Chat Transcript: Q&A with Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle

May 21, 2008 at 7:50 PM0

The following is the transcript from the live fan chat between the fans of the two sites, and, and San Francisco 49ers beat writer Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle. Kevin has spent 19 years covering the 49ers and the NFL. His byline has appeared in the Oakland Tribune, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, San Francisco Examiner and, for the last seven years, the Chronicle.

Kevin, can you please elaborate on this quote: "First-round pick Kentwan Balmer will start off as the team's right defensive end. Coach Mike Nolan said he wants to start the rookie off there and then move him to nose guard. Nolan said the techniques for all three defensive line positions are the same, so it shouldn't be a huge transition for Balmer to move over the center when the time comes." Did Nolan really say that Balmer would wind up at NG or did he just mean that after Balmer gets his feet wet in the NFL he would play NT as well as DE ? And can he elaborate on his statement that the techniques for all 3 D line positions are the same ? At the time he wrote it I quoted this statement in a post and J seemed to think the article this came from was rather poor information and out of touch with other writers.

I think he wants to start him as end to get him comfortable. As far as all three positions being the same, I think Nolan might be referring to the 2-gap technique they use on the line.

Will Martz and Manusky both be up in the booth on game day or will one or both of them be on the sidelines?

Martz, I believe will on the sidelines. He was last year in Detroit. Manusky likes to be in the booth.

Is building the stadium popular in Santa Clara among the voting population?

Great question and I don't know the answer. I know Jed York has been going to private houses to explain the project almost every night for months. If measure G passes in San Francisco, that would really make the City a stronger candidate. Brisbane also makes sense. In both those cities the 49ers would get rev from mixed use projects, which they don't have in SC.

Is there any real chance that either BY or Larry Allen come back to the Niners for 1 more year?

Yes. I've heard that BY hurt his neck in the last game against Cleveland which may be a factor in him staying retired. Who knows with Allen. No one has heard from him. But he did finish last year very strong.

Does Jonas Jennings have his head screwed on straight now or is the team in danger of having him flake out on them once again this year (along with his usual missed games due to injury)?

You would hope so. He remains popular among his teammates but no so much with his linemates. He took the news of the switch to RT well according to Nolan, which is a good sign.

Has Eric Heitmann come back from the off season any bigger or stronger this year. It seems he often gets pushed back into the face of the QB's and I have been waiting 3 years now for him to come to camp big and strong enough to handle the Center position. Who is the Center of the future,Heitmann,Wallace or Wragge or maybe even Baas?

I don't think Eric can get much bigger. He's very dedicated workout guy, so he's probably at his max. Baas would need to show a little more poise for that position. Wallace is undersized but showed great technique in the last mini. I would choose Wallace.

How much of an impact will Balmer have on the defense? Will he start?

It might be tough to unseat Isaac and there's no way he starts ahead of Justin Smith. He could possibly start at NT, but the coaches need to know more about him. Hand quickness is key at NT and I don't know if he has that.

Will the arrival of Mike Martz help the play of Alex Smith?

No doubt. Martz might be the best qb developer in the game right now and he has really fit in so far. He knows the technical part of playing QB and he's never had a QB like Alex, a former #1 pick with lots of talent.

Who do you see starting at the "Ted" linebacker spot?

Jeff Ulbrich has the best chance. He started there during the mini and he's a smart tough player. It's not best the position for him. If doesn't work out, Brandon Moore would be a good fit.

Could Ray McDonald and Jay Moore turn into solid contributors for us next season?

Yes. McDonald particularly. Second-year players can really make a big step. You can see that already with Dashon Goldson. Since Moore didn't play last year, it might take him longer to acclimate.

How are the niners goin to get the ball in Vernon Davis's hands?

If anyone can do it, it's Martz. I think they will move around, put him the slot maybe even put him in the backfield. A lot of it will depend on Vernon and how well he learns the Martz system.

Does Martz have anything in stored for Delanie Walker as of keeping him as TE or trying him to play the same rold Vernon will line up?

