Jordan Reed and Mark Nzeocha headed to short-term IR, other 49ers injury updates →

Once Again, 49ers Should Draft for Defense

Feb 15, 2004 at 12:00 AM


Despite having drafted for defense with nine out of their last ten 1st and 2nd round selctions, the 49ers will need to draft for defense once again this year. Free agency, the loss of Jamie Winborn, a lack of consistency on the defensive line, and the poor play of Zach Bronson threaten to discount the strides we've made in recent years.

Although the linebackers, the strength of our defense, will likely return intact, they may do so relectuant, battered, and bruised. The Julian Peterson contract situation looms over Santa Clara like a thundercloud. Terry Donahue will likely franchise Peterson should the two sides fail to reach an agreement, which solves the problem until we have to franchise him again next year. The potential loss of Jamie Winborn, due to an atypical nerve injury, has devastating implications. A linebacking crew of Peterson, Smith, Ulbrich, Winborn, Rasheed, and Moore is as deep and solid as they come. With Winborn and Rasheed injury prone, and Peterson in limbo every year due to his contract status, the prospect of losing our three fastest linebackers becomes a very real concern.

After years of looking for cornerbacks, we finally found a good pair. Ahmed Plummer and Mike Rumph may not be shut-down corners, but they're about as solid a tandem as you'll find anywhere. Unfortunately, it looks like Plummer wants to play in the Midwest. Losing Plummer will be a significant setback, as the 49ers will have to spend another high draft pick to replace him, and watch him play through another miserable rookie season with no assurances he'll pan out. Jason Webster is slightly overmatched as a 2nd corner, but makes a great 3rd corner, and we would do well to have him back.

The defensive line suffers from an overdose of mediocrity. Despite slipping from 12.5 sacks in 2002 to 6.5 last season, Andre Carter remains the type of speed pass-rusher that teams covet off the edge. The two-headed monster of John Engelberger and Chidi Ahanatou produced 8.5 sacks, which is average production from the defensive end position, but leaves something to be desired. Engelberger, who may leave in free agency, is undersized and survives on grit, not natural ability. He's not heavy enough to hold the point of attack. A Mark Madsen if you will, but not a centerpiece by any stretch. Not a starter. Ahanatou and Williams are 3rd down pass rushers at best. Sooner or later the 49ers will need to address the left end position.

But not before they address the interior of their line. Once again, the problem isn't easy to detect. Bryant Young played admirably—29 tackles, 3.5 sacks. Anthony Adams is relentless and pursues well down the line of scrimmage. Travis Kirshke was an unexpected surprise and played solid run defense. But where was the push? The 49ers need a masher. A 360-pound space eater. Someone who's going to take on two blockers and not give up an inch. Someone who's going to push the pocket back on passing downs and force the quarterback to move three steps to his left. Someone who can help us control the line of scrimmage.

The final problem is Zach Bronson. Two years ago he was great, but since returning from his injury, he's been a catastrophe. His line last year: 42 tackles, 1 interception, no sacks, no forced fumbles, 2 passes defensed and an assortment of ill-timed jumps and miscalculated angles. My grandmother could go over the middle on him without worrying about getting hit.

The state of the defense is far more consequential than the return of Terrell Owens. We need an upgrade at three defensive positions (tackle, end, and safety), four if we lose Plummer, before we have any chance of becoming a top ten defense. Our linebacking position is not as strong as it was a year ago. Even if we spend the majority of our high draft picks on defense, there is a good chance that we will not be as good as last year's 13th ranked unit.

Offenses are easier to rebuild than defenses. Offenses can survive with good play-calling, precise routes, a good sense of timing, and an ability to take advantage of defensive weaknesses. Kansas City has performed phenominally on offense the last two seasons despite having an anonymous receiving corps. Ditto for New England despite a below average running game and no star receivers. The 49ers sole offensive draft pick in the 1st or 2nd rounds of the last four drafts has been Kwame Harris, and yet we still managed to rank 5th in the league in yardage.

The defense is a whole other story. There's no substitute for talent on this side of the ball. Despite drafting almost exclusively for defense the last four years, we're still by and large an average defense. Good defenses are much, much more difficult to create than good offenses. The 49ers should continue to draft for defense, at least until they become a top 10 unit, and then quickly add the necessary offensive pieces.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


0 Comments

  • No Comments

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



49ers-Giants: MetLife Stadium field inspected once again, meets all applicable standards and protocols, per report

By David Bonilla
Sep 24, 2020

Several San Francisco 49ers complained about the playing surface at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. The team suffered numerous injuries, including season-ending ACL injuries to two defensive linemen — Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas. San Francisco will likely be without its starting quarterback and top two running backs on Sunday when the team returns to MetLife Stadium to play the New York Giants. Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a high-ankle sprain, and Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman suffered knee injuries this past weekend on the playing surface. Representatives from the NFL, NFLPA, MetLife Stadium, Giants, New York Jets, and an independent field inspector all conducted another review of the playing surface on Wednesday, according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport. The

Read the Full Article


Frank Gore's former 49ers coach once praised the running back in a hilarious way

By David Bonilla
Sep 17, 2020

The San Francisco 49ers could see a healthy dose of Frank Gore on Sunday when they travel to MetLife Stadium to play the New York Jets. The running back remains the 49ers' all-time rushing leader. He started his career with the team, played 10 seasons with San Francisco, and remains a fan favorite. Gore even has admirers on the current 49ers roster. Running back Raheem Mostert once asked former Niners tackle Joe Staley about Gore. Staley and Gore played eight seasons together. "I asked him, 'What does it take for a guy like me to be like Frank Gore?'" Mostert shared this past offseason. "Because Frank Gore is my idol. I love watching him play, and I know that Joe was blocking

Read the Full Article


Kyle Shanahan says Deebo Samuel should be back at practice with 49ers on Wednesday

By David Bonilla
2 hrs ago

The San Francisco 49ers received some more bad news on the injury front with tight end Jordan Reed and linebacker Mark Nzeocha headed to short-term injured reserve. Reed suffered an MCL sprain on Sunday against the New York Giants and will miss six-to-eight weeks while Nzeocha is dealing with a quad strain. The 49ers will likely be without linebacker Dre Greenlaw (quad) and defensive end Dee Ford (back) against the Philadelphia Eagles. The latter could also land on short-term injured reserve. The good news is that the offense could have wide receiver Deebo Samuel back soon. While there is no guarantee that he will play against the Eagles, the second-year

Read the Full Article

Featured

More Featured Stories

More by Brett Pahler

All Articles by Brett Pahler

More Articles

All Articles
Share 49erswebzone