Chat Transcript: Q&A with Matt Maiocco of the Press Democrat

May 7, 2007 at 8:51 PM0

On Monday, May 7, and held a chat session with fan favorite Matt Maiocco of the Press Democrat.

Matt has reported for the Press Democrat since 2000. He is a three-time winner of Pro Football Writers of America awards. He has written two books, "Roger Craig's Tales from the 49ers Sideline" and "San Francisco 49ers: Where Have You Gone?" Matt's blog, "Instant 49ers," can be read at

Attendees of the chat were able to ask Matt questions from a 49ers fan's perspective. Below is the transcript from the chat session.

Bryan49ers asks: Concerning Vernon Davis -- I keep reading camp reports about how Davis struts and celebrates every time he does something right and then proceeds to drop passes. Do you think Davis has the desire to work hard to be successful or will he under-achieve because he thinks he's already so great?

Matt Maiocco: I think he has plenty of desire. It was interesting to watch him last year spend more and more time on his pass-catching as the year went on (catching balls from the machine after practice). I think he's young and emotional. I think he's a tremendous talent and will eventually learn to harness all his ability.

darkknight49 asks: First of all Matt, I really enjoy your work and your insight. Please keep it up. Now, I can't remember if it was you, or your colleague Kevin Lynch, but one of you had stated that the pass rush the defense was managing to put together was the fiercest yet in the Nolan era for a mini-camp. With better players on the defense and a stronger pass rush, how much might this help in the development of Alex Smith now that he has better talent to practice with?

Matt Maiocco: Well, if it helps Alex Smith, it'll be from the standpoint of getting the ball back in better field position. I didn't write that about the pass rush looking "fierce." I'm not sure how fierce it can look in a "non-contact" minicamp. But I do believe it will be improved over last season for a variety of reasons.

TigerLaw asks: How many offensive linemane do you see making the roster? My early projections have Estes/Dahl/Duckett on the chopping block with 9 total offensive lineman. As a follow up, can you confirm whether Estes/Duckett are practice squad eligible? I believe both have accrued too much time but am not sure.

Matt Maiocco: The 49ers believe they have 10 solid offensive linemen. I'd say Estes, Dahl and Duckett will have to work hard. As for the practice squad, Duckett is not eligible. I believe Dahl and Estes are eligible, but I'm not 100 percent sure.

IWantMaioccosJob asks: Who do you think will be the starters at linebacker and along the defensive line?

Matt Maiocco: I think the starting linebackers will be Moore, Lawson, Banta-Cain and Willis (at least at some point he'll take over); and the line, I think, will be B.Y, Franklin and Fields.

Evil asks: During minicamp, was Marcus Hudson working at safety or corner?

Matt Maiocco: He is now a cornerback after switching from safety a couple weeks into training camp.

jjamck asks: Is there any chance that Ashley Lelie doesn't make the final roster?

Matt Maiocco: Not unless something unforeseen happens.

okdkid asks: Regarding Derek Smith -- There has been much talk amongst Niner fans that Smith could be cut this summer. Do you think this is a possibility? Or are his leadership and on-field ability too valuable to Patrick Willis' development?

Matt Maiocco: No, I don't think he'll be cut this year. I think Nolan is fond of him, as far as setting a good example as a professional. He's not the kind of guy who would become a disruptive presence if Willis wins the job. I think he could really be valuable to a young player such as Willis. BTW, in regards to that earlier question, Dahl is eligible for the practice squad and Estes is not.

Jersain asks: Our defensive line worries me because it is composed of two players on the downside of their career and very young players. Do you think it will come through for us this year, and allow our linebackers to make plays?

Matt Maiocco: That's the big question. I think they have a bunch of guys who have little egos and don't mind doing the things necessary for others to get the glory. I think your concerns are legitimate. I have the same questions.

LA9erfan asks: It's an honor to have you on, Matt. Thanks for all that you do. Do you anticipate the 49ers being active at after the June 1st cuts? If so, are there any specific names that come to mind?

Matt Maiocco: Thank you. They will have about $5 million to play with after the rookie pool figures into it. They'll sign a handful of players, but I'm not sure they'll get anyone who is going to make the team -- perhaps with the exception of a backup fullback. I don't know anyone on their radar.

