49ers roster: Practice squad players who could be important after bye week

Dontae Johnson #27 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
Dontae Johnson #27 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images) /

The 49ers are expecting some healthy reinforcements to return to their 53 man roster after the Week 9 bye, but these practice squad players might help, too.

The San Francisco 49ers have to be feeling a bit better about a midseason bye week as opposed to having them way too soon in the year.

All fans need to do is recall that Week 4 bye in 2019. That was brutal. And the Week 6 bye in 2021 wasn’t much better.

The Niners head into Week 9 with the hope of getting a number of injured players back in the fray, including big names like running back Elijah Mitchell, defensive tackle Arik Armstead and potentially even cornerback Jason Verrett, who missed almost all of last season with a torn ACL and is just now working his way back towards in-game action.

These reinforcements will make San Francisco’s active 53-man roster a bit more crowded, and there’ll be some moves head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will have to make.

But, the front office shouldn’t completely overlook their practice squad either, and these four players might play a pivotal part in beefing up the active roster at various points in the second half of the season.

49ers practice squad player No. 4: CB Dontae Johnson

Let’s admit it, cornerback Dontae Johnson is inevitable. No matter where he starts off the year with the 49ers, be it on the active roster or the practice squad, he’ll find a way to make an impact.

Through the halfway point of 2022, Johnson has only managed to get himself into one game, which is quite the contrast from what he’s done in prior years with the Niners.

However, considering Verrett’s lengthy injury history and the fact Johnson can play any cornerback spot, it’s only a matter of time before the latter winds up assuming a larger role on San Francisco’s depth chart.

He’ll get more than one game in for the 49ers before Week 18 concludes.

49ers practice squad player No. 3: RB Tevin Coleman

While nowhere near as extreme as Johnson, the Niners do have an on-and-off-again flirtation with running back Tevin Coleman, whom they brought to the active roster to deliver big against the Carolina Panthers in Week 5 before he was ultimately released and re-signed to the practice squad.

San Francisco’s blockbuster trade for former Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey makes Coleman’s need far less substantial, and so will the eventual return of Mitchell, too.

However, in the wake of the 49ers trading fellow tailback Jeff Wilson Jr. to the Miami Dolphins, Coleman essentially becomes the emergency call-up rusher to support both McCaffrey and Mitchell.

It wouldn’t be shocking if Coleman finishes the year on the active roster.

49ers practice squad player No. 2: WR Willie Snead

Johnson is a great comparison piece, and the Niners may have themselves an offensive counterpart in veteran wide receiver Willie Snead.

Snead, who got into action in two games for San Francisco and actually saw 21 offensive snaps in Week 8 against the Los Angeles Rams, seems to be that go-to option for when the 49ers’ depth chart at wide receiver is unusually thin.

And Week 8 proved to be that kind of week with both Deebo Samuel and Jauan Jennings unavailable because of injuries.

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Like Jennings, Snead offers up a lot in the blocking department. Sure, passes aren’t likely to come Snead’s way, but having perimeter blockers who can serve as pass-catching threats is never a bad way to go.

It’s likely Snead winds up finding his way back onto the active roster a few more times this season.

49ers practice squad player No. 1: LB Marcelino McCrary-Ball

Perhaps this is less of a “this will happen” kind of move and more of a “we’d like to see it” suggestion.

Undrafted rookie linebacker Marcelino McCrary-Ball certainly impressed in his NFL preseason debut by recording an interception and subsequently returning it for a big gain the other way. And while that didn’t translate into a regular-season designation by Week 1, the Niners nevertheless felt McCrary-Ball was worth developing, placing him on the practice squad.

San Francisco has dealt with some injury attrition at linebacker this season, too, losing both Azeez Al-Shaair and Dre Greenlaw at various points to injury-related setbacks. Luckily, the 49ers have been able to absorb both players’ losses by inserting backup backers such as Oren Burks and Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles.

However, perhaps if only to sniff some special teams time, McCrary-Ball would be a great addition in order to help the Niners determine if they have something worth holding onto, especially for future needs on the depth chart.

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