Where The 49ers Have Improved Part 4
May 5 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
In this final article of the series, I focus on the defensive line and how it should be able to bring more heat to the quarterback this year.
The 49ers defensive line was really nothing to write home about last season. The team had high hopes for the line after drafting Andre Carter and bringing back veteran Dana Stubblefield. It felt that Bryant Young and John Engelberger would continue to produce at a good level, and all would be fine. Truth of the matter is, although the line was very good at stopping the run and providing containment, when it came to sacking the quarterback the line really suffered.
The 49ers made two moves on the defensive line that should provide a positive impact. The first was to bring in the versatile free agent Sean Moran, the second was drafting defensive tackle Josh Shaw. The team believes that these two additions along with an extra year of experience for Engelberger and Cater will make a world of a difference.
No matter how the 49ers configure there defensive line, it will once again be undersized. While this proved to be an issue last season, it has worked more often than its failed. Size is not that big an issue as long as speed is there.
In Sean Moran the 49ers have a defensive end that will either push Engelberger to be a better starter, or win the starting position out right. Either way his versatility to play tackle and end will give the 49ers some flexibility as to where they line up Bryant Young.
Rookie Josh Shaw is one player the 49ers have extreme high hopes for. Shaw however is battling back from a severe knee injury. He likely wonít be a factor early in the season, but should contribute in the rotation quite nicely in the latter part of the season. Shaw will compete with Reggie McGrew to be the first tackle off the bench. The 49ers believe he can really be the future of the tackle position on the team.
Although there isnít likely to be much turnover in the starting four linemen, the additional depth will help the team tremendously. Players like Cederick Killings are likely still to be factors but they will have lots more competition along the line in order to get significant play time.