Pedro asks: Hey Matt, looking back, do you think that Brandon Williams was the right pick for our team?

Matt Maiocco: Tough to say. That's a pick that, I don't believe, fit. It was a need pick, and they've shied away from those types of selections on Day 1. That said, he looked for the first time this weekend like a guy who has a chance to make an impact.

sddave asks: What is the real deal on Smiley? Is he as good as gone? It would be tragic Matt. He is good team player in addition to being a tough football player.

Matt Maiocco: I just don't see the 49ers paying anything near what Smiley could get on the open market. We know what McCloughan thinks about paying guards. But that doesn't mean that Smiley won't be on the team this season. It might be 50-50. But, either way, I'd be surprised if he's back in 2008.

ncninerfan asks: Matt, would you like to venture a guess at what the Niners' win-loss record will be this year?

Matt Maiocco: Another tough call. I think the 49ers will be much-improved, but it might not necessarily show in the win column. If I were to take a guess right now, I'd say 9-7.

dcsham asks: Do you think the 49ers might ask Derek Smith to restructure his contract this year with all of the new additions at linebacker?

Matt Maiocco: If you mean, take a pay cut, the answer is no. It's not like they're hurting for the cap space.

DavidFucillo asks: It seems like the team reached for DT Joe Cohen. Any particular reason they went with a guy they could have gotten later, or even as an UFA potentially?

Matt Maiocco: We don't know if Cohen would've lasted. I think they found a guy who played at the big-time level and does the things they want from that nose tackle spot. On decisions such as that, I tend to give the guys who did all the scouting the benefit of the doubt. Plus, they needed another guy to play that spot.

butch asks: Hey Matt, Love your stuff. How do you see our offensive line looking next year with defections and contract expirations? Where do u see Smiley and Harris?

Matt Maiocco: Next season, meaning 2008? I think it would be Jennings, Snyder, Heitmann, Baas, Staley. If you're talking 2007, there's a chance it might not look too different than last year.

run53 asks: How did the two new coordinators do during the mini camp?

Matt Maiocco: It's almost impossible to tell because so much of being a coordinator is reacting during the course of the game. Greg Manusky is definitley more hands-on than Billy Davis, who often sat back and watched Nolan coach. Hostler seems very calm and in control. He's not a demonstrative teacher like Norv Turner.

DavidFucillo asks: Did the team ever consider Paul Soliai, the DT out of Utah?

Matt Maiocco: I don't know for sure, but I suspect they didn't have him ranked as high as some teams. The reason I say that is because a week before the draft Scot McCloughan was asked about nose tackles. He voluntarily brought up Soliai's name. I don't he would've done that if they had him targeted.

DavidFucillo asks: Has Nolan considered utilizing Vernon Davis in the backfield to create matchup problems?

Matt Maiocco: Absolutely. He might not run plays at fullback, but he will certainly line up all over the field thorughout this season.

Sandeep asks: Big fan of your blog Matt. Without a doubt, the best source of Niners information anywhere. I was wondering whether there is any concern amongst coaches or teammates about Ashley Lelie being too "soft" or not being a hard worker?

Matt Maiocco: I haven't heard that concern. I think for that to happen, it's going to have to take more than one muscle strain in the opening minicamp.

hammerthrow99 asks: Matt, are the 49ers set at safety or will they be addressing this issue in next years free agency/draft?

Matt Maiocco: No, I don't think they're set, but they tried to address it with the signing of Michael Lewis and the drafting of Dashon Goldson. Just from what I saw, Goldson looked pretty good. He was one of the few rookies who made any plays at camp because they try to keep the veterans on the field to show the rooks how to do it. The team will definitely decide how to attack free agency, based on what happens in '07.

InfamousEsco asks: Everyone has been raving about Brandon Williams’ play during the mini camp. Do you see him as one of our top 3 WR's duing the season?

Matt Maiocco: I think it's a definite possibility, whereas prior to this camp I didn't give it much serious consideration. He could be a good fit for the slot.

jpyaks asks: Do you see Robinson challenging and/or overtaking Hicks for the primary backup job to Gore?

Matt Maiocco: Yes. That will be good competition. And, depending on how well Thomas Clayton does on special teams, there could be competition there, too.

