SANTA CLARA – Is it too early for Brock Purdy to pick up the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award?
His full-speed-ahead return from elbow surgery is the 49ers’ ideal scenario, and it complements a preseason in which all other starters also escaped serious injury, as far as we know.
The 49ers did spend the past month without Nick Bosa, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. But that may not be the detriment you think. It could behoove them to delay his contract extension until after Tuesday’s 53-man roster deadline.
See, Bosa does not count toward that, because he is on the reserve/did-not-report list. The 49ers could use that spot on one of several roster-bubble players who are injured.
Here is a projected blueprint for how to whittle the roster to 53:
IN: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen
Analysis: Last season’s ending screams for the 49ers to employ a three-man band. Sam Darnold winning the No. 2 job triggered Trey Lance’s trade to Dallas. And it welcomed Allen in as the No. 3 quarterback, though the 49ers could probably cut him and re-sign him Wednesday if in dire need of a roster spot; Allen is not be subject to the waiver wire.
RUNNING BACK (5)
IN: Christian McCaffrey, Kyle Juszczyk (FB), Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Ty Davis-Price
OUT: Jeremy McNichols, Brian Hill, Jack Colletto (FB)
Analysis: Maybe the Colts come calling for Mitchell, Mason or Davis-Price if they unload Jonathan Taylor elsewhere. As for McCaffrey, go put money down on him winning Offensive Player of The Year. If Mitchell can shake his injury-prone ways, they’re a dynamic duo.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
IN: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ronnie Bell, Ray-Ray McCloud (injured), Danny Gray (injured)
OUT:, Chris Conley, Willie Snead IV, Tay Martin, Isaiah Winstead, Anthony Miller
Analysis: Gray’s shoulder sprain could prompt the 49ers to carry him onto the initial roster and then revert him to Injured Reserve, which is almost surely what they’ll do with McCloud. Conley’s shoulder sprain Friday hurts his bid, so if you’re looking for a roster dark horse, go with Snead or Martin.
TIGHT END (4)
IN: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis
OUT: Cameron Latu, Troy Fumagalli
Analysis: Latu is heading for knee surgery on his meniscus, and putting him on Injured Reserve allows him to redshirt his rookie season. Drafting two tight ends (Latu and Willis) put Dwelley and Woerner in danger of losing their job, but neither rookie made a wildly convincing case through camp. Fumagalli’s had some nice plays and wouldn’t be a roster stunner.
OFFENSIVE LINE (9)
IN: Trent Williams (LT), Aaron Banks (LG), Aaron Banks (C), Spencer Burford (RG), Colton McKivitz (RT), Jaylon Moore (OT), Jon Feliciano (G/C), Nick Zakelj (G/C). (Alfredo Gutierrez is a practice-squad exemption as an international player.)
OUT: Matt Pryor (OT), Leroy Watson (OT), Keith Ismael (C), Jason Poe (G), Joey Fisher (G), Ilm Manning (T), Corey Luciano (C)
Analysis: Settling on a swing tackle (Moore) and a versatile interior linemen (Feliciano) were camp’s top priorities on the line. The confidence level in these selections is low. Pryor has experience, Watson has upside.
DEFENSIVE LINE (9)
IN: Javon Hargrave, Arik Armstead, Drake Jackson, Clelin Ferrell, T.Y. McGill, Marlon Davidson, Javon Kinlaw, Kerry Hyder Jr., Robert Beal Jr. (Bosa does not count toward the roster until he reports and/or signs.)
OUT: Kevin Givens, Austin Bryant, Kalia Davis, Alex Barrett, Breeland Speaks, Spencer Waege, La’Darius Hamilton
Analysis: This is the 49ers’ engine, and aside from Bosa’s grand importance, their second-string players better be up for the challenge. The edge rush does not look dominant, yet. Ample options exist on the interior, and excluding Givens might be ludicrous but so is this exercise. Ditching Kinlaw only days after unloading Lance is a look the 49ers will avoid.
IN: Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles, Oren Burks, Jalen Graham
OUT: Dee Winters, Marcelino McCrary-Ball, Curtis Robinson, Kyahva Tezino
Analysis: Graham and Winters impressed throughout camp. Flannigan-Fowles and Burks come with experience and special-teams value. Burks hurt his knee two weeks ago, and it makes one wonder if that impacts his job security.
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IN: Charvarius Ward, Deommodore Lenoir, Isaiah Oliver, Sam Womack, D’Shawn Jamison
OUT: Ambry ThomasQwuantrezz Knight, , Nate Brooks, A.J. Parker (injured), Tre Swilling, Darrell Luter Jr. (on physically-unable-to-perform list)
Analysis: The nickel back role became the preseason’s most suspicious, but Oliver should stick, by virtue of his nearly $3 million guaranteed and the modest options. Womack might offer more special-teams value than Thomas, whose 2022 season put him in a hole he may or may not have emerged.
IN: Talanoa Hufanga, Tashaun Gipson Sr., J’Ayir Brown, George Odum
OUT: Tayler Hawkins, Myles Hartsfield
Analysis: Odum’s shoulder injury interrupted a strong camp, and Hufanga is dealing with a cyst behind his knee. Hawkins had a better roster bid than last year but now faces surgery for a fractured hand.
IN: Jake Moody (K), Mitch Wishnowsky (P), Taybor Pepper (LS)
OUT: Zane Gonzalez (injured)
Analysis: Oh boy, what a mess. Moody has a quadriceps strain that makes his availability in doubt for the season opener, and Gonzalez won’t be available because of a calf injury in Friday’s pregame warmups. Hence, Moody will make the roster (if his quadriceps is not torn), and the 49ers will sign a free agent at some point as a contingency plan for the opener.