Two days before Saturday night’s matchup between the 49ers and Broncos, head coach Kyle Shanahan announced that rookie quarterback CJ Beathard would be moved up from third to second string. So I figured, let’s take a closer look at this rookie quarterback and what he’s made of. Also, we’ll see which corresponding additions the 49ers would be able to make if they only carry two signal-callers instead of three.

While it is only preseason, it is still a noteworthy move to bump up Beathard over veteran backup Matt Barkley. If the 49ers carry only two quarterbacks on the roster, it opens up the door for many other players to make the squad at different positions.

This move also speaks volumes that Kyle & John are more than happy with what they saw in the rookie Beathard in preseason week 1. Beathard finished the night 7/11, 101 yards and two touchdowns. Beathard also finished with a 133.0 QBR, 63.6% completion rate, a long of 46, and an average of 9.2 yards.

Beathard connected with WR Kendrick Bourne for a 46-yard touchdown to take the lead from the Chiefs. He then hit Bourne again for the two-point conversion to tie up the football game

Beathard then took the lead on a play-action touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

In practice, Beathard has shown good ball-placement on his passes.

While at Iowa, Beathard showed his ability to remain in the pocket and deliver a perfectly placed deep ball.

He’s not afraid to lower his shoulder and take off running if needed.

Like I said earlier, if the 49ers are able to only use two spots on quarterbacks, it would allow them to keep another player in a different position like a DB, RB, TE, or WR, which might prove to be pivotal down the line this season. Each UDFA could be the “extra” player if the team is able to trim the QBs down to two.

Players on the Bubble:

Defense

 

  • Adrian Colbert
    • Colbert is a cornerback that was drafted out of Miami. Many seem to believe he’s a long-shot to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster. While he has the measurables, prototypical size and tremendous speed, he is still extremely raw. Things may have changed recently though, and his chances on making the final roster have increased – mainly due to various injuries that have occurred in the secondary this off-season. Colbert has been recently getting some work at safety and if he is able to grasp that role quickly he may be able to prove that he is an a real asset as not only depth, but special teams as well.

 

  • DJ Jones
    • DJ Jones a very intriguing player not only for this year, but for the future as well. Jones is extremely instinctive and athletic for a nose tackle, but the team has a lot of depth on the defensive line already. Even though he was a draft pick this year, he may be facing an uphill climb to make this roster. The additional spot could help him especially if the team decides to keep veteran linemen like Quinton Dial. If Jones doesn’t make the 53-man roster, it is far-fetched to think talent like his would stay on the 49ers’ practice squad, as he would be quickly picked up by another team (cough, cough, Seattle).

 

  • Will Redmond
    • Will Redmond may end up making the team solely due to the lack of depth at the cornerback position. However, Redmond has not showed us much so far, and could really use the help of an extra roster spot. He may need to start making some plays in the upcoming preseason games to make this team. This season, Redmond hopes to display that he is a capable slot cornerback, but he will need to severely step up his play as he has been getting shined by newly-acquired K’Waun Williams. Redmond was a 3rd-round pick just last year, but that doesn’t hold much weight with a new regime whom he has no ties to determining his future.

 

  • Ronald Blair III
    • Before the start of training camp, I thought Blair was close to a lock making the team based on his improved play from last year. After all, he finished the season on an upward trajectory. When it comes to Blair, it is not his play, but it could be a numbers game when deciding if he will make the team. If it were up to me to award the defense with an extra spot, it would most definitely go to RBIII, he is just made for the 4-3 defense and he should only continue to improve. Not to mention I’d hate to see him get released and then have a breakout season for another team.

 

  • Pita Taumoepenu
    • After starting out fairly slow, Pita had a strong week of practice this week and show a great amount of potential while working against the Denver Broncos. He also has been cross-training at the SAM LB position, which could help his roster hopes, especially if he can showcase an ability to play multiple positions and not be limited to just a situational pass-rusher. However, Pita will still need to continue his improvement in the remaining two games of the preseason to help his chances. An additional roster opening would of course increase the likelihood of him making the roster, but he still may find himself on the practice squad for another year when all is said and done.