Jerryniner asks: Nolan seems to favor drafting lighter defensive ends than other teams that run the 3-4. How does this affect how the 3-4 is run?

Matt Maiocco: They have decent size at the DE spots. Basically, all they want from those guys is to tie things up on the interior and do the "dirty work."

rlott42 asks: What role do you see Jay Moore playing this season and might he emerge as a starter somewhere down the line?

Matt Maiocco: He's playing behind Manny Lawson on the outside. I guess his play will determine how much he'll play, but it's going to be tough for him to jump ahead of Manny. I think he has the versatility to be the bigger body on the other side, too, at some point.

jpyaks asks: What was your favorite draft pick from this last year?

Matt Maiocco: My favorite pick was Joe Staley. I liked the way they moved up ahead of the Ravens to get a guy who will be invaluable a year from now when help will be needed on the offensive line.

LA9erfan asks: Do you have any sense of whether Walt Harris or Shawntae Spencer will start opposite of Clements?

Matt Maiocco: After the season he has a year ago, I would expect Harris to get the nod.

49ersRednGold asks: Darrell Jackson seems to be our #1 wide receiver. Who do you think will be our #2? Battle or Lelie?

Matt Maiocco: Well, if everybody's healthy and doing what they expect, I think it'll be Lelie.

dublniklz asks: Matt, I know it's still early but what do you make of Alex's development so far this offseason?

Matt Maiocco: I wrote about Alex today on my blog. I'm very impressed with him. He looks more and more like a very good NFL QB every time I see him.

thefuture asks: I know this will be an unpopular question but we do live in reality. If Alex Smith doesn't pan out how damaging will that be to the franchise?

Matt Maiocco: It would be disastrous. Because if not him ... then who?

ruthless asks: There seems to be an incredible amount of anticipation for Hill to beat out Gilmore and Williams in the Depth chart. How realistic is this?

Matt Maiocco: It's tough for a rookie to step in at that spot, though some have done it in recent years. I saw almost none of Hill this weekend because they wanted him watching and learning. I think if Hill's as good as everyone believes, it's not too unrealistic to think he can be a factor.

jjamck asks: Why doesn't David Bass see the field? Is he a bust?

Matt Maiocco: Baas is a guy whose stock is rising fast in the organization. He's put on 10 pounds to 326 and his body fat is lower. I think that injury in training camp of his rookie season ruined his first year. Last year, it was tough for him to get on the field with that lineup. Let's wait another year before pinning that label on him.

staypuft29 asks: Do you see any surprise cuts taking place during training camp this year?

Matt Maiocco: It wouldn't be a surprise then, would it? Well, I think guys like Hicks and Ulbrich are going to be in dogfights for roster spots. Shaun Hill is going to have tough competition from Getsy. Those are the ones who come immediately to mind.

okdkid asks: What is your take on Arnaz Battle? Do you think he has a shot to win the #1 receiver spot from Jackson or #2 spot away from Lelie or Hill?

Matt Maiocco: Battle is a player who has done everything asked of him. But I think there are other players who are more talented at that position. Sure, he has a chance to win a starting job because he does everything right, but it'll be difficult for him this year.

Pedro asks: Matt, thanks for answering my question. After all the moves we've made, how does our secondary matchup with the rest of the NFC West's receivers?

Matt Maiocco: Better than it has in a long time. I think they have two really good corners and one pretty solid guy who should be getting better (as long as he's healthy). They need to find a fourth corner as insurance.

bo0ja asks: What's the ceiling on Tarell Brown? Just how good can he be?

Matt Maiocco: He's one of those corners who needs to step up for depth. He's quicker than fast, and he knows how to play the game. Tough to answer after one minicamp, but I think he has a chance.

NONAME asks: Matt, do you know if the 49ers plan on having an open field family day like last year?

Matt Maiocco: I don't know, but I've been told they'll do a lot of the same stuff they did a year ago. Check for all that info.

okdkid asks: Over this past mini-camp, who were the most vocal leaders on each side of the ball? Also, do you see Manny Lawson turning into a clubhouse leader for our defense?

