Saturday’s NFL preseason game between the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans may provide former Utah running back Joe Williams with his best chance yet — i.e. a high number of snaps — to prove he deserves a spot on San Francisco's 53-man roster.
Williams currently finds himself behind Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida on the 49ers' depth chart and in competition with Raheem Mostert for the third running back spot. McKinnon (calf strain) and Breida (separated shoulder) suffered injuries in recent days that will keep both players from action this week and Breida through the rest of the preseason, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
That will open up snaps for both Williams and Mostert to make an impression.
A solid preseason is needed from Williams, a second-year pro, considering San Francisco has already brought in help at running back. The 49ers announced Tuesday they have signed Alfred Morris to a one-year deal. Morris has rushed for 5,503 yards and 32 touchdowns in six NFL seasons — four with Washington and the last two in Dallas.
Williams, who missed practice time this week due to a death in the family, according to the Chronicle, rushed for 27 yards on 11 carries and a 1-yard touchdown in a 24-21 win over Dallas last week. His per-carry average (2.5 yards), though, was well below two other backs — Mostert (7.1) and Jeremy McNichols (5.0) — who are battling for a roster spot.
Another former college football player in the state could make his NFL debut in the 49ers game if he’s healthy. Former BYU linebacker Fred Warner sat out San Francisco’s game against the Cowboys with a chest injury, and the contest against Houston could be a big opportunity for him given that fellow ‘backer Malcolm Smith is likely sidelined with a hamstring injury.
According to Chris Biderman of the USA Today Sports Media Group, Warner, who was drafted in the third round by San Francisco this year, was back on the field with the second string unit this week and may start in place of Smith against Houston.
SIMS IMPRESSING: Former Southern Utah cornerback LeShaun Sims is keeping himself in the mix with the Tennessee Titans, who he has started seven games for over the past two seasons and compiled 58 career tackles, with six pass deflections and two interceptions.
"The third-year corner drew praise from coach Mike Vrabel for his pass defense against the Packers in the preseason opener. All of the attention is going to (Malcolm) Butler, Adoree' Jackson and Logan Ryan, but Sims is in the mix as well," ESPN's Turron Davenport wrote.
ANDERSON TO COWBOYS: Just days after he was waived by the Indianapolis Colts, former Utah wide receiver Dres Anderson signed with the Dallas Cowboys on Wednesday. He joins another former Ute wide receiver, Darren Carrington II, in Dallas after Carrington signed there earlier this week. This is Anderson's sixth NFL team in his fourth pro season.
Here's a look at each of the 85 Utah ties on active NFL rosters and when their teams play this weekend:
All times Mountain
Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots, 5:30 p.m.
- Haloti Ngata (Highland High), DT, No. 94
- New England
- Harvey Langi (BYU, Utah and Bingham High), LB, No. 48 (he suffered an internal laceration in practice recently and will miss up to a month, the Boston Globe reported)
- Eric Rowe (Utah), CB, No. 25
- Kyle Van Noy (BYU), LB, No. 53
Pittsburgh Steelers at Green Bay Packers, 6 p.m.
- Brian Allen (Utah), CB, No. 29
- Green Bay
- Marwin Evans (Utah State), S, No. 25
- Kyler Fackrell (Utah State), LB, No. 51
- Devante Mays (Utah State), RB, No. 32
- Jamaal Williams (BYU), RB, No. 30
New York Jets at Washington Redskins, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
- New York
- Jonah Trinnaman (BYU, Snow College and American Fork High), WR, No. 9
- Kapri Bibbs (Snow College), RB, No. 35
- Tony Bergstrom (Utah and Skyline High), OL, No. 66
- Alex Smith (Utah), QB, No. 11
- Fish Smithson (Highland High), CB, No. 37
- Zach Vigil (Utah State and Clearfield High), LB, No. 56
Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons, 5 p.m.
- Kansas City
- Algernon Brown (BYU and Skyline High), FB, No. 30
- Jordan Devey (Snow College and American Fork High), OL, No. 65
- Marcus Kemp (Layton High), WR, No. 19
- Daniel Sorensen (BYU), S, No. 49 (he had knee surgery last week and will be re-evaluated in at least six weeks, the team announced)
- Kerwynn Williams (Utah State), RB, No. 25
- Colby Pearson (BYU), WR, No. 84
- Derrick Shelby (Utah), DE, No. 90
- Salesi Uhatafe (Utah), OG, No. 62
New York Giants at Detroit Lions, 5 p.m.
