Positional Analysis Defensive Line- 03/04/2001
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At last, the much awaited positional analysis of the defensive line. One of the 49ers greatest needs is along the defensive line. Last season the team was unable to get any resemblance of a pass rush going, and as such, not only were teams able to quiet down defensive tackle Bryant Young a little, but quarterbacks were given ample time to scorch our defensive backfield. The defensive line is every teams first line of defense, and without a pass-rush, it really doesn't matter how strong the rest of a team's defense is. Given enough time, any NFL caliber quarterback will find a way to complete passes. Thus, the defensive line is an area that the 49ers need to bolster in this coming season.

It's not as if the 49ers haven't tried to improve the defensive line. They've drafted Reggie McGrew in the first round, Chike Okeafor, and last season John Engelberger. The problem is, only one, Engelberger has really developed into a starter. Chike Okeafor has shown some signs of talent, but he will really need to step up his performance if the 49ers are going to keep him around. Meanwhile Reggie McGrew has done very little but sit on the bench in his two seasons with the 49ers. McGrew has been injured, and has been flat out slow to develop. The 49ers thought they had someone to replace Dana Stubblefield when the drafted McGrew, but now, McGrew is becoming a candidate for the waiver wire.

Other than promising defensive end John Engelberger, the 49ers have a stud at defensive tackle by the name of Bryant Young. Young recently signed a six-year deal, that will make signing other free agents this off-season more difficult, but he is worth every penny. Young seems to be fully recovered from a leg injury a couple seasons ago. The recovery involved placing two titanium rods in his legs that have now calcified to the bone and become impossible to remove. Nevertheless, Bryant Young has proven to be the best defensive lineman the team has, and is a person the team can build around on defense.

The 49ers other defensive tackle last season was Brenston Buckner. Buckner has been with the 49ers as a free agent for some time now. This past season he broke out, and became somewhat of a threat next to Bryant Young. Buckner recorded six sacks, and the 49ers would love to tandem him and Young together this season. The problem is, Buckner is a free agent, and the 49ers have very little money. Providing the 49ers can't hold onto Buckner, this team may really need Reggie McGrew - who at this point has not shown any promise.

The 49ers also have Junior Bryant on their roster. Junior injured himself last season, and has shown no progress of recovery. At this point, the 49ers are not counting on having him back for the season. Junior Bryant was one of the team's better defensive linemen. He played tackle and end, and was a key factor in providing some of the pass rush, and relieving the pressure from Bryant Young.

Another option the 49ers have is using Cederick Killings, or John Milem, both of who were with the 49ers for the first time last season. Killings showed good production when given the chance, particularly at defensive tackle. If the 49ers don't re-sign Buckner, Killings may be able to give the 49ers the support they need. John Milem was drafted last season and has the size and speed to offer support at the defensive end position. Unfortunately, Milem didn't see the field enough last season to get a good read on him. These two players could become significant factors in this seasons 49ers' defense.

The 49ers need help along the defensive line. That couldn't be any clearer. In all likelihood, the help will come through the draft, maybe even with the first overall pick. Either way the team will have to find someone on the roster to really step it up this season - particularly if the team can't hold onto Brenston Buckner. Securing Bryant Young was a step in the right direction, but he needs some help attacking the quarterback from the 49ers first line of defense.

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