Matt Maiocco: I saw Brandon Moore taking on a lot more leadership. There's a difference between being a vocal leader and just chirping. With so many starters out of action on offense, it was tough to tell. But Brandon Williams said Darrell Jackson showed some leadership skills. (On defense, I forgot to mention Marques Douglas, too.)

chimp914 asks: Do you think that the Niners will have problems "gelling" due to the number of new starters on offense and defense?

Matt Maiocco: They're spending so much time together in the offseason that I think it won't be a big issue.

ncninerfan asks: Matt, do you see Ray McDonald sitting out the season because of his knee problems? Oscar adds to this question: Did the 49ers staff know this? If he is out for the season would he still be worth a 3rd round pick?

Matt Maiocco: Yes, everybody knew he had knee issues. That's why they were able to get him where they did. Remember, he'll be a young guy in the mix after B.Y. and Douglas are gone, so I think it can pay dividends whatever happens this year.

bigwads asks: Matt, I see our new offensive coordinator is trying to be more creative in getting Vernon Davis, Dalanie Walker, etc. involved this year. What do you think Jim Hostler will do differently?

Matt Maiocco: Well, I'm not sure Vernon and Delanie were ever on the field together last season. Those two together would certainly cause matchup problems.

dcsham asks: Do you think Patrick Willis has a "Ray Lewis" type personality who can take over a defense? Did he show anything to make you believe one way or another in this mini camp?

Matt Maiocco: He looked unsure of himself at minicamp. But there was a reason for that...he was unsure of what he was doing. He's going to be a very good player, but I'm not sure he has that same crazed affect on his teammates as Lewis.

RikiJr asks: Since the NFC west has stiff competition, gut feeling Matt...Who do you think will take the crown for the NFC West?

Matt Maiocco: I never want to be seen as a homer, as I don't root for anyone and I always try to look at things as objectively as possible, but I think the 49ers have a real chance. They still have to show me they can beat the Cardinals, though.

rum53 asks: Is Alex Smith vocal during practice or does he lead by example?

Matt Maiocco: No, he's not vocal.

IWantMaioccosJob asks: How do you rank our wide receivers?

Matt Maiocco: Again, tough to say after a minicamp in which two of the guys were out, but right now I'd think Jackson, Lelie, Battle with Williams/Hill too close to call. (I reserve the right to change my mind in two minutes.)

sftransplant asks: Hi Matt. One of the questionable draft picks for me was Goldon. How did he look at minicamp and do you think he was worthy of a 4th round pick?

Matt Maiocco: It was questionable for me, too, because I didn't know much about him. He got some action and made a couple good plays. He looks to have pretty good instincts, so maybe they've found something from a guy who played a fair amount of corner in the Pac-10.

staypuft29 asks: With the addition of Patrick Willis, do you think there's a chance that Derek Smith or Jeff Ulbrich might get cut? Are there any other surprise cuts you think might happen during training camp?

Matt Maiocco: I don't think Smith gets cut no matter what happens. As for Ulbrich, I'm not sure if the team can keep him AND Bockwoldt. But if they both play really good special teams, they could.

IWantMaioccosJob asks: Was there a different player available that you would have taken during the draft?

Matt Maiocco: Looking back on it, the only first-day pick where there was some question was McDonald at that spot. But I'm not sure who they could've taken there who could've been better. On day 2, I'm just not knowledgeable enough to second-guess.

ninerfan49 asks: Do you visit fan sites like or If so, what do you look for while there? Are you a secret member?

Matt Maiocco: I got to webzone for the one-stop shopping of what's being written out there. I'll also check message boards because you guys are so great about posting the latest rumors and reports. I also like to see who's talking smack about me. I do not post anything, but I do read a lot and, frankly, I find it very useful. It tells me what's of interest to the fans and that's is a very important tool for me to do my job effectively. So thank you all.

thefuture asks: Let's talk turkey a little, how long and for what terms to you expect Patrick Willis and Joe Staley to sign for?

Matt Maiocco: Willis will be for six years; Staley for five. Willis will get guaranteed money probably in the $11-12 million range. I haven't checked yet on what to expect for Staley's deal.

Matt, there are a number of questions in the queue about Alex Smith. What are your thoughts on how he will do this year?

