The San Francisco 49ers will travel to Denver on Sunday to go up against the Broncos for their third exhibition game. A lot of attention will be on the 49ers offense and how they bounce back after not scoring any touchdowns in their 20-9 loss to the Texans. But another story of importance for the 49ers in the game is less than 24 hours after they play the Broncos, Jim Harbaugh and his coaches must cut the team roster from 90 to 75 players.
The 49ers are set at starters on offense and defense which means most of the roster cuts on Monday will be at backup positions. One position where we might see some roster cuts is at safety. The defense is set with Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldson as the starting safeties, however, there are five players fighting for potentially only two spots as backups. They include undrafted rookie Michael Thomas, sixth-round draft pick Trenton Robinson, second-year player Colin Jones and C.J. Spillman and Darcel McBath, who each have four-years of experience in the NFL. After training camp and two exhibition games, none of the five backup safeties have emerged as the leader in the position battle. Here is defensive coordinator Vic Fangio on the backup safeties,
We’ve got some jobs that are up for grabs in the backup area. We’d like to see somebody step forward and make the decisions easy for us, particularly at the safety positions. We know we have Whitner and Goldson. But we’re looking to see who are our third, fourth and, possibly, fifth safety. We need for that to clear itself up. Hopefully, guys will step forward and make it easy. Right now, it hasn’t been an easy decision for us there.
If the 49ers had to make cuts today, Spillman and Robinson look like great candidates to be the backup safeties. Spillman has been listed as the 49ers third safety through training camp and the two exhibition games. He is also listed as the third backup for the Broncos game which is a good indication he will make it through the first roster cuts. He is the best special-teams player on the team, so that also gives him an edge making the final roster.
Even though Robinson was a sixth-round draft pick, the 49ers were considering him as a starter had Goldson continued to holdout. With Goldson signing his franchise tender, the team still considers Robinson a top candidate as one of the backups. In the first exhibition game, he was on the field for 33 snaps of defense and played well. In the second exhibition game, he was on the field for 23 snaps of defense and struggled. The biggest mistake he made was getting turned around while covering Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson in the second quarter. The error allowed Johnson to catch the pass and gain 43 yards. He also allowed Texans wide receiver Lestar Jean to make 9-yard catch on third-and-8 by giving him too much room in coverage. Even with last week’s regression, the safety has been slowly improving his game. It looks like he will clear the first round of roster cuts, but should he give up more plays like he did in last week’s game, it could open the door for Thomas, McBath or Jones to make the team.
The next and final set of rosters cuts is on August 31, with the 49ers having to go from 75 to 53 players on the roster.