Look For Changes At Linebacker
May 1 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
Last season the 49ers had a 66% turnover rate at the linebacker position. This season, a 33% change over is quite realistic. At the end of last season it was quite evident that the 49ers were quite solid at linebacker, but that they didnít have the big play ability from that area of the field. It wasnít necessarily for a lack of talent, more like for a lack of cohesiveness of talent.
With such a large turnover, the 49ers couldnít take full advantage of Julian Peterson a former first round draft pick. The team chose instead to play it safe from this position. However this season, at least two of last seasons starting three are expected to return as starters, and two out of three Ďaint bad - particularly if a move is considered an upgrade.
Be seasonsí end, it was quite clear that rookie Jamie Winborn was a player the 49ers needed to get on the field. Winborn was drafted for the specific purpose of matching up against the Marshall Faulk style backs that can run, catch and block. Winborn showed his speed and tenaciousness last season in doing exactly that.
His play last season, combined with a solid off-season and pre-season should be enough to win one of the starting roles at linebacker currently held by Jeff Ulbrich and Derek Smith. With a year under Winbornís belt, and essentially four starting caliber linebackers at this position it could be one of the strongest units on the team. Rookie Rasheed Saleem and his speed should make a difference too, but he is unlikely to beat out the guys currently in place in his first season with the club.