The 49ers released their list of inactives at noon:
- QB Josh Johnson
- CB Chris Cook
- RT Anthony Davis (injured)
- G/C Marcus Martin (injured)
- DL Tank Carradine
- DL Quinton Dial
- WR Quinton Patton
There are several things we can take away from this announcement.
1. Blaine Gabbert is the backup quarterback, for better or worse.
2. Three second-year players — Carradine, Dial and Patton — haven’t done enough to prove to the coaching staff that their services are needed today. Carradine didn’t play last season and Dial barely played — they’re still on the rise and just need to fine tune a few things to earn Vic Fangio’s trust. In the case of Patton, this is definitely a step back. Yes, the 49ers appear loaded at wide receiver. There was no way Patton was going to jump ahead of Michael Crabtree (he’s active after being listed as “questionable”), Anquan Boldin and Stevie Johnson. But Brandon Lloyd didn’t play last year and Bruce Ellington is a rookie. Speaking of …
3. The 49ers absolutely LOVE their rookie class. All these guys are active today:
- DB Jimmie Ward (first round)
- RB Carlos Hyde (second round)
- LB Chris Borland (third round)
- WR Bruce Ellington (fourth round)
- CB Dontae Johnson (fourth round)
- LB Aaron Lynch (fifth round)
- G/C Dillon Farrell (UDFA)
- S L.J. McCray (UDFA)
They kept every one of the 12 players they drafted (Brandon Thomas, Keith Reaser and Trey Millard on are on the Reserve/NFI list, Kenneth Acker is on IR and Kaleb Ramsey is on PUP). Throw in the two undrafted guys, and these “old” 49ers are getting younger before our eyes.
Ward is going to play nickel cornerback against the Cowboys, and Hyde should get some carries. Borland, Dontae Johnson and McCray are probably looking at special teams (punt/kick coverage) work only, while Ellington could be the team’s primary returner (by the way, Patton has been given every chance to prove he can return punts and kicks, and he’s awful at catching punts).
What’s really interesting is the inclusion of Lynch on today’s active roster, however. He was an absolute beast in the preseason, bull-rushing right tackles and filling up the stat sheet (one sack, one QB hit, three hurries and three pass deflections). He also had two penalties in special teams work, so if the 49ers use him it’ll probably be as a situational pass rusher only. Lynch’s college career was up-and-down (to put it lightly), and he was out of shape when he arrived at the 49ers facility for the first time. To go from where he was, to active on Week 1, is a stunning turnaround for a player whose ceiling* isn’t even visible at this point.
One could say the same thing about the 49ers’ entire rookie class, based on today. With rumors that some veterans are sick and tired of Jim Harbaugh making news this morning, the team’s future seems shaky. But from a personnel standpoint, it looks like they’ll be fine … now we just have to see how these kids do in the actual games.
*Silly thought: Can you imagine Lynch as a tight end? It sounds ridiculous, but I’d bet there’s at least one 49ers coach who has wondered this.