Training Camp Non-Battles Part I
July 15 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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Now that the series of articles previewing training camp battles have been completed, I thought Iíd take a look at the position on the team that wonít have heavy competition for them during training camp. The first squad that Iíll look at is the offensive line, which returns all but one of its starters from last season. The starting five, barring injury, are pretty much set in stone.
Speaking on stone, the 49ers signed Ron Stone to take over for Ray Brown who was released around June first. Stone will move into the right guard spot, shifting Dave Fiore across the line to left guard. Fiore has played every position on the line, so the shift is nothing he canít handle. Meanwhile by putting Stone on the right side of the line, the 49ers were able to team him with a long time friend, and former teammate of his in Scott Gragg. Completing the line is the versatile Derrick Deese and Center Jeremy Newberry.
While many fans are not over zealous about Deese, the 49ers are very happy with their starting five, but are less than ecstatic about the offensive line depth. The most veteran players on the depth charts, and likely the most capable, is tackle Matt Willig. If not for an arthritic knee, Milem would likely be able to push for a starting position. From there on out, thereís no real order, but the depth does include youngsters Milford Stephenson, Eric Heitmann and Kyle Kosier, along with David Costa and Chad Ward are the best contenders for the depth at the position.
There will be a few others vying for offensive line depth positions, but in all likelihood, the 49ers will keep the ten offensive lineman named above. The 49ers need these men to step up and protect quarterback Jeff Garcia. Itís a big task given the ramifications if Garcia were to get injured. The 49ers would be smart to try and sign an additional offensive lineman that could solidify the depth at the position before the start of training camp. Currently the 49ers are also lacking a backup center. One player still out there, that would obviously be a perfect fit for the backup role is former 49er Ray Brown.