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Pre-Training Camp Report LB - By Bryan Hersh July 23 2005

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With the 49ers apparently shifting to a 3-4 defense, the role of the linebackers will be crucial to the team’s success. Luckily, linebacker is also a strength of this team. Barring injury or something completely unforeseen, one can actually quite accurately predict the starting four linebackers. Julian Peterson (SAM), Jamie Winborn (WILL), Derek Smith (TED), and Jeff Ulbrich (MIKE) are four of the team’s best linebackers that have grown into a cohesive unit over the past few seasons. Having all four of these players on the field at the same time should be a tremendous asset to the team.

The switch to the 3-4 though, makes the battles for depth positions particularly interested. Essentially, the team will be making use of some of its depth linebackers from past years, and defensive ends to help create a very strong unit, capable of generating a pass rush and holding their own in coverage too. The adjustment process will not be that simple, but the 49ers should have the coaching staff and talent to ‘get it done’.

Brandon Moore who filled in very nicely off the bench last year is currently slotted backup Julian Peterson at the SAM position. Of course if any of the starters get injured, there is a chance the 49ers shift their starting backers because they are all quite versatile. Andre Carter, moving from the starting defensive end position, is currently slated to back up Jamie Winborn at the WILL position. Andrew Williams, also a converted defensive end (although one who has seen very little play time, and has been battling injured) is also pencilled in to back up at this position. Richard Seigler who was drafted last year, and saw some play time, is listed as Derek Smith’s backup. Saleem Rasheed who has yet to surface as the player the 49ers thought they were getting when they drafted him, is expected to backup Jeff Ulbrich at the MIKE position.

Also in the mix are Max Yates, and Ray Wells (who contributed last season). These two linebackers will have a hard time making the squad because of all the depth that came with the merge of linebacker and defensive end.

The competition at linebacker will be most fierce for the back up positions. The versatility of all these players may mean the 49ers have a ‘first off the bench’ player rather than a true back up system at each position. In the 3-4 defense the linebackers are the heart and sole of success, and luckily for the 49ers they have quite a bit of talent stacked at this position.

 
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