49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

May 14, 2007
Defensive mix

Question: The 49ers have put a lot of work into their defense this offseason and have a good accumulation of younger players and veterans. It reminds me of the sort of hodgepodge/young-old defense they took the title with in '94. Do you think that this team has that kind of potential? Or will it take a couple of years for them to have any serious playoff hopes?
-- K.C., Sacramento

Answer: I like your description of a “hodgepodge-young-old defense.” It seems like each of the units has a nice mix of veteran leaders and neophytes. The defensive line has Bryant Young, the linebacking corps has Derek Smith and the secondary has Nate Clements. Coordinator Greg Manusky seems like a very hands-on coach, and if he is as effective as Mike Nolan thinks he will be, it shouldn’t take the defense very long to jell.

The bigger concern to me is the offense. Sure, the 49ers’ roster is loaded with receivers, but it takes a while for the quarterback to build a rapport with them. Everybody has made a big deal about Alex Smith having three o-coordinators in three years. What has been mostly overlooked, however, is that he is on his third No. 1 receiver as well.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Did you ever think you would write the line "... they will have to beat Arizona first..."?
-- Jeff, Roseville

Answer: Never. I grew up a Redskins fan back when the Cardinals were the St. Louis Cardinals and were part of the NFC East. You know, Neil Lomax, Stump Mitchell, etc. They were just as bad then as they have been in recent years. But I gotta tell you, it’s quite possible that Arizona will be the surprise team from NFC this year.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Which rookies stand the best chance to start? Where will the other rookies contribute?
-- Scott, Elk Grove

Answer: I’d say Willis because of his sheer talent, and Staley because of the 49ers’ injury history at left tackle. If Jonas Jennings gets injured, Adam Snyder would play left tackle and Staley likely would be a prime candidate for the right side. A wild card could be Ray McDonald - although he might be a better third-down option. Jason Hill has a shot if Ashley Lelie gets bit by the injury bug. Jay Moore is intriguing because he has just the right size-speed ratio for outside linebacker. However, he is currently behind two capable players in Tully Banta-Cain and Parys Haralson. The others look to be strictly back-ups or special teams performers this season.
-- Matt Barrows

Question: Matt, just a thought, what do you think of this possible Niners trade: Justin Smiley for Alan Faneca of the Steelers?
-- Dennis, Elk Grove

Answer: Hmmm. Faneca is 30 and Smiley is 25. And I believe both are in the final year of their contracts. Not sure that would entice McNolan.
-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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