49ers roster 2024: Tayler Hawkins aims to fully break through glass ceiling

Tayler Hawkins has always been on the fringes of the Niners' regular-season roster but usually on the wrong side.

Perhaps that changes entering 2024.

San Francisco 49ers safety Tayler Hawkins (41)
San Francisco 49ers safety Tayler Hawkins (41) / Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Tayler Hawkins finally saw regular-season action late in 2023, but he'll hope to be a regular part of the 49ers' 53-man roster entering 2024.

For the first two years of his pro career after going undrafted in the 2022 NFL Draft, former San Diego State safety Tayler Hawkins had to be patient with regard to seeing meaningful field time with the San Francisco 49ers.

Then, finally, Hawkins got a shot in what was otherwise a meaningless Week 18 game against the Los Angeles Rams late in the 2023 season.

The Niners were resting the bulk of their starters in preparation for what turned into a Super Bowl run, which opened up the door for the 6-foot-1 and 205-pound Hawkins to finally get onto the field. Not just as a fill-in backup who'd see occasional snaps on special teams.

No, Hawkins started. And he even recorded an interception off LA quarterback Carson Wentz in the game.

Injuries to safeties Tashaun Gipson, Ji'Ayir Brown and Talanoa Hufanga opened up the door for Hawkins to get that start and the subsequent interception. But, once Brown and Gipson returned for the postseason, Hawkins was relegated back to being a backend reserve player who saw no further action into the postseason.

But, with more questions at the position heading into 2024, could the upcoming year finally provide Hawkins with the opportunity to find a bona fide role on the 53-man roster?

Tayler Hawkins has his best shot to make 49ers' 53-man roster

Gipson wasn't brought back during the offseason, and he remains a free agent. Additionally, Hufanga suffered a torn ACL in the latter half of 2023, and his status for the beginning of the year remains up in the air.

If Hufanga starts the regular season on an injury list, Hawkins' chances to make the 53-man roster increase significantly.

Brown and rookie Malik Mustapha are surely pegged as the long-term solutions at the position, while veterans George Odum and Erik Harris are in the mix for 2024, too.

But, if Hawkins can outperform the likes of Harris and Mustapha during training camp, he could theoretically serve as San Francisco's third or fourth safety on the depth chart, finally getting that chance to contribute on a regular basis in year three after mostly being relegated to the practice squad over his first two seasons.

That's the goal, but Hawkins has to continue his ascent in order to achieve it.

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