49ers Blog and Q&A

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March 5, 2008
McCloughan talks pass rush, compensatories and 4-3 defense

Just got off a conference call with Scot McCloughan. A big part of the conversation was dedicated toward two perceived deficiencies on the 49ers’s roster – the pass rush and wide receiver. McCloughan essentially said the same thing about each: He acknowledged there are no superstars in those areas but said that there is enough depth to make him feel comfortable going into the season. He said the 49ers had no plans to add a big-name free agent at either spot but that both could be augmented through the draft.

First his thoughts on receiver. He said that he thought Isaac Bruce and Darrell Jackson likely were the No.s one and two receivers on the team. Under Mike Martz, there is going to be a big role for the No. 3 receiver – presumably Arnaz Battle – and that he expected Ashley Lelie and Jason Hill to figure heavily in the competition. He said he expected the offensive line to perform much better than it did in 2007, and he said the receiving corps would improve along with the better line play. “When all that comes together, it’s a functional group. Our receiving corps is good enough to win some games …” As far as drafting a receiver, McCloughan said the 49ers go into every draft hoping to find the best player available. It just so happens, he said, that a receiver who fits that description hasn’t fallen to them with their top picks.

As far as the pass rush … He said that Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson and Tully Banta-Cain were the team’s primary pass rushers and that he felt comfortable with that group. He said Jay Moore would provide more depth. He never mentioned Roderick Green. McCloughan said he hoped to add another name or two to the mix through the draft but that he felt the defense’s biggest improvements would come because of the offense. What does that mean? McCloughan said he felt the 49ers under Martz would be twice as good as the Jim Hostler-led unit from a year ago. An improved offense means the defense won’t be on the field as long and will remain fresher throughout the season.

Other McCloughan tidbits:

· He said the team was mostly done in free agency but that they probably will add an interior offensive lineman or two in the coming days. Don’t hold your breath for a big name. The additions likely will be backup-type players.

· He said the addition of Justin Smith gave the 49ers the option of becoming a primarily 4-3 defensive team next season. McCloughan said that if the 49ers draft a defensive end with the 29th overall pick next month, that alignment very well could be their base defense next season. The point was that players like Smith and Ray McDonald give the 49ers flexibility. Look for them to jump around from 4-3 to 3-4 regardless of whom they draft.

· He said that the 49ers could receive as many as two, three or four compensatory picks in the 2009 draft. While Justin Smith is their only high-priced free-agent pick-up, the team has lost Justin Smiley, Kwame Harris and Maurice Hicks, and they could lose Marques Douglas, too. As I wrote earlier, four teams – Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Arizona and Denver – are interested in Douglas. Certain additions, such as Dontarrious Thomas and J.T. O’Sullivan, might not count in the wacky compensatory formula because they fall below a certain salary threshold.

· As for Thomas, he will be given a chance to compete for the vacant “Ted” linebacker spot but also is tall and athletic enough to provide depth at outside linebacker. McCloughan said Brandon Moore and Jeff Ulbrich also would compete for the opening at Ted

· Look for the team to officially part ways with quarterback Trent Dilfer before the 15th when Dilfer is due a roster bonus

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW 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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