Martz has a history of playing a lot of two tights. It gives him a lot of flexibility with run and pass. He'll also move those guys around a lot with motion before the snap.

Will Jeff Ulbrich remain playing special teams if he starts at TED LB? How is he looking as far as bulk compared to last year?

He has the capacity to manipulate his weight, which he's done throughout his career. The 49ers like to limit players to five groups. Meaning if he plays on base downs, he could also handle four special teams assignments.

Will the 49ers consider recently released Odell Thurman?

No. Too much trouble for them. They won't consider Chris Henry either.

Do we have a chance to get Takeo Spikes?

I think there's still a chance. I don't know what Spikes is doing, but I get the feeling it's up to him now. He would have a chance to start here, but maybe he doesn't like the offer.

Are the 49ers looking at any tackles or guards in the Free Agent Market? Will they look to bring in a late training camp cut at OT?

Yes, I'm surprised they didn't draft one or sign one after the draft. Chilo Rachel could play tackle but he's much more of a guard. They'll thin at tackle.

I've heard analysts say that Rachal can be kicked out to OT if needed. Since Jennings has an injury history, and Snyder is starting at LG - do you see Rachal seeing time at RT this season?

I don't unless there's an injury. To play tackle as a rookie is really tough. He would have to get reps at tackle right away so I think the team will keep him at G.

Which one of our draft picks really stood out in mini camp?

Nolan doesn't allow the rookies to do much at the mini, because he doesn't want to slow down practice. That being said, Josh Morgan got a fair amount of time and looked good. So did Cody Wallace.

How is our recieving core looking? Are they going to be able to help Alex Smith grow confidence? And how is Byant Johnson looking?

Nolan said it's the best receiving corps he's had. But he says that every year. Isaac Bruce looks terrific and he could really help the rest of the group. Born leader. Johnson didn't stand out to me, but it's early. If Jerry Sullivan (WR COACH) could harness his talent, there's no limit on him.

Who will be the most effective and productive wideout under Martz THIS season?

If it's Johnson, that would good for the offense, because he's the most explosive. At this stage, I don't know if Bruce is going to get you a 1,000 yards and 8 touchdowns. The other one to consider is Davis, who could put some crooked numbers.

What do you make of Jerry Sullivan? He is widely respected around the league, and we always hear how great he is coming from the 49ers staff. But is he really that good? It hasn't shown on the field. Is that a reflection of the talent, the coach, both?

I think it's a reflection of talent. He hasn't had a lot to work with. Brandon Lloyd was more into himself than becoming a complete receiver. Antonio Bryant just imploded and Darrell Jackson was clearly done by the time he got here. Sullivan is done a good job grooming Arnaz Battle and let's what he does with Johnson, Lelie and Morgan. And Jason Hill. Receivers are a tough group.

How many receivers do you think we keep on the roster and who is going to be starting?

I think Bruce and Johnson will end up starting, with Battle, Jason Hill and either Lelie or Morgan as the fifth. Morgan they could put onthe practice squad. And if Battle doesn't get enough playing time, he might return punts. I think he's underrated as returner.

Which starter/contributer from last year has the best chace of getting cut on June 1st?

Lelie has a great chance of getting released. If Banta-Cain reports at 320, he's might be gone. Moran Norris really fell off last year, so watch out for him.

Do you feel team is more focused than they were this time last year?

It's so tough to say in minicamp. I do think they are excited offensively about Martz.

Do you see a certain swagger, confidence from the players under Martz that you did not see when they were being coached by Hostler?

I haven't seen any swagger yet. I think they're too confused with learning the offense to have swagger.

We've heard reports that Martz is hands on with the QBs this off-season - working with the mechanics and form for all 3 quarterbacks. But that also seems the primary role of Ted Tollner, our current QB coach. As far as you can tell, what is going to his role this season?

Once the season starts, Martz will be consumed with game planning and the starting QB. Tollner will then handle mechanics and develop the backups.

One of the highly regarded additions to the 49ers staff was Ted Tollner for his extensive resume in football. What has his impact been like this off-season with the QBs?

