The 49ers kick off their final preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday evening. It is unlikely that any of the starters will see any playing time. It will prove as the last chance for some players to showcase their abilities and reasoning for making the final 53-man roster. These are a few players that may have worked themselves off the bubble and onto the squad.
RB Alfred Morris
Signed on August 13, Alfred Morris was originally viewed as a camp body by many; however, as one of the few healthy running backs against the Indianapolis Colts, he showed that his familiarity with Kyle Shanahan’s system is reason to believe he belongs. Morris’s patience and confidence running the football were very clear against the Colts’ starting defense as he racked up 84 yards on 17 carries. It feels very safe to say that Morris will not only make the roster but should suit up on Sundays.
WR Richie James, Jr.
Richie James began the preseason with a bang by catching the game winning touchdown pass against the Dallas Cowboys. James has proven to be dangerous after the catch by taking slants and screens for big gains. Trent Taylor has the slot receiver position locked up but is coming off offseason back surgery. James would provide a capable backup that displays many of the same skills. He seems like another late round gem from John Lynch and Co.
OG Joshua Garnett
Shanahan has stated that the right guard position is Mike Person’s to lose heading into the regular season. That said, Joshua Garnett has made major strides since beginning training camp unable to participate after banging knees with another player. Garnett went from the easy pick for odd man out in the OL group to showing why he was a first-round pick of the previous regime. He has still shown struggles in pass protection but has consistently gotten to the second level in the run game. Garnett will be able to fill in as a swing guard behind Laken Tomlinson and Mike Person.
DL Jullian Taylor
Yet another hseventh-round draft pick outplaying his draft position, Jullian Taylor turned heads early in training camp with his strong performance. He earned a starting spot in the first preseason game against the Cowboys due to injuries along the defensive line. Now that Arik Armstead is back, Taylor has been relegated to a backup role. That said, Taylor should prove to be an integral piece of the defensive line rotation and could easily step in if another injury were to occur.
OLB Pita Taumoepenu
Edge rusher was arguably the 49ers biggest offseason need and outside of the signing of Jeremiah Attaochu, nothing of note was done to address the position. Shanahan and Lynch were betting on the players on the current roster to step up and make the right plays. Pita Taumoepenu is one of those players and he has performed fairly well throughout training camp and the preseason. Seeing game action primarily against reserves, Taumoepenu has been able to generate pressure from the outside on a consistent basis. The lack of depth at the position means his roster spot is safer than most.
TE Cole Wick
Cole Hikutini was a popular undrafted free agent signing after the 2017 Draft but is more of a receiving TE that does not block particularly well. Cole Wick, on the other hand, is a more traditional tight end that would be able to fill in a similar role to what Logan Paulsen held last season. Wick has logged only two receptions for 21 yards in the preseason but that speaks to how Shanahan envisions his third TE, blocking over receiving.
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