Training Camp Battles Part IV
July 8 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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Despite facing some of the leagues best running backs last season, the 49ers did a commendable job stopping the run. Rushing the passer on the other hand, was one area that was noticeably weak. And so the 49ers made it a mandate this off-season to improve their pass rush. The interior defensive line positions will have plenty of competition behind tackles Bryant Young and Dana Stubblefield.
Last season the 49ers recorded only thirty-two team sacks. Of those thirty-two, the defensive line was responsible for 22.5 of the sacks. The starting defensive line for that matter, recorded only 18 sacks, and defensive tackles recorded a measly 8.5 sacks. Comparatively speaking, in 1996, the starting defensive line alone had thirty-five sacks (the line consisted of Young, Stubblefield, Barker and Doleman). In 1996 the starting tackles were credited with twelve and a half sacks (Stubblefield only had one). Those four players were able to smash last seasonís entire pass rushing effort. The same starting defensive line in 1997 produced thirty-six sacks, this time the tackle Tandem recorded nineteen of those sacks. In 1998 the line, with Jr. Bryant Starting for Dana Stubblefield produced an astonishing forty-one sacks. All of these years make the past few years efforts look meager.
This season the 49ers want to bring the quarterback down as many times as it did during those years, and thatís one of the reasons there will be so much competition for the defensive tackle positions behind starters Stubblefield and Young. Fighting for play time in training camp will be former first round daft pick Reggie McGrew, free agent addition Jim Flanigan, and second year player John Schlect. It remains conceivable that the 49ers would carry all three on the roster, but the competition will be for playing time.
Reggie McGrew finally began to look effective last season before getting injured. The 49ers didnít want to chance it and brought in Jim Flanigan who should immediately push McGrew for starting time. Meanwhile John Schlect has been very impressive this off-season. Heís improved his strength and has a year under his belt. With immense competition at the spot, there is reason to expect improvement from this group. Of course, rookie Josh Shaw will be rehabilitating all training camp. He figures into the 49ers future plans, but the team will not rush his recuperation process. They are however quite excited with what they have in all of these players.