- New York
- Hunter Sharp (Utah State), WR, No. 15
- Ezekiel Ansah (BYU), DE, No. 94
- Miles Killebrew (Southern Utah), S, No. 35
- Nevin Lawson (Utah State), CB, No. 24
Buffalo Bills at Cleveland Browns, 5:30 p.m. (NFL Network)
- Kaelin Clay (Utah), WR/PR, No. 15
- Taron Johnson (Weber State), CB, No. 24
- Star Lotulelei (Utah, Snow College and Bingham High), DT, No. 98
- De’Ondre Wesley (BYU), OT, No. 74
- Micah Hannemann (BYU and Lone Peak High), DB, No. 35
- Nate Orchard (Utah and Highland High), OLB/DL, No. 44
Miami Dolphins at Carolina Panthers, 5:30 p.m.
- Isaac Asiata (Utah and Spanish Fork High), OL, No. 68
- Jalen Davis (Utah State), CB, No. 1
- John Denney (BYU), LS, No. 92
- Tyler Larsen (Utah State and Jordan High), OL, No. 69
- Jared Norris (Utah), LB, No. 52
Arizona Cardinals at New Orleans Saints, 6 p.m.
- Pasoni Tasini (Utah), DT, No. 65
- Andrew Vollert (Weber State), TE, No. 89
- New Orleans
- Taysom Hill (BYU), QB, No. 7
- Marcus Williams (Utah), S, No. 43
Jacksonville Jaguars at Minnesota Vikings, 11 a.m. (NFL Network)
- Hunter Dimick (Utah and Syracuse High), DL, No. 79
- Sealver Siliga (Utah and Copper Hills High), DT, No. 98
- Mike Needham (Southern Utah and Desert Hills), LB, No. 49
Oakland Raiders at Los Angeles Rams, 2 p.m. (KYMU/NFL Network)
- James Cowser (Southern Utah and Davis High), DE/LB, No. 47
- Dallin Leavitt (Utah State and BYU), S, No. 45
- Donald Penn (Utah State), OT, No. 72
- Raysean Pringle (Southern Utah), CB, No. 43
- Los Angeles
- Dominique Hatfield (Utah), CB, No. 36
- McKay Murphy (Weber State and Lone Peak High), DT, No. 61
- JoJo Natson (Utah State), WR/PR, No. 19
- Kendal Thompson (Utah), WR, No. 15
Cincinnati Bengals at Dallas Cowboys, 5 p.m. (NFL Network)
- Nick Vigil (Utah State and Fremont High), LB, No. 59
- Dres Anderson (Utah), WR, No. 18
- Darren Carrington II (Utah), WR, No. 16
- Tre’von Johnson (Weber State and Hunter High), LB, No. 58
- Dalton Schultz (Bingham High), TE, No. 86
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Tennessee Titans, 6 p.m.
- Tampa Bay
- Stevie Tu’ikolovatu (Utah and East High), DE, No. 96
- Luke Falk (Logan High), QB, No. 11
- LeShaun Sims (Southern Utah), CB, No. 36
- Xavier Su’a-Filo (Timpview High), OG, No. 76
- Jason Thompson (Utah), S, No. 32
San Francisco 49ers at Houston Texans, 6 p.m.
- San Francisco
- Pita Taumoepenu (Utah and Timpview High), LB, No. 55
- Fred Warner (BYU), LB, No. 48
- Joe Williams (Utah), RB, No. 32
- Josh Thornton (Southern Utah), CB, No. 36
Chicago Bears at Denver Broncos, 7:05 p.m. (ABC)
- Kylie Fitts (Utah), OLB, No. 49
- Patrick Scales (Utah State and Weber High), LS, No. 48
- Garett Bolles (Utah, Snow College and Westlake High), OT, No. 72
- Devontae Booker (Utah), RB, No. 23
- J.J. Dielman (Utah), OG, No. 64
- Jordan Leslie (BYU), WR, No. 19
- Tim Patrick (Utah), WR, No. 81
- Jeremiah Poutasi (Utah), OT, No. 74
Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers, 8 p.m. (KUCW/NFL Network)
- Maurice Alexander (Utah State), S, No. 35
- Ricky Ali’ifua (Utah State), DE, No. 61
- Bobby Wagner (Utah State), LB, No. 54
- Los Angeles
- Michael Davis (BYU), CB, No. 43
- Sam Tevi (Utah), OT, No. 69
Baltimore Ravens at Indianapolis Colts, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
- Bronson Kaufusi (BYU and Timpview High), DE, No. 92
- Kai Nacua (BYU), S, No. 31
- Eric Weddle (Utah), S, No. 32
- Tomasi Laulile (BYU), DT, No. 66
- Robert Turbin (Utah State), RB, No. 33