players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free-agency credit or who were on the 45-player active list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s). A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than three seasons.

The 49ers also face dilemmas at other positions, including what to do at receiver while Crabtree and Brandon Jones are not available, but that third quarterback race stands out.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The 49ers' roster appears most interesting at running back and receiver.

The more I think about how much the 49ers want to pound the ball on offense, the more I see them keeping two fullbacks on the Week 1 roster.

Zak Keasey's broken forearm prevents him from becoming part of the equation early, and it's tough to see a team waiting two months for a backup fullback to get healthy. Enter Bill Rentmeester. Formerly of the Chargers, Rentmeester offers what preseason touchdown machine Brit Miller does not: experience at fullback. For the sake of this roster exercise, I'll pencil in Rentmeester for Week 1.

The numbers at receiver figure to swell while the team waits for Brandon Jones to heal and Michael Crabtree to sign and get ready to contribute.

San Francisco 49ers Week 1 Roster Counts since 2003 QB RB WR TE OL DL LB DB ST
Fewest 3 4 5 2 8 5 6 7 2
Most 4 7 7 4 10 9 8 11 4
Average 3.2 5.2 5.8 3.2 8.8 7.2 7.3 9.3 3.0
Currently on roster
4
8 12 4 14 9 12 14 4

The chart provides a framework for how many players the 49ers might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the Cardinals.

Here's a quick look at which 49ers players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players (I made one change, moving Cody Wallace into the group of offensive linemen at Joe Toledo's expense):

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The 49ers begin their afternoon practice in another hour or so. A few notes left over from the morning session:

  • These practices feature more high-impact physical contact than what I recall seeing at most training camps. Example: Frank Gore runs across the shallow middle on a pass pattern. He's about to catch the pass when linebacker Takeo Spikes decks him. The pass is incomplete. Gore gets up and runs back to the huddle, ready for more.
  • Manny Lawson stood out to me a couple times. As noted, he defeated Vernon Davis, a difficult matchup, in Mike Singletary's nutcracker drills. I also saw Lawson beat left tackle Joe Staley in a one-on-one pass-rush drill. Lawson celebrated after beating Staley with a quick move to the inside. The 49ers need to see more of this.
  • Also in pass-rush drills, nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin beat center Eric Heitmann, who had little choice but to hold; Kentwan Balmer beat guard Tony Wragge, who also held; defensive tackle Khalif Mitchell convincingly beat center Cody Wallace; defensive end Pannel Egboh eventually prevailed against tackle Kyle Howard with a spin move; guard Matt Spanos fared better in an immediate rematch after defensive lineman Babatunde Oshinowo beat him in the first matchup.
  • Cornerback Dre Bly showed his frustration after receiver Josh Morgan beat him for a short reception. Morgan gained separation with a quick shove near the line of scrimmage before catching the pass from Shaun Hill.
  • Receiver Brandon Jones leapt high to make a catch over cornerback Marcus Hudson on a pass from Alex Smith (update: I think Hill threw that one).
  • Singletary kept urging players to stay off the ground. That is a standard message from coaches, but it's tougher to abide by such rules when the practices are so physical.
  • Smith's shoulder appears to be doing fine. The quarterback threw one pass roughly 60 yards in the air without any trouble.
  • Singletary likes what he's seeing from linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who continues to get work while Parys Haralson rests an injury.
  • Balmer "did OK" when working with the first team at right defensive end while Justin Smith received time off.
I spoke with Staley and Gore after the morning practice. Both seemed genuinely excited about playing for Singletary. More on that as camp progresses.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFC WEST SCOREBOARD