They do now have two very experienced coaches handling the QB's, which they didn't have last year. We'll see if it makes a difference.

Do you honestly see Martz being offered a HC gig if he has a successful season in SF? To me, it seems like GMs and Owners are opting away towards retread coaches and going for fresh new talent (IE - Miami, Atl).

It certainly worked for Norv Turner. It really depends on what Martz does and how people (fans, players media) react to him.

How many games do the 49ers have to win for Nolan to keep his job?

He could get away with seven, but eight might be the base line. It also depends on what happens in games. Is Nolan making bad gameday decisions? Are players on board. Is there bicking with Nolan and Martz or McCloughan. If they play well and show improvement, he could get away with 7. Maybe.

Do you think the 9ers are bound to lose someone to a head coaching position next year? Mike S? Mike M? Tollner? Sullivan? Manusky?

It would be a good sign if they did. I know McCarthy left after a 4 win season but that's unusual. I don't see Sullivan or Tollner going anywhere and who knows with Martz. Singletary remains the one who would go. But the longer he doesn't get a job the worst is it for him. Remember Ted Cottrell? One l or 2? I think it's 2.

Has Patrick Willis imporoved on his passing defense? We all know he is great at stopping the run with his speed, but is he learning to use his speed to block and possibly get intecepions?

I was talkiing to Singletary last week and he said Willis has so much more to learn, that's he's just scratching the surface. I get the feeling he didn't get the best coaching at OLe Miss and is stil a little raw if you can believe that.

How big of an impact can DeShaun Foster's presence have and how do you feel it will impact Frank Gore's performance this season? Can Gore have another season like 2006?

Foster could get Gore going. He's aware of competition. Frankly I thought it was a mistake to get rid of MO Hicks. He was a different type of back great on special teams and hard to cover out of the back field.

Who do you see earning the nickle back spot on defense? Spencer/brown/Smith?

Smith could actually start. Spencer is still a very good corner and I think he gets a bad rap sometimes. Brown is the most intriguing and root for him because of his background. If I had to place a wager, i'd say HArris. With possibly Smith starting. Why not shake it up.

I know this has been partially covered, but a little more elaboration has been requested. We know Joe Staley and JJ are the starting tackles, and Heitmann is pretty much the starting center, but who do you think the starting guards are going to be? If Rachal and Baas start where does that leave Adam Snyder? Could he possibly beat out JJ at right tackle?

I don't think so. He's much more of a guard. I don't know if he has long enough arms to be a tackle. If Rachel does start, that could free up Snyder backup four positions.

ESPN reported this morning that the 49ers were interrested in Flacco but he was gone when we went on the clock at 29. Had he been available do you think we might have pulled the trigger on him?

I haven't heard that. I know McCloughan said the one position they wouldn't really consider is QB and TE, so that would really surprise me. McCloughan is also a strong Smith supporter. But you can never have enough QB's.

Who has a bigger chance to stay with the team if we keep 7 DLs - assuming we keep Sopoaga, Smith, McDonald, Balmer, Fields, and Franklin - Cohen or Oliver?

Oliver. He's proven he can play in the league unless his knee just isn't responding. The jury is still way out on Cohen.

How soon before Jed is given complete control of the team?

I don't know. John has taken a real beating and I think he wants to leave on a positive note. But how long will that take?

Are the niners coaches completely sold on Reggie Smith playing CB? Or do they see potential with him playing safety?

They aren't completely sold on anything after the first minicamp. But they like Smith at corner because he could be a could press corner. The theory being Clements will play off because he doesn't need the safety help if you know what I mean.

We've read hat TBC would get cut if he showed up overweight but i have heard he was in great shape? Is he?

He's in much better shape. He reported close to his playing weight and he said he wants to be in the best shape of his career to start the season. Thanks NoMOreQUestions. I don't know what I would have done without you.

We would like to thank Kevin Lynch for taking the time out of his busy schedule to join us for a chat. Kevin's insightful blog can be found at
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.


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