Defensive Backfield- 09/30/2000
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Heading into the season one of the glaring areas of deficiencies within the 49ers squad was the defensive backfield. About the only person fans knew they could rely on was Lance Schulters. Last season Schulters had seven interceptions, and made the pro-bowl at his free safety position. This season though, Schulters began at strong safety, allowing Peirson Prioleau to move in at free safety. The move had many people worried.

There was little reason to have faith in the 49ers defensive backfield. Monty Montgomery was on his way back from the injured reserve, Ahmed Plummer entered the season as a rookie, and Peirson Prioleau was in a completely different position than last season. Thus it was common knowledge that this group was going to be challenged, until they could give teams reason not too challenge them.

It is now a quarter of the way through the season, and fair game for evaluation of this group. There have been a few key changes that will likely benefit the group throughout the rest of the season. These moves include moving Schulters back to free safety, allowing rookie John Keith to step in as a starter. Monty Montgomery is now splitting time with Jason Webster, another promising rookie.

At the moment, the defensive backfield has done little to stop other teams from challenging it. The team is playing too many zone coverages, and thus it is being picked apart underneath. The problem here is the blitz is not effective enough to play a soft zone. The cornerbacks should be in man coverage on the majority of downs. This will undoubtedly help the coverage unit.

The safeties have proved to be strong, and big hitters. Moving Schulters back to free safety should bring some interceptions their way too. One area that could still use improvement is coverage of the third or underneath receiver.

The defensive backfield gets stronger with every game. After giving up some big plays, both corners seem to be coming into their own. The big play must be stopped, and with a little bit tighter coverage, and less zone, it can be. Undoubtedly the defensive backs would benefit from a stronger pass rush. The rest of the season will provide plenty of time for these players to improve, it will be important that Marriucci sticks with these primary, and not give up on them. Anthony Parker has not really fit into the plans as of yet, and it will be interesting to see what the team does with this promising second year player.
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