As expected, undrafted rookie Diyral Briggs made it through waivers this afternoon and was promptly added to the 49ers' practice squad. Later in the day, the team released NT Khalif Mitchell, meaning there are still seven payers on the eight-man squad. Here are the seven practice squadders with a summary of each ...
OT Alex Boone. 6-7, 328. Boone doesn't have quick feet and he's a right tackle only. But that's ok. He seems to have a lot in common with recent addition Tony Pashos, and Boone ought to benefit from having Pashos around this year. Pashos signed a one-year deal and could be gone by early March. Which is to say, the 49ers' right tackle situation is by no means solved for the long term.
LB Diyral Briggs. 6-4, 230. Briggs is perhaps the most intriguing player on the practice squad because of his potential and because of the 49ers' dearth of pass rushers. He briefly played himself onto the regular roster with an outstanding performance against the Chargers. (He was waived when the team signed Tony Pashos). He held up nicely at the point -- is he really 230 pounds? -- and chased the ball all over the field. Most important, he showed he has the combination of speed and power to get past offensive tackles, a rare and valuable combination in the NFL. Briggs played nearly every defensive snap from the second quarter on, and he was still making plays at the end. He's got a classic pass rusher's frame, complete with long arms. Now all he has to do is hit the weight room with the same passion with which he played Friday's game in San Diego.
WR Dobson Collins. 6-2, 178. I frankly didn't see this one coming. Collins didn't get a lot of practice repetitions during the offseason and seemed to be at the very bottom of the wide receiver pecking order. In fact, Maurice Price appeared to be well ahead at one point this spring. Collins, however, started to come on late and he was very prolific at Gardner-Webb. (937
catches yards, 10 TDs in 2008). In other words, there's potential.
TE JJ Finley. 6-6, 251. The good news for Finely? He beat out Bear Pascoe, a draft pick, in their head-to-head battle. The bad news? The 49ers didn't deem him good enough for the regular roster and he lands on the practice squad for a second season. Finley's shown he's a reliable target in the passing game, but more importantly he added weight and strength to his long frame in the offseason.
FB Brit Miller. 6-0, 243. One of the better story lines of the offseason ... Miller played linebacker in college, and in fact was one of the nation's top tacklers as a senior in 2008. NFL teams, however, thought he was too small and too slow to be a linebacker in this league, and he went undrafted. That he successfully switched positions on short notice -- he went through the spring as a LB with Carolina -- shows his determination. Miller needs to work on his technique, but he showed enough natural ability, notably as a pass catcher, that it's well worth continuing this fullback experiment.
RB Kory Sheets. 5-11, 208. Thomas Clayton nearly was plucked off the 49ers' practice squad late last year. Would Sheets last a full season on the 49ers' squad? The front office certainly will be monitoring the situation carefully this season and probably would elevate Sheets if it sensed another team sniffing around. Everyone knew Sheets had speed coming out of Purdue. What he proved this offseason is that he also can run between the tackles, as shown by his game-winning touchdown run at the end of the third preseason game against Dallas. And on the punch-'em-in-the-mouth 49ers, that ability is paramount.
WR Dominique Zeigler. 6-3, 185. Zeigler did a nice job when he was called up to the regular roster at the end of 2008. He has a Gumby-like body and excellent hands, which combined, allows him to make eye-popping catches that make his quarterbacks look good. The laid back Zeigler also is a favorite in the locker room. However, he has neither blazing speed nor a lot of downfield blocking ability. Other receivers on the roster can do more.
-- Matt Barrows