49ers look to Brian Hoyer as bridge starter at quarterback

Brian Hoyer knows Kyle Shanahan's offense and should keep things moving until the 49ers find a long-term solution at quarterback. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The San Francisco 49ers could have as many as 12 new starters when the NFL season opens. Here's an early starting lineup projection as training camp opens:


Quarterback (Brian Hoyer): Hoyer is the quarterback whom coach Kyle Shanahan selected to bridge the gap until the Niners can find their long-term franchise solution. Hoyer has played for Shanahan before and knows the system well enough to help guide an offense that has ranked near the bottom of the league in recent years.

Running back (Carlos Hyde): This is an important season for Hyde, who is in the final year of his contract and must prove he can fit in Shanahan's outside zone running scheme. Hyde must stay healthy for a full season and do enough to hold off talented backups Joe Williams and Tim Hightower in the process.

Fullback (Kyle Juszczyk): The highest-paid fullback in the league, Juszczyk figures to be an integral part of the offense. Shanahan plans for him to play all over the offense, including at tight end, split out wide and in the backfield.

Wide receiver (Pierre Garcon): Signed to offer leadership and productivity, Garcon is the most accomplished wideout on the roster and will start from Day 1.

Wide receiver (Marquise Goodwin): After a disappointing stint in Buffalo marked by injuries, Goodwin gets a fresh start in San Francisco, where the Niners hope his blazing speed will complement the intermediate work of Garcon.

Tight end (Logan Paulsen): There's not necessarily a tight end on the roster who will be a major target in the passing game, but the ones who make the team will all be involved in some capacity. Paulsen's knowledge of the offense and blocking ability should earn him plenty of snaps.

Left tackle (Joe Staley): Perhaps the only sure thing on the offensive line, Staley remains the stalwart of this group and a team leader.

Left guard (Zane Beadles): There is competition at both guard spots and Brandon Fusco could win a job, but Beadles is a decent athlete and makes sense as a fit in this scheme.

Center (Jeremy Zuttah): Another spot where competition will be hot as Zuttah and Daniel Kilgore figure to battle it out throughout the preseason. Zuttah was limited by injury in the spring but is a better athlete than Kilgore, which gives him a slight edge.

Right guard (Joshua Garnett): Garnett has trimmed down and gotten leaner in an effort to be quicker so he can get to the second level more consistently in Shanahan's offense. His run blocking should help him nail down a job.

Right tackle (Trent Brown): Like the guard spots and center, Brown will have competition from Garry Gilliam. Brown's athleticism at his size impressed offensive line coach John Benton in the spring, and if he comes back a bit lighter he should be able to hold off Gilliam.


Defensive end (Solomon Thomas): Thomas is behind the curve a bit as camp opens after he was forced to miss the offseason program while Stanford finished classes. Still, it would be a major surprise if the No. 3 overall pick wasn't on the field on opening day.

Defensive end (Arik Armstead): The Niners signed veteran Elvis Dumervil to bolster the pass rush, and that's what he'll do but probably not on base downs. Armstead is a work in progress for this Leo defensive end spot, but he'll be given every chance to at least handle it on early downs.

Defensive tackle (Earl Mitchell): Defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina said in the spring that he pounded the table to add Mitchell after the Miami Dolphins released him. Mitchell was added to help the 49ers' abysmal run defense, and he'll get a chance to do that from the nose tackle position.

Defensive tackle (DeForest Buckner): This spot is new for Buckner as he moves inside to the three-technique, but he showed flashes of ability as an inside pass-rusher last year.

Weakside linebacker (Reuben Foster): If Foster's shoulder proves healthy, he should win the job. But if it takes a little longer, Malcolm Smith could hold it until Foster is ready.

Middle linebacker (NaVorro Bowman): The Niners have told Bowman he will have to compete for his job, but it seems likely he'll get another go so long as he is healthy.

Strong side linebacker (Ahmad Brooks): The veteran Brooks will play a key role in this Sam linebacker spot, where he will need to provide more pass-rush punch.

Cornerback (Rashard Robinson): An offseason makeover at corner leaves Robinson as the de facto No. 1. His length and attitude could make him an ideal fit in coordinator Robert Saleh's defense.

Cornerback (Keith Reaser): Another position that's up for grabs as Reaser battles Dontae Johnson and rookie Ahkello Witherspoon. The Niners would love Witherspoon to win the job, but Reaser looked the best equipped to do it in the spring.

Free safety (Jimmie Ward): Ward is moving from corner to a spot he played well in college. He has the athletic ability to play the position, but staying healthy has been an issue.

Strong safety (Eric Reid): Reid is better suited to this spot than free safety as he'll be more of an extra linebacker in this scheme. He could use a big year in order to secure a big contract next offseason.


Kicker (Robbie Gould): Little doubt here after Gould was added in the offseason.

Punter (Bradley Pinion): The steady Pinion is back for another year.

Long-snapper (Kyle Nelson): You don't hear Nelson's name often, which is a good thing at his position.