Why 49ers’ FS L.J. McCray Will Make 53-Man Roster



When the San Francisco 49ers signed SS Craig Dahl to a three-year contract back in 2013, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. A player with marginal range and questionable athleticism to play the position, I thought the 49ers should have targeted other safeties in that year’s free-agent pool.

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Fast forward to year three of that contract and Dahl may be on the outside looking in as others have created some serious competition. Let’s start with the selection of second-round pick (No. 46) SS Jaquiski Tartt.

There is no question that the selection was a head-scratcher at first. A team that already had seasoned starters FS Eric Reid and SS Antoine Bethea, the selection of Tartt made little sense as ILB Denzel Perryman was still on the board while also filling an immediate need.

However, the 49ers opted to go with the Samford product and the selection immediately pushed Dahl down the depth-chart despite leading the team last year with 14 special-teams tackles. Not to mention, I said back in May that Tartt will likely play ‘gunner‘ his rookie season, he confirmed that ideology two weeks later when I asked him about that possibility. “That’s the plan,” Tartt said.

With Tartt all but making a name for himself on special-teams, it’s another player who is making huge strides in year two as FS L.J. McCray played lights out against the Houston Texans in the team’s first preseason game.

Last year, McCray beat out three special-teams aces in the race to crack the 53-man roster as WR Kassim Osgood, FS Bubba Ventrone, and FS C.J. Spillman were all released. I hate to say it but Dahl is nowhere near the talent level of the three mentioned above, which is why I believe he will be let go.

And with McCray earning high-praise from coach Tomsula, I can’t help but think the 49ers will go with his upside and potential over a seasoned veteran who adds little to no value in the team’s base defense.

But don’t take my word for it. How much does the team actually value Dahl in the first place? Well considering he has taken a pay cut in each of the last two seasons including a cut in salary from $1.7 million to $1.3 million this season, it sure makes things interesting as the special-teams camp battles heat up.

Heck, even 49ers’ ILB Shayne Skov singled out his second-year teammate. Just watch my instagram video above. I’m not saying it’s going to be a cake walk for McCray but when looking at the bigger picture, it clearly points to McCray winning the role while Dahl finds himself a new team in 2015.

In 14 games last year, McCray recorded nine tackles.

With the 49ers looking to shore up their special-teams unit, look for Tartt and McCray to lead the way as they provide more athleticism, agility, and speed than what Dahl can offer.


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Ryan is the Founder/CEO of NinerFans.com, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at ryan@NinerFans.com or call him at (408) 622-0996.