53-man Roster Projection: Backfield
The Backfield: Latavius Murray, DeAndre Washington, Taiwan Jones, George Atkinson III, Jalen Richard, *Marcel Reece, Jamize Olawale.
The backfield is largely the same as it was last year, with rookies Washington and Richard being added to the mix.
*Reece is suspended, but unlike Aldon Smith, Reece counts toward the 90-man roster for the preseason. Aldon is already on the suspended list, and Reece will join him there after the fourth preseason game.
First Cut: None.
Through three preseason games, the battle for the third running back spot has been as close as it was expected to be.
Don’t expect any cuts here from the first deadline. Everyone is still competing and the team will likely let the players battle until the end.
Second Cut: Atkinson, Jones.
This is perhaps the toughest decision to make on the entire roster. Explanation below.
Who makes the team: Murray, Washington, Richard, Reece, Olawale.
It seems unlikely that the team would carry four running backs and two fullbacks, so the big decision here is who to keep out of Taiwan, Atkinson and Richard.
Taiwan is the mainstay, who offers value in multiple areas. Atkinson shined in the first preseason game, he also has experience with the team, and he can return kicks. Richard is the new guy that has made an early impression.
After the three preseason games and considering a couple other factors, Richard gets the nod. Here’s why:
Johnny Holton has impressed as a gunner, so he can fill Taiwan’s role in that spot. DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard have both looked good returning kicks, so either player can fill Taiwan’s role there.
Also, Taiwan has a $0 dead money hit if released, so that helps. And the savings would be $1.15M.
So by keeping Richard, the team gets younger, cheaper, and they also get more upside.
Next: 53-man Roster Projection: WR/TE