Squinting at the Horizon V

The final Squint in our week long series focuses on the Linebackers. The Dline gets no peeps in this series because nothing much has changed there from last year’s lineup. Ricky Jean Francois is working at the nose trying to become a viable backup to Abrayo Franklin, Khalif Mitchell is still Berger’s favorite project, and two guys are duking it out to stay on the roster as Justin Smith’s seldom used backup: Demetric Evans and Derek Walker. Yawn. Some people (hint: Sophrosyne) will be calling for Kentwan Balmer to be cut, but these people don’t actually watch the games or bother paying attention to the details and usually end up looking foolish and refusing to admit it. Hahaha. Blog comedy. Balmer will be here.

The starting linebackers will no doubt be the same as last year, but there is some hummbaby bubbling underneath. Last year, there were no backups on the squad, either inside or outside, that were much to write home about. The inside backups were 5th round draft pick Scott McKillop and the ten year veteran 49er Jeff Ulbrich. The outside backups were recovering failed draft pick Ahmad Brooks and Damned If I Can Remember. Midway through the season, Ulbrich experienced the Steve Young rung and done moment, and promptly retired. Matt Wilhem, a veteran body from San Diego familiar with Manusky’s defensive schemes, was hauled in to fill the void. The football gods were kind to us and, aside from a couple of missed games by Spikes, there were no injuries during the year.

Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes form a most acceptable inside duo, but Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson have a bit of a grumblers bandwagon forming. Both are pretty solid and neither is very studly. Lawson led the team in sacks (6.5), but they were all coverage sacks. Haralson had 6, but he had 8 the year before and was expected to swell, not shrink. He was also beaten around the corner by Chris Johnson in the Titans game, a game changing moment that, along with Nate Clements’ whiff-and-whoa-nelly on Roddy White in the Falcons game, has hatched the off season myth (hint: Unca_Chuck Bloviations, Ltd.) that the team is in dire need of more speed on the defense (and that Nate Clements should be cut!).

At any rate, two things have occurred to stir the blood regarding an upgrade at both of these outside linebacker/pass rusher positions. The partly stunning emergence of Brooks late in the 2009 season as a pass rushing phenom (6 in the final 6 games) and the off season FA acquisition of oft-injured, but good when healthy Travis LaBoy. LaBoy is seen as having a little more mean than Lawson, while Brooks is viewed as maybe The Real Deal pass rusher the 49ers have not had for longer than some fans have lived.

At inside linebacker, McKillop is entering his second year, so some of the green may have worn off, making him more than just a special teams guy. But most of the ogles will be directed at Navorro Bowman, this year’s 3rd round draft pick. It has been enthusiastically reported by many (hint: Rob) that Bowman was actually a first round talent that fell to us by virtue of some unvirtuous behavior as a collegian. Bowman impressed during last week’s OTAs and sometime during the season could very well push Spikes into a backup role and a voyage into the sunset.

So, contrary to last season, which consisted of closing one’s eyes and praying for health, this season’s squint at the linebackers will be worthwhile viewing.

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20 comments on “Squinting at the Horizon V
  1. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    Last in a series, what? I thought you were trying to be like Rocky!

  2. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    At least you didn’t compare it to Nightmare on Elm St. Or was it Halloween? I get my cult horror flics mixed up.

  3. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    My pet project isn’t Mitchell, but I do like that you remembered me talking about him. I saw him do well in two pre-season games and am wanting to see more. No predictions, but I did like wht I saw in very limited action. One can only hope.
    Bowman has some doing to do because I really wanted a couple other guys with that pick. CB/Owusu-Ansah and NT/Cam Thomas were still on the board. I’m still smarting from taking McKillop in the 5th round last year instead of Jasper Brinkley. They had to make up for it this year by taking Bowman. But if Bowman turns out to be a good player, all is forgiven.
    Still, when do we draft a quality two gapping NT and when do we get a speed cover corner? Go Bowman! I’m hoping he makes me forget about the missing on a NT, corner or Brinkley.

  4. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    Except for pure luck, there’s only at most 3 or less draft picks each year where you can get a stud player. But there’s about 9 positions (QB, RB, OL, WR, DL, OLB, ILB, CB, S) where a stud is needed. Realistically, it takes about five perfect drafts to get all you need. We obviously went OL and S this year. Next year I would bet we target CB at #1 and, depending on RJF, NT at #2.

  5. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    I’m starting to think NT is not a top priority for this ball club. Yeah we franchised Franklin, but what chice did we have? RJF is only 300 lbs, he will be another one gapping NT. Maybe they have high hopes for Mitchell, but I doubt that, since they moved him to OG for a while last year. If we draft a two gapping NT in the first two rounds next year, I would faint.

  6. robNo Gravatar says:

    nose tackle is not a priority for a 3-4 team !!!??? omg !
    mitchell has done nothing but good things imho and i like him ( and am following him very closely )
    RJF is a great story , but i wouldn’t mind it if we made NT our top priority ! (other than fast CB i don’t see a greater need on this team !)
    i don’t want to bet our whole season on a limited NT like franklin who might not even re-sign long term , or even have a better season than he did in this , his CONTRACT YEAR !!!(don’t forget that )or RJF or even
    kentwan balmer our 6-5 kick returner !(lol).
    IMHO just get me a fast CB and an elite NT and this team will be in the super bowl !!!

  7. robNo Gravatar says:

    berger …
    ” If we draft a two gapping NT in the first two rounds next year, I would faint.”
    well , be prepared to faint ! sing was looking very closely at bj raji two years ago !!!
    he knows his shit , so don’t be surprised if they make a point of talking ad nauseum about how sing is a defensive minded coach and loves defense next year after we aquire both (NT , fast corner )next offseason !

  8. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    rob- I would love to faint for that reason.

  9. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    NoFear- I was talking about base formations. I want 3 WR, 1 TE, qb under center and the TB lined up behind. If you want to mix in other scenarios that is OK. My base formation is the one I listed above. Space the defense and get the ball to the playmakers.
    I just got laughed by my co-worker for blogging at work.

  10. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    NoFear- Did you like my beer and cold cream analogy?

  11. winderNo Gravatar says:

    I think Lawson might be on the way out. Not showing up to OTA’s probably isn’t helping either since endurance is an issue with him. We have 14 LB’s on the roster right now, some of which are TC fodder. But, there should be some fierce competition for any open position. I like Lawson but i think we could do much better. Really looking forward seeing Navorro play.

  12. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    Winder- I agree 100% with NoFear on Lawson. I think he is a beast in base defense. Because he doesn’t get statistics you are frowning on a very good player. I would trust Lawson over the potential guys because he is a known quantity. A good known quantity. I compare Lawson to Keena Turner. I loved Keena Turner. Keena Turner was not a stat guy. I think Lawson is a major cog in our deense.

  13. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    NoFear- OK, spoil the buzz. I actually thought of that. But if I go there, there is no funny. You go buy cold cream, me and the guys will buy beer.

  14. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    NoFear- I’m having a little fun tearing up Unca at the moment. His