On Thursday, 49ers head coach Mike Singletary announced there are one or two roster spots yet to be determined on his final roster. With one remaining preseason game left on the schedule this Friday night against the San Diego Chargers, the players on the bubble will have one last opportunity to make their final push to earn those remaining roles.
Two days after the Chargers game, the 49ers must trim their roster count from 73 to 53.
"Obviously, you want the best 53 guys you can," head coach Singletary said earlier this week when describing his criteria for shaping his roster. "You just have to go through it and really look at what works for our team in terms of the offense and defense we're playing, in terms of guys that we have to have."
The entire 49ers coaching staff have gathered a number of times throughout training camp to discuss the status of the final roster, but ultimately Singletary will make the final call.
"There is not a day that goes by where we don't talk about personnel, about this guy and that guy," defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. "There is a constant communication between the coaches, the head coach and the coordinators about certain guys. It is an on-going thing."
Friday's game will represent the last chance for the players to be the ones mentioned in the coaching staff's final meeting on the roster.
"It always comes down to every preseason game to see how they perform on the field," Manusky said. "There are still a couple of spots where we are looking for guys, and hopefully we will be able to fill those with guys we have here."
One spot in particular that Manusky's looking for is a starting right cornerback opposite of Nate Clements. Throughout camp and in the team's first three exhibition contests, veteran corner Dre' Bly has been lined up as the starter. But Manusky insists that the competition is still ongoing between Bly, Tarell Brown and Shawntae Spencer.
And while Clements has no control over who joins him in the starting secondary, in the mean time, he's finding ways to improve his game. For the other veterans like Clements who are assured of a roster spot, the preseason is just as vital. Clements indicated that he still values preseason games as ways to work on technique, even if it's his ninth preseason in the NFL.
"I feel like it's a chance to progress and get ready for that game speed, game tempo atmosphere," he said earlier in the week. "Each game I try to work on something, improve and try to take a step forward."
Clements also said he uses the exhibition games to practice preparing for regular season games.
"I've been breaking down film on the Chargers like how I do it in the regular season," he said. "I practice breaking teams down just to get that feel for what I'll do in the regular season."
Likewise, starting quarterback Shaun Hill would like to make the most of his last tune up before the regular season. In three games, Hill has yet to lead the 49ers offense on a touchdown drive. The only points from Hill-led drives have come from field goals. However, it's not something that overly concerns him.
"As far as it being a setback or anything that will linger into the season – no, not at all," Hill said. "Games play out where you go three quarters and you don't have a touchdown and all of a sudden you get two in the fourth quarter. Every game is different. You can't necessarily read into what's happening in the preseason too much."
Singletary also said on Thursday that Hill will start the Chargers game and will likely play 10-12 snaps. According to Singletary, backup quarterback Alex Smith (thumb) and wide receiver Arnaz Battle (shoulder) will be out of action. Singletary will also keep Frank Gore and Isaac Bruce on the sidelines too as a precautionary measure.
With veterans playing a short amount of time if at all, backups will see the majority of the playing time.
Rookie quarterback Nate Davis will likely play three quarters of action, while rookie running backs Glen Coffee and Kory Sheets figure to get the majority of playing time in the backfield.
Throughout the roster, there are opportunities to impress the 49ers coaching staff as well as put together eye-catching game film for the rest of the league's talent evaluators to look at. And once it's all said and done those final roster decisions should be easier for Singletary to make.
It's the job of the players to make those choices as hard as they possibly can be.