Positional Analysis Linebacker- 02/25/2001
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One of the 49ers greatest need areas this off-season is at the linebacking position. Last season the team used it's first round pick to draft Julian Peterson, who stood out all season after recovering from injury. Peterson played alongside of veterans Ken Norton Jr. and Winfred Tubbs, both of who most likely wont be returning to the 49ers this season. Jeff Posey saw more time on the field than he had throughout his career, backing up these three, and being used in pass rushing situations. Jeff Ulbrich was drafted last season, but did not make it onto the field, even after a promising pre-season, due to injury. The core was completed by Artie Ulmer, a youngster who made significant contributions.

This season, Julian Peterson is going to have to step into the spotlight. The 49ers love his talent, and athletic ability, and are right in doing so. Peterson always seems to be making plays on the field. Last season he had ten passes defended, four sacs, and two interceptions (he had more but they were called back due to penalties). Peterson is an impact player that the 49ers can build around for years to come.

Ken Norton Jr. played all of last season with an injured back. Norton is a premier linebacker, who unfortunately will be a cap casualty. The 49ers were hoping Norton would retire as a 49ers player, and even offered him a retiring bonus, but Norton wants to play more. The 49ers will be forced into releasing Norton, likely some time this week. He will be missed as a 49er, but football is a business.

Winfred Tubbs, another veteran to the linebacking core, is expected to be another cap casualty. Tubbs had his best season as a 49er last year. Unfortunately, though, he never became the impact player the team was looking for, after Gary Plummer departed.

The departure of Tubbs and Norton means that the 49ers will have a very young group of linebackers this coming season. Luckily, the team is thrilled with Jeff Ulbrich, and can't wait to see him back in action, now that he is done his rehab. Ulbirch is currently expected to start at the middle linebacker position.

Jeff Posey is the 49ers next best bet as a starter. Posey is rather quick, and seems to get the job done. Of the bunch, he will be the eldest, but he still has a ways to go to make a real impact on the team. Originally a defensive end, the 49ers converted Posey, full time, in pre-season last year.

Artie Ulmer saw a fair bit of playtime last season. Ulmer is still very raw, but is learning quickly as he participates. For the moment, the 49ers can look to Ulmer to be a reliable back up.

Given the situation, the 49ers would love to find a starting linebacker in the first round, maybe even at the number nine position. The team needs another impact player, to start opposite of Peterson to really bring fear into the opposition. Peterson will really have to lead this group next season, as he will be the most experienced of the bunch - luckily, the 49ers feel he is capable of this task.

Talk about it in the 49ers Paradise Forum

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