The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners

The Best Seat In The House For All Your News On The 5 Time World Champion Niners
A review and commentary on the history & lastest events surrounding the 17 time NFC Western Division & 5 -Time World Champion San Francisco 49ers. From 1946 and the All America Football Conference to 2009 and the road to a 6th Super Bowl title - For true fans of the scarlet and gold! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Defensive Coordinator Could Be M.V.P.

In the NFC,only the New Orleans Saints with Reggie Bush, and maybe Philly with Brian Westbrook can boast a lethal weapon approaching the likes of Frank Gore, who is promised the ball a good 350 times this season. And then came news of the broken hand. Though a minor injury, it represented a news item that shifted the spotlight onto the key acquisition of the 49ers' offseason and perhaps that of Mike Nolan's head coaching career: new defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.

Manusky takes over a defense that actually performed worse than the dismal showing of 2005, while Nolan's sophomore season saw the 49ers' record go from 4-12 to 7-9. The San Francisco 'D' allowed a whopping 412 points, including 25 passing TDs; both were league lows. The Niners forced just 26 turnovers, 14 of which were interceptions. Put another way, combined with fewer than one pick per game and a 63.9 percent completion rate, the 2006 49ers essentially provided the opposition with a Tom Brady. (Brady's stat line: 24 TDs, 12 picks, 61.8 percent.)

In terms of playing, Manusky had a heck of a career as a linebacker running from 1988-1999 with the Washington Redskins , the Minnesota Vikings and the Kansas City Chiefs . He once strung together a run of 113 consecutive games, a stretch of over seven seasons. Manusky was reportedly first inspired to try coaching back in 1994 while with the Vikings; staffers Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin "were the first ones to say, 'Hey, you'd be a pretty good coach.'" The hiring of Manusky by the 49ers was somewhat of a surprise to some, particularly when speculation in February had Dave Campo as the favorite for the job. However, the man does see eye-to-eye with Nolan in preferring the 3-4 defense while the Niners, with emphasis still on the future, surely preferred a younger guy for the job. Manusky's last position had him serving as linebackers coach for Wade Phillips' San Diego defense, with which he fostered the likes of Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips - they accounted for 128 tackles last season - in his four years there.

But this is the preseason, so we're not here to talk about the past, right? Plus, the immediate future looks, if not outstandingly better, at least an improvement on dead last in the league.
While current depth charts and buzz have the old guard - Bryant Young, Ronald Fields and Marques Douglas - keeping their starting positions up front, the linebacking foursome is essentially a brand new corps. Prospective starters on the right side are OLB Tully Banta-Cain, a free agent from the New England Patriots , and No. 11 overall Patrick Willis; so much of Manusky's perceived success will depend on the rookie from Ole Miss. Manny Lawson is entering his second year after showing promise in the second half of last season, and Derek Smith has undergone an operation to repair an eye which hampered his play in 2006.

In terms of the secondary, Pro Bowl alternate Walt Harris remains at corner, while Mark Roman and Keith Lewis re-upped with the team in the offseason. An excellent acquisition amid the 49ers' terrific offseason was the signing of Buffalo Bills free agent Nate Clements to team with Harris. Strong safety Michael Lewis was also brought in via free agency and is expected to start alongside free safety Roman.
After that, though, it's ... well, it's mostly the under-tested and the untested - a bunch that looks like the 31st-best backups in the NFL (if you're a non-believer) or young talent ready to be molded by Manusky. Six of the 13 players listed as secondary on the current 49ers roster have seen action in two or fewer seasons. And that includes B.J. Tucker, who has already been put on injured reserve. This season and in seasons to come, the secondary will be a crucial measuring stick with which to grade Manusky.

Most prognostication and analysis regarding Manusky's first season as defensive coordinator ends with something along the lines of "he's got his work cut out for him" and I'll go along with the belief that if the success expected of the 49er defense this season is achieved (the bar is low, for sure), 2007 will be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between Manusky and Nolan.

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