I’m supposed to come up with a projected 53-man roster within the next day or two for a special section which goes to print before the actual roster cutdown to 53 players.
My list this year of slam-dunk picks was 40 players, which I’ll list below. There may be a surprise or two because of injury or lack of performance, but my guess all of them are pretty safe as of this moment. Next I’ll go back and fill in 13 more players, trying to fill each position group.
Some years, when projecting the roster, I’d get to 25 players and then wonder how I’d ever get to 53.
Here are the fine 40:
QUARTERBACKS_Matt Schaub, Derek Carr, Matt McGloin. Comment: They’ll keep all three. They like McGloin that much.
RUNNING BACKS_Maurice Jones-Drew, Marcel Reece, Darren McFadden, Latavius Murray. Comment: A tough cutdown because they’ve all run so well. In some years, Kory Sheets makes the team – and he still might. Jeremy Stewart is a core special teams player, which carries weight. Jamize Olawale is the lone power-blocker in the backfield. George Atkinson III has too many players in front of him.
WIDE RECEIVERS_Rod Streater, Andre Holmes, James Jones. Comment: Greg Little’s well-documented issues holding on to the ball have been evident. Denarius Moore performed well in Oxnard, as did Brice Butler. Juron Criner is currently injured and the timing isn’t good. Greg Jenkins may figure in as a punt return specialist. Rashaan Vaughn, Mike Davis and Seth Roberts are probably hoping for the practice squad.
TIGHT ENDS_Mychal Rivera. Comment: David Ausberry has only a light brace on his injured knee but there is no timetable. Nick Kasa is probably out for the season with an ACL tear. Jake Murphy made some nice catches in Oxnard, but like Rivera, he’s more of a receiver than a blocker. The door is open wide for Brian Leonhardt. Chances are there will be a tight end or two on the 53-man roster that is currently unemployed or playing somewhere else.
OFFFENSIVE LINE_C Stefen Wisniewski, G Austin Howard, T Menelik Watson, T Donald Penn, G-T Khalif Barnes, G Gabe Jackson, C-G Kevin Boothe. Comment: Tony Bergstrom got in some work at center to stay available. Tackle Matt McCants and guard Lamar Mady got valuable time last year. Jack Cornell also got some experience. It’s an uphill climb for tackles Emmett Cleary and Dan Kistler and guard Jarrod Shaw. Lucas Nix, recovering from knee surgery, is a physically unable to perform list candidate.
DEFENSIVE LINE_DE LaMarr Woodley, NT Pat Sims, DT Antonio Smith, DE Justin Tuck, DT Stacy McGee, NT Justin Ellis, DE Shelby Harris. Comment: Last year’s surprise, Ryan Robinson, is definitely on the bubble, as is three-year veteran Jack Crawford. Ricky Lumpkin was singled by Dennis Allen after a recent practice, but it’s crowded at defensive tackle. C.J. Wilson has a good chance to stick as a run-stopping base end.
LINEBACKERS: WLB Sio Moore, MLB Nick Roach, SLB Khalil Mack, LB Miles Burris. Comment: Despite issues with injuries, the coaching staff likes Kaluka Maiava. Either he or Burris is the logical backup for Roach. Kaelin Burnett’s work on special teams could keep him aboard.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: CB Tarell Brown, CB Carlos Rogers, SS Tyvon Branch, FS Charles Woodson, CB TJ Carrie, CB Keith McGill, CB Chimdi Chekwa, CB Taiwan Jones. Comment: This is purely a guess, but since he hasn’t been on the practice field yet, DJ Hayden could be headed for the regular season physically unable to perform list. He could be brought back six weeks into the season and not count toward the roster. Brandian Ross had 14 starts last season at strong safety and has made some plays during training camp. Jeremy Deering and Larry Asante have shown an inclination to mix it up. Jonathan Dowling has shown good ball skills while also getting beaten on occasion. Safety Usama Young, who injured a quad on the camp-opening conditioning run, remains out.
SPECIALISTS: PK Sebastian Janikowski, P Marquette King, LS Jon Condo. No comment necessary.