49ers 2021 ‘Who is?’ series: Dark-horse CB Briean Boddy-Calhoun

Briean Boddy-Calhoun #20 of the Cleveland Browns (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Briean Boddy-Calhoun #20 of the Cleveland Browns (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

He has a long way to go to make the 49ers’ 53-man roster, but Briean Boddy-Calhoun could end up being a dark-horse reserve addition by Week 1.

Editor’s update: San Francisco waived Briean Boddy-Calhoun in the wake of signing safety Tony Jefferson.

If you’re thinking the San Francisco 49ers are planning on backup cornerback Briean Boddy-Calhoun to make the 53-man roster this season, you’re probably anticipating him having an exceptional training camp and showing off why he’s a better option than many of the other defensive backs vying to support starting nickel cornerback K’Waun Williams in 2021.

The 5-foot-9, 193-pound 2016 undrafted free-agent signing out of Minnesota by the Jacksonville Jaguars spent his first three years in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns before becoming something of a journeyman, ultimately joining the Niners’ practice squad in December of 2020 and seeing one game of action before being retained by the team this offseason.

Briean Boddy-Calhoun Defense & Fumbles Table
3 yr3 yrCLE43213941671911.01381122625
1 yr1 yrHOU1011.0010
1 yr1 yrIND211.0311
1 yr1 yrSFO100.0

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 6/7/2021.

To say Boddy-Calhoun is anything more than a camp body and someone to push other reserve defensive backs is quite the reach.

Yet the 28 year old still has an outsider’s chance to make the 53-man roster, primarily because of his special teams experience and also as Williams’ primary reserve if many of the other options don’t wind up working out.

Let’s take a look at Boddy-Calhoun has to offer this offseason.

Why Briean Boddy-Calhoun improves with 49ers in 2021

Boddy-Calhoun’s service to San Francisco last season came solely on special teams, and that was a modest 16 snaps at that over one game.

Yet Boddy-Calhoun saw plenty of work here with the Browns between 2016 and 2018, and one would figure he could carve himself out a niche role in this regard if he winds up showcasing enough defensive talent to warrant being considered a reserve.

This 2016 scouting report suggested Boddy-Calhoun had enough instincts to stay with lower-level receivers leading up to that year’s draft:

"Good instincts from off coverage, diagnoses the play and reacts quickly. Settles into a good lateral position in man coverage and mirrors route from a semi-trail position. Very good angular body position allows for an explosive plant and drive back to the ball."

While those traits haven’t exactly carried over to the NFL, the fact Cleveland played him all over its secondary adds to his versatility, and that’ll be important for any backup to make the cut.

And it’s always possible he winds up hitting some sort of stride in 2021, too, even if it doesn’t seem likely.

Why Briean Boddy-Calhoun regresses with 49ers in 2021

That same scouting report also highlighted one area which could potentially hinder Boddy-Calhoun from fitting in with coordinator DeMeco Ryans’ defense:

"Marginal line of scrimmage skills from press coverage as a result of an inability to jam receivers allows the offense to maintain the timing of the route. From off coverage, gives too much of an initial cushion, allowing for easy completions underneath."

Ryans is expected to deploy a lot more press-man coverage this season, moving away from the 49ers’ previously zone-heavy formations under now-New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh.

Related Story: 3 differences 49ers defense may employ under DeMeco Ryans

This figures to work against Boddy-Calhoun. And even his special teams prowess and versatility won’t be enough, necessarily, to help the defensive back thrive.

Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster

There’s no guaranteed money on Boddy-Calhoun’s one-year, $850,000 cap hit, meaning he’d be an easy cut if he fails to truly impress during training camp and the preseason.

On top of that, Boddy-Calhoun is still looking at a deep crop of defensive backs competing with him behind what looks to be an established crop of starters, including Williams at nickel back.

Some of the other reserves on the offseason roster include Mark Fields II, Jared Mayden, Tavon Wilson, Tim Harris Jr., Ken Webster and the fifth-round rookie draftee, Deommodore Lenoir.

It’s likely the Niners keep one, perhaps only two of these backups for the secondary on their regular-season roster, meaning Boddy-Calhoun will have to have an offseason performance perhaps better than any other he’s had up to this point in his career.

It won’t be easy. Especially considering third-unit defensive backfields rarely see the number of snaps first- and second-string units see during training camp. Less reps means less attention, so Boddy-Calhoun will have to make the most of his limited opportunities.

Yet Williams’ recent injury history — he missed eight games last season — could increase the possibility that San Francisco retains additional defensive backs on the roster, especially if they’re able to offer something on special teams.

If Boddy-Calhoun, solidly on the weaker side of the bubble, makes the cut, he’ll have to do so from these merits and then some.

Next. 5 Niners who aren't helping their roster chances at OTAs. dark