The 49ers have signed running back Ja’Quan Gardner to play in Thursday’s final preseason game. In a corresponding move they waived strong safety Chanceller James.
Gardner (5-7, 205), spent his college career at Humboldt State, and is known to the 49ers due to his attendance at their rookie minicamp after being undrafted in the 2018 NFL Draft. A native of Ceres, California, Gardner will make the short journey to Santa Clara to practice and play in Thursday night’s game with the Chargers, with the 49ers short on running backs given at least two of their four healthy running backs look set to make the roster.
The writing appeared to be on the wall for James when he didn’t get into last Saturday’s game, having seemingly fallen behind Tyvis Powell in the pecking order at the strong safety spot. James was not able to push on from a promising summer in 2017, with the lingering effects of the ACL injury that halted his early momentum perhaps still having an effect. Hopefully, James will get the opportunity to land somewhere else through the waiver wire, or alternatively get fully healthy in the short term and land somewhere later in the season.
This may well raise a few questions about who plays at the strong safety spot on Thursday. Perhaps the 49ers are keen to give Tyvis Powell a full game of snaps to assess his viability at the position – given he has been at cornerback for most of camp. Alternatively, we could see rookie Marcell Harris split time with Powell. Looking further forward, it might be worth keeping an eye on possible developments with Eric Reid. This is more likely to be after the roster cutdown or potentially after week 1, when the 49ers would be able to sign Reid without guaranteeing his salary. With the depth at strong safety still questionable, and Reid’s continued availability, it shouldn’t be written off.