Demarcus Dobbs is equal parts intriguing player, versatile weapon and novelty.
Dobbs was once listed on the San Francisco 49ers roster as a defensive end. But he is so much more than that now.
Today, Dobbs, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound second-year player from Georgia, is also a tight end, occasional fullback and special teams maven.
Yep, Dobbs is a three-way player in an era of specialists. Dobbs specialty is versatility. And in today’s NFL of 47-man active gameday rosters, the more you can do, the more you will do.
“Everybody wants a piece of Dobbs right now, on both sides of the ball and special teams,” 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh said earlier in training camp, a quote published by 49ers.com. “He is a popular guy with our coaching staff. It’s something that’s being, to the best of our ability, thought out and planned and utilized, that he’s not overused, overstrained and we don’t get diminishing returns. We want to hit on the rewards and high returns in that area.”
Dobbs was a highly sought tight end coming out of high school. But he was a better defensive end. The 49ers don’t see any reason not to use him on both sides of the ball. So far, according to various reports, Dobbs, now wearing No. 40, is getting equal time at both.
He doesn’t have a reception or a tackle yet, through two exhibitions, with another opportunity to show his worth Sunday in Denver and once more Aug. 30 in San Diego before the regular season opener Sept. 9 at Green Bay.
Learn more about Dobbs.
Other areas for 49ers fans to watch on Sunday include competition for the No. 2 quarterback spot and how they use the new influx of speed receivers: Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and A.J. Jenkins.
The No. 2 quarterback spot behind starter Alex Smith is shaping up as a nice battle between Colin Kaepernick, Josh Johnson and Scott Tolzien. The 49ers will not keep four quarterbacks. Someone will have to go.
Kaepernick was a second-round draft pick last season and is expected to eventually challenge Smith for playing time. Johnson played for Harbaugh at the University of San Diego and spent the previous four seasons with the Buccaneers. Tolzien is the wild card. He stood out in Chargers camp last summer but when the team tried to sneak him through to the practice squad, the 49ers jumped in and claimed him.
None of the three has separated themselves statistically through the first two practice games. Johnson has been the most efficient completing 6 of 10 passes for 94 yards with 4 first downs and a 91.2 rating. Kaepernick is only 9-17 for 59 yards with 1 first down and a 60.7 rating and Tolzien is 14-22 for 107 yards with 5 first downs and a 56.4 rating.
As far as the receivers, adding Moss, Manningham and drafting Jenkins gives San Francisco players who can take the top off the defense, a viable threat that should help open up the short passing game to Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis and the screen game with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and exciting rookie LeMichael James.
It will also force the defense to play the run a little more honestly. The 49ers ranked 8th in the NFL in rushing last season and Harbaugh is an old school coach who loves to pound the rock.
Follow Jeff Parenti on Twitter @JD_Parenti