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San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil spoke with the media today prior to the team's second practice of training camp. He started off be complimenting the players' ability to retain information since mandatory minicamp in June. "I was really impressed with our players' ability to come back and retain all the information that they were able to in our first practice," said O'Neil. "We threw a lot at them in spring and we treated it like we were gone on a long weekend."
Coaches did player ranking
O'Neil said that the coaching staff ranked their players following the team's mandatory minicamp last month. How they ranked the guys was how they started training camp. The guys that they ranked first within their groups are the guys that are out there with the first-team defense. O'Neil later stated that, of course, that ranking will change as training camp progresses. The depth chart is "written in sand" according to the defensive coordinator.
Losing Aaron Lynch
O'Neil stated that losing edge rusher Aaron Lynch, who he called "a type of player that you build a defense around," was an opportunity for others to step up. "We're going to get the best 11 out there."
O'Neil went on to say that the 49ers can do a lot of things package-wise to make up for the loss of Lynch.
Right now, the 49ers' starting cornerbacks are Tramaine Brock and Jimmie Ward. Whether they play on the left or right will be based on game day decisions and match-ups with opposing offenses. Will Ward be on the outside or move inside to the nickel spot? "I would prefer our starting corner to stay outside," answered O'Neil. Even Eric Reid may get into the mix at cornerback. O'Neil stated that they team may use the safety at nickel in some heavier defensive packages.
Candidates to play the slot role include Will Redmond, Chris Davis, and Keith Reaser.
Since the goal is always to get the best 11 players on the field, O'Neil said that defensive linemen are learning all three positions. That gives each player the ability to play at any spot as needed.