By Jared Stanger
I’ve got this whiteboard I keep in my office that I use throughout the year to draw up various ideas-in-progress that I want to visualize. I’ve had the bulk of my 53 man roster drawn up for a few weeks now. I think I had 50 of the 53 named, with 3 spots open for bubble guys. Since drawing it up two of my picks have gone on IR (Cottom and Perkins) and the team has added two new players from free agency (Evans and McDaniel) which have since altered the projection.
Nothing surprising here. I think Boykin earned the backup job Saturday.
As I said before, I originally had Cottom on my board as the true fullback. That’s a truly disappointing loss, and his replacement will be interesting to discover. I was very tempted to keep Zac Brooks just because he’s such a personal favorite and he’s done nothing but look quick and versatile when he’s been on the field. But knowing the way of the RB position, we still may find Panda kept if/when one of the other four ends up not healthy enough to open the season.
I was really impressed with Williams’ game vs Kansas City. On many of the biggest run-plays, Williams was on the field as a blocking TE, and he’s probably the best blocker of the four. Brandon wasn’t in my original 48 names, but whereas the team originally wanted Cottom (a fullback listed as a TE), maybe now they’ll keep a TE that can play some FB.
I’m still waiting to see visual evidence of Williams repping at FB, but Monday Pete was asked straight-up in his press conference if there was a chance Williams could play some FB, to which Pete coyly replied, “yes.” That was the end of his answer, and the end of the presser. But reading the signals, it does seem to be coming.
I’m also intrigued by the idea of two very good in-line blocking TE on the team (Williams/Vannett) allowing the team to potentially go one lighter on OL.
I think the top 4 WR are pretty much locks. I’ve had McNeil in my WR5 spot for most-closely resembling the skillset of the player we had in Ricardo Lockette. It’s primarily a special teams choice. It also benefits Douglas that he’s been healthy while Kasen Williams and Kevin Smith have had bum hamstrings. Lawler has seemed inconsistent, and really looks like he needs a redshirt year to eat something.
My original configuration had J’Marcus Webb on the team, and Jahri Evans wasn’t yet signed. After seeing Webb looking awful during the mock game, and then coming down injured…I’m considering Evans for Webb a 1 for 1 trade. I don’t think many people believe in Poole yet, but I thought most of his pass sets on Saturday looked far better than what I had seen from Webb. Plus, I’m still hopeful cutting Webb gets one of our 2017 comp picks back.
Cutting Webb will mean we might need to work Ifedi in at RT in some backup/practice capacity just to have the numbers. You can find 3 LT in Sowell, Gilliam, Odhiambo…then 3 RT in Gilliam, Poole, Ifedi…3 LG in Glowinski, Odhiambo, Evans…3 RG in Ifedi, Evans, Glowinski. Or thereabouts.
Now, if you add each of those position groups up, that puts me at 24 on offense. Both offense and defense are generally 25 each (plus 3 special teams specialists). So I have one open spot to which the logical applications are: 10th OL or 6th WR. After Saturday’s game, I think I’m going with Tanner McEvoy.
McEvoy is a guy that can play WR, TE, S, and might even be able to play the emergency QB (God forbid). I think he’ll be an interesting special teams addition. He already showcased that he brings a unique skillset to the endzone with his ability to box out on jumpballs (a skillset that my draft research tells me PCJS have been digging deep into, in general). I know he had a drop on Saturday (on, I think, his first-ever pro target), but he later showed the impressive hands I’ve been seeing in camp (and in limited WR use at Wisconsin).
Most importantly, whereas a lot of the bubble WR have seemed to already plateau in camp, since McEvoy has moved to WR, he’s consistently shown improvement.
In my original projection, I had Jordan Hill on the team, but with a question mark. Ever since the draft (picking Reed, Jefferson, and then bringing in Bryant in UDFA), it has felt like the team is looking to find younger/healthier alternatives at DT to the injury-plagued Hill. And even now, as it stands, Hill may come back to practice this week, but Coach Pete has already ruled him out for Thursday’s game. When is enough – enough?
Add on top of Hill’s issues the signing Monday of former Seahawk DT Tony McDaniel…I think there will be better combinations with the above look. Tuba and Reed can both play 1T and 3T. McDaniel can play more of a base 3T. Jefferson should end up primarily a 3T but has been used some as 5T with Bennett out. And I like the signing of McDaniel because it will allow Bryant to play more of a tightly monitored pass-rushing DT (3T in standard 3rd down, but maybe the 1T in NASCAR between Bennett and Clark).
I’ve included Marsh as DL because I think that this is his best fit. He’s been on the LOS for most of his collegiate and pro career, and I think he’s shown the most flash there in both the mock game and at KC. Plus, SAM has other cool candidates.
Kevin Pierre Louis
I mean, that HAS to be the fastest 2nd unit LB corps in the league. I’ll be curious what happens with the Morgan situation…if he misses any kind of significant time.
I’m grouping CB and S together because they’re all LOB (and there’s so much crossover, anyways).
I also thought it would be interesting to display this group a little differently as this pattern sort of appeared to me Saturday night:
Richard Sherman Tharold Simon
Deshawn Shead *Tyvis Powell
Jeremy Lane Tye Smith
Kam Chancellor Brandon Browner
Earl Thomas Kelcie McCray
That group is probably the most interesting display of roster mirroring on the 53. Sherman and Simon, Kam and Browner are pretty obvious pairs. Thomas and McCray are nothing alike, but I like McCray better than Terrell. Pete has literally compared Shead and Powell. Lane and Tye have similar size, but Lane is obviously the faster player.
Kris Richard said recently that Tye would start to see time in the slot. I think this is due, in part, to the team starting to come around to the idea of keeping Tyvis, and teaching him to play the hybrid CB/S role that Shead had a couple years ago. But in keeping a 5th safety, you can no longer carry Tye as simply the #5 corner. You need another guy that can play the slot behind Lane. If I’m choosing between Tye and Burley – one with three years left on his deal, the other with only one – I’ll take the ‘three’ that also happens to have some upside left.
Powell made the team on Saturday. You already kinda knew he would either need to be rostered or lost on waivers, but now it’s a foregone conclusion. But Pete, in his Monday post-practice presser, said the most interesting thing in regard to Tyvis’ ability to play CB and S: “That makes him more valuable to us, makes a spot on the roster more available.”
That is probably the most candid comment anyone on the coaching staff has made about any player on the bubble. And it tells you Tyvis is taking the spot of a CB. Whether that means Burley, Smith, or the recently injured Stanley Jean-Baptiste…I’m not sure.
Let’s not forget Jon Ryan, Steven Hauschka, and the long-snapper. Remind me again who the long-snapper is this week? Oh yeah…Nolan Freese.
And finally, here is my original chicken-scratch whiteboard outline of how the 53 looks in 11 personnel formation (sorry, the safeties got cut off at the top).