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Linebacking Core
March 26th 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
The 49ers had a 66% turnover rate at the linebacking position last season. Ushering Winfred Tubbs and Ken Norton Jr out the door, and welcoming Jeff Ulbrich and Derek Smith into starting roles the 49ers had one main stay at linebacker - Julian Peterson. Peterson was clearly the captain of the group this season and as a result there was a little performance drop off from him, as he assumed some other responsibilities.

This years starting linebackers are bound to see some turnover too, as Jamie Winborn will give Smith and Ulbrich a run for their money. Winborn looked like the real deal this past season, and was a big asset to the defense in key situations. This group can really only get better - especially if the 49ers continue to add some depth to it.

Julian Peterson will improve as the 49ers allow him more freedom. Last season, Peterson had to 'stay at home' in order to pick up some of the slack from two linebackers who were new to the 49ers defensive system. This season however, the starting three should all have at least one season's experience with the team, allowing Peterson to become that impact player he was pegged to be.

Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich will have a hard time keeping their positions with Winborn. Winborn made tremendous strides last season, and will likely show even more improvement by the time pre-season roles around. Meanwhile the two of them will be pushed for their starting position and will have to increase their output.

The formula seems to equate to a greater output than last season. Leaving Peterson to make plays - doing what he does best, and the steady competition at the other two spots should bring a better game from everyone. The chemistry among st the group should improve to, and as such Jim Mora Jr can continue to become more creative as he was late, last season.

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