Offense

  • Matt Breida, Tim Hightower, and Kapri Bibbs
    • Carlos Hyde and recently-drafted Joe Williams are all but locks to make the team. However, after those two there are several players that are fighting to earn their way onto the final 53-man roster. Matt Breida has been very impressive so far in training camp and in his first preseason game vs the Chiefs. However, Breida didn’t see one snap in the loss against the Broncos. Breida will have to continue to show the coaching staff that he can make the transition to the NFL from the Sun Belt conference. He will be feeling added pressure as veteran back Tim Hightower is returning from injury and will be looking to outshine the rookie in the remaining preseason games. Breida needs to gain the team’s trust, show improved ball-security, and obtain a better understanding of the pass-protection. If he is able to do all that, the team may decide to stick with the younger, cheaper talent and be rid of the more expensive vet. If Breida fails, he may need additional seasoning on the practice squad. Kapri Bibbs is the running back that needs as much help as possible to make this final squad. Even though SF just recently traded for him during this April’s NFL Draft, Bibbs in still in severe danger of getting released/traded. He will need to start performing at a high level to even have a chance of sticking on this final roster.

 

  • Cole Hikutini, Logan Paulsen, Blake Bell and Garrett Celek
    • Even with a lingering injury that made him miss a decent amount of practice and the Kansas City game, George Kittle is the only tight end that is just about guaranteed to be on the team come September. Vance McDonald should make the team if he isn’t traded. I must admit, Vance has looked really motivated since the trade rumors made their way around Twitter this off-season. Blake Bell and Garrett Celek are looking like long-shots to make the team and need to really turn it up to have any chance at this point. The battle between Hikutini and Paulsen seems to be a tight one and may come down to the final preseason game. Cole is the best receiving tight end in this group and if he can learn the nuances of blocking and polish his route-running, he could develop into a solid receiver for the 49ers. If the team decides that Hikutini needs more experience, they may try to stash him on the practice squad. However, it will be tough for another team to not claim Cole if they decide to do so.

 

  • Aaron Burbridge, Kendrick Bourne, DeAndre Smelter, and Victor Bolden Jr
    • The wide receiver position could really benefit the most from the extra roster spot, as there has been a fierce competition going on throughout the entire duration of training camp. Pierre Garςon, Marquise Goodwin, and Trent Taylor are guaranteed to make the team in my opinion. Jeremy Kerley and Aldrick Robinson are just about near-locks as well. So, that leaves only one potential spot left if the team opts to roll with six receivers. Kendrick Bourne has been electric so far in camp and made a handful of splash plays in SF’s first preseason win over the Chiefs. Bourne hauled in four receptions for 88 yards and a touchdown, including a spectacular catch on a two-point conversion. Victor Bolden Jr has shown explosiveness and big-play ability during camp and put his explosiveness on full-display when he returned a kickoff for a 106-yard touchdown against the Broncos Saturday night. I believe that Bolden may be a practice squad stash as he is very similar to the other receivers on the team. DeAndre Smelter has made a positive impression at camp after being pretty much forgotten about after being drafted two seasons ago. Smelter came into the league injured and only ended up playing a few snaps late last season. He didn’t put up any receiving stats in the first game, but he looked solid as a run-blocker and on special teams (what else should we expect – the man went to Georgia Tech). Aaron Burbridge looked to perhaps have a slight lead in this battle as he was one of the team’s captains vs. the Chiefs. but he ended up leaving the game with a hamstring injury. He hasn’t practiced since and his chances of making the team are dwindling with each passing day. Bourne and Smelter are the two that stand out, as they are different than the other receivers that are also on the bubble. The pair is also different from the receivers I stated earlier as locks because they have an advantage in size and strength and can also play multiple positions, which will be intriguing to Coach Shanahan. The remaining preseason games will play heavily into determining who the team will decide to keep at the wide receiver position.

Each and every one of them could benefit from the 49ers opening up an extra roster spot due to Beathard outperforming Barkley. One thing is for sure, in just a few weeks all of this speculation will come to an end for another year when the 49ers trim the roster down to 53 men.