Matt Maiocco: Maybe I covered some of those questions in my blog today. I think things are not set up perfectly for him, but it's certainly better than it was his first two seasons. I think he has everything you want to see from your QB. I'd expect his passer rating to be in the mid-80s.

Oscar asks: Matt, does it worry you that someone on here is named "IWantMaioccosKids"? :)

Matt Maiocco: It does when I know my wife is running around trying to keep my kids under control.

NONAME asks: Matt, have you heard anything on the status of getting the jerseys changed?

Matt Maiocco: Nothing definitive. I understand there's still a chance for '08. I think they're going to keep that very tight-lipped. When that happens, I'm sure they'll want to make a splash with an announcement.

rum53 asks: One thing the team lacks is a veteran running back. Any chance that they will pick one up?

Matt Maiocco: Veteran running back means a running back who has taken a lot of hits and is probably worn down. No, I don't think there's an urgency to get one.

DavidFucillo asks: How much longer till Mike Singletary lands a head coaching job?

Matt Maiocco: I'd be surprised if he's back on the staff in '08. He came soooooo close to getting the Falcons job.

LA9erfan asks: In San Diego, the Chargers ran a 3-4 defense where the defensive line was responsible for only one gap (as opposed to the typical two gap linemen)...being that Greg Manusky comes from that organization, do you have any insight as to whether or not we'll be running one gap as well?

Matt Maiocco: I think it'll be a mixture of the two. I think they'll be one-gapping a little more than two-gapping.

IWantMaioccosKids asks: How much longer do you think Bryant Young will play for?

Matt Maiocco: Do you know my kids and do you really want them? As for B.Y., I think every year is a bonus. I think there's a good chance this is it for him.

DavidFucillo asks: Any updates on the stadium front? I read a story in a local business paper about potentially combining the stadium with the Lew Wolff soccer plans. Any legs to that rumor?

Matt Maiocco: I'm not the best source on stadium stuff. I place most of my efforts into what's happening with the football team. Sorry.

Oscar asks: Since we will be one-gapping things a bit more, how does that change the responsibilities for the linebackers? Will they be forced to take on more offensive linemen?

Matt Maiocco: Brandon Moore will be taking on blockers, but in a perfect world, Willis/Smith will not.

rum53 asks: How did Patrick Willis and Manny Lawson get along during camp?

Matt Maiocco: No problems there. I didn't see them hanging out, but those are two guys who are going to have no problems in the locker room.

thefuture asks: It seems Vernon Davis has taken on this superman persona since he's entered the NFL. For a guy with 20 career receptions do you think he's become a little full of himself? I don't want a Jerramy Stevens on our hands.

Matt Maiocco: Vernon Davis plays with a chip on his shoulder, no question. He's very confident ... and then some. But I wouldn't put him in that Jerramy Stevens category.

JoRo asks: Is there any new trade talk about Kwame Harris and Justin Smiley?

Matt Maiocco: Nothing new.

KS_Niner asks: Nolan talked about the importance of "managing expectations" for this young team. What do you think happens if we start out slow next year?

Matt Maiocco: Then, Nolan will have a challenge on his hands. He's been able to get everybody to buy into the thought that they're building not just for the current season but for the future. Now, a lot of guys think the future has arrived. If they get off to a bad start, he'll have a big task to keep that mentality.

DavidFucillo asks: Is the Keyshawn Johnson interest in the 49ers just one-sided (please say yes...NO Meshawn!)

Matt Maiocco: The 49ers have ZERO interest in Keyshawn.

ninersfuture asks: Matt, do you realize you are a superstar to us die hard 49er fans because of your blog and attention to the smallest detail?

Matt Maiocco: Thank you very much. My blog has taken on a life of its own and I'm very proud of the following it has generated. The newspaper industry is changing, and our paper has tried to maximize its potential to give readers something you can't get anywhere else. I've tried to find a niche in this new era. I think we're onto something, as shown by the tremendous response from our readers. I really, truly appreciate all the kind words. Thanks to everybody for showing interest in my work and for taking time out of your schedules to join me here this evening.

IWantMaioccosKids wanted to mention that he is a big fan of Matt's and does not actually want his kids. Good to know.

Special thanks to Matt Maiocco for taking the time out of his busy schedule to attend this chat session. Again, Matt's blog, "Instant 49ers," can be read at
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.

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