6 takeaways from the 49ers’ initial 53-man roster

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The 49ers’ 53-man roster has been set. Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have come up with the lineup they believe can bring success in Trey Lance’s first season as the starting quarterback.

In true Shanahan fashion, the starting 53-man roster has some surprises, the most significant being the decision to retain the services of Jimmy Garoppolo as the No. 2 quarterback.

Beyond that bet on the 49ers’ team chemistry, there have been several other unexpected decisions that won’t elicit the same level of backlash, but could be more influential in the Niners’ direction this season.

Let’s examine those roster choices in a look at six key takeaways from San Francisco’s cut day.

Niners feel good about Purdy over Brock

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing will top Monday’s surprising revelation that Garoppolo would be staying with the 49ers as Lance’s backup, but the fact that rookie seventh-round pick Brock Purdy also earned a spot on the 53 also raised plenty of eyebrows.

Purdy enjoyed an impressive preseason in which he looked comfortable despite constantly having to deal with poor pass protection from backup offensive linemen. He passed the ball decisively and was not afraid to make ambitious shots in the center.

However, it was hard to imagine Purdy or Nate Sudfeld remaining on the roster once the Garoppolo news broke. The fact that Purdy accomplished this feat is a clear indication that the 49ers believe he can be a long-term backup when Garoppolo heads for pastures new next year.

Shanahan said Purdy would be Lance’s backup if the Garoppolo deal hadn’t gone through. By keeping the final pick in the 2022 draft on the active roster, they can keep him on his new deal, rather than having to re-sign the former Iowa State star to a new contract to put him on the practice squad.

After this season, the 49ers will have three more years of Purdy on a cheap contract, and they seem to be very excited about that prospect.

Rich Run-game insurance

Maria Lysaker-USA TODAY Sports

Having five running backs on a 53-man roster – six if you count running back Kyle Juszczyk – is the most stereotypically Kyle Shanahan thing Shanahan has ever done.

San Francisco kept starter Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson Jr, third-rounder Tyrion Davis-Price, last year’s third-rounder Trey Sermon and undrafted rookie Jordan Mason on the active roster, giving the 49ers a plethora of options to develop as a part. of their often devastating land attack.

Having that many backs might seem redundant, especially when the 49ers also have a wide receiver in Deebo Samuel, who has contract incentives tied to him to maintain his outstanding 2021 rushing production.

But in a year where the Niners might run the ball at an even higher rate after switching to a quarterback of Lance’s dual-threat abilities, insurance at a position where San Francisco has been plagued with frequent injuries is critical.

Mitchell was limited to 11 games last season, and Wilson was constantly plagued by injury. It’s unlikely that Shermon or Mason — who were enjoying an extremely strong preseason — would have cleared waivers and made San Francisco’s practice squad, so keeping them on the active roster was the simplest way to ensure the 49ers were protected largely from injuries. Their top two backs and they might not have leaned on Samuel as much this time if Mitchell and Wilson were sidelined at the same time.

Kroft nods for the sixth receiver

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Although he was not named to the starting 53, Tyler Kroft agreed to return to the team when safety Jimmie Ward and linebacker Curtis Robinson were placed on injured reserve.

That means the 49ers will have four tight ends instead of six receivers, which is surprising since many expected WR Malik Turner to be the sixth and final wideout.

However, the 49ers run 22 man more often than they go five wide, and that will continue to be the case with Lance under center. Even when the Niners go five wide, George Kittle will almost certainly be on the field.

Unless the 49ers felt Turner would be a valuable addition on special teams, it wouldn’t make sense to carry a sixth receiver. TE Ross Dwelley, who made the cut, has special teams experience from last year, while the potential return of Kroft gives them another weapon they can pull off in a run of two tight ends where Kittle or Charlie Woerner serve as obstacle.

Having a sixth outfielder wouldn’t have added more complexity to San Francisco’s offense. Holding on to another bullish finish on Kroft suggests a season in which Shanahan will try to throw more of the heavier personnel groups to give more defenses to deal with in 2022.

Flexibility is key on the offensive line

(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Between the second- and third-string offensive lines, it was undrafted free agent guard Jason Poe who drew attention as a smaller, athletic guard who often played above his size.

But Poe’s performances weren’t enough to earn him a spot on the active roster. Conversely, Nick Zakelj in the sixth round was an unexpected name at 53.

Zakelj improved as training camp went on and produced a quietly impressive performance amid chaos on the 49er O-Line in the preseason finale against the Texans.

Capable of playing center and tackle as well as guard, Zakelj’s versatility would likely be a critical factor in securing a spot, and that’s a continuation of a theme going forward for San Francisco.

Daniel Brunskill has experience at every spot on the line, right guard Spencer Burford played tackle in college and Colton McKivitz has played both tackle and guard, as has Jaylon Moore. Make no mistake, the 49ers want continuity among the starters on the O-Line, but the ability to fill any void is what they value in reserves.

Out goes Turai the curious

(AP Photo/Scott Tucker)

The 49ers, who also agreed to re-sign Jordan Willis when Ward and Robinson go on IR, will be 10 deep on the defensive line in 2022. However, edge rusher Kemoko Turay, who was signed in the offseason after recording 5.5 sacks in 2021 for the Colts, will not be part of the rotation.

Turay had emerged as a shrewd signing from San Francisco and consistently flashed against the run in the preseason, but clearly didn’t do enough to convince the 49ers that he was worth having on the active roster.

Instead, the Niners opted to stick with eight players who have already played extensively on their defense, along with second-round rookie Drake Jackson and free agent interior line signing Hassan Ridgeway.

Why did he lose Turai? Lack of flexibility from the inside out could be one reason. Charles Omenihu and Kerry Hyder Jr. both have the ability to rush from the edge and inside, while Turay is almost exclusively a winger.

Additionally, outstanding performances from Jackson and Willis against the Minnesota Vikings and then from Samson Ebuckam in the loss to the Texans may have made the path to regular snaps for Turai seem unlikely, perhaps preventing the 49ers from going 11 deep on the D line.

Turay’s omission was a shock, but it’s not one that many will remember if the D-line continues its upward trajectory with this extremely talented group.

Where is the safety depth?

(AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

With Ward designated as injured reserve, the 49ers are now set to carry just three safeties on the active roster, a strange and troubling lack of depth at a position that is becoming increasingly important in the modern NFL.

Either Tarvarius Moore or George Odum will start next to Talanoa Hufanga at safety in Week 1. While a lack of options might not bite them in a road game with the Bears, the 49ers could soon find themselves on thin ice if either of that trio — none of whom have established themselves as safeties at the starting level — are coming off injury early in the season.

The 49ers have the option to potentially bring back Jaquiski Tartt after he was cut by the Eagles. As for interior options, Dontae Johnson – who can play either position in the secondary – and Tashaun Gipson could provide practice squad depth after both were allowed to continue on cutdown day. One or both could sign with the practice squad and join the active roster on game days.

However, the lack of importance the Niners seem to place at the safety spot is out of step with the rest of the league, and it’s made all the more surprising given that they’re a team overseen by a Hall of Fame player at the position.

San Francisco is extremely well stocked in most areas of the roster, but, they are walking a tightrope with safety.

This story originally appeared on Niners Wire

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