The San Francisco 49ers, though benefiting from more continuity than any team in the NFC West, face a few tough decisions on the fringes of their roster as teams approach the 53-man cutdown Saturday.
A look at some of the possibilities and issues (current roster counts listed in parentheses):
Average number kept since 2003: 3.1
On the bubble: Nate Davis
Also: Jarrett Brown
Comment: The pecking order is set. The key question is whether the 49ers will stick with Davis after coach Mike Singletary publicly criticized the quarterback's offseason work habits. Singletary's comments were strong. Davis should be nervous. There's no excuse for a third-string player with a learning disability to fall short on effort/preparation. Seems to me the 49ers could use his roster spot for a player better prepared to help the team. They could probably always sign Davis to their practice squad. I wouldn't expect another team to add him to its 53-man roster.
Running backs (7)
Average number kept since 2003: 5.0
Looking safe: Anthony Dixon
On the bubble: Brit Miller
Also: Jehuu Caulcrick
Comment: Glen Coffee's retirement opened the door wider for Dixon, who appears likely to stick as the fifth running back. Miller has value on special teams. Does that value justify keeping him around as a sixth running back? That could depend on how the 49ers view other positions.
Wide receivers (8)
Average number kept since 2003: 5.9
Looking safe: Dominique Zeigler
Comment: Zeigler finally appears closer to earning a spot on the 45-man roster for game days, but playing time could remain elusive. Williams was the favorite as a punt returner even after suffering a toe injury. How much has his status changed after rookie corner Phillip Adams returned a punt 83 yards for a touchdown? I doubt another team would sign Williams to its 53-man roster, so the 49ers have some flexibility.
Tight ends (5)
Average number kept since 2003: 3.0
Looking safe: Nate Byham
Comment: The Billy Bajema Scholarship went unfilled last season, but Byham appears ready to stick around as a third tight end.
Offensive linemen (13)
Average number kept since 2003: 8.9
Looking safe: Tony Wragge
On the bubble: Alex Boone
Comment: I pushed Sims into the "keeper" category because it's clear he would be the first tackle off the bench. The way Sims performed in relief last season showed he can still help the 49ers. Snyder's versatility helps his cause. Baas beat out Wragge right away in the race to replace the injured Heitmann at center. Boone's physical transformation has been striking. Perhaps the 49ers find a way to keep him. It's too bad for them, and possibly him, that Boone is strictly a tackle. Wragge can back up all three inside positions, but so can Snyder (and Baas, if Heitmann regains the job at center upon his recovery from a broken leg).
Defensive line (9)
Average number kept since 2003: 7.1
Looking safe: Khalif Mitchell
Comment: The 49ers have kept five, six or seven at this position since adopting their current defensive scheme in 2005. The numbers have fluctuated some because some defensive linemen project as outside linebackers. Versatility could work in Mitchell's favor, although Jean-Francois appears best positioned to start at nose tackle if anything happens to Franklin.
Average number kept since 2003: 7.4
Comment: Briggs and LaBoy both appear to have done enough for a roster spot. They could be needed, too, with Brooks recovering from a lacerated kidney. Durability concerns are always a factor with LaBoy, but it's tough to overlook the contributions he's made when healthy enough to contribute.
Defensive backs (13)
Average number kept since 2003: 9.7
Looking safe: William James
Comment: The 49ers did not bring back Dre' Bly or Walt Harris, throwing open the nickel corner job. James and Paymah provide a veteran presence at that spot, although it's not yet clear which one has an edge. An ankle injury has sidelined James recently. Paymah served in the nickel role against Oakland in the third exhibition game. The 49ers have upgraded their speed at safety. Taylor, a seventh-round draft pick last year, could be out of the picture there.
Average number kept since 2003: 2.9
Also: Shane Andrus
Comment: The 49ers are set here, although Nedney has fought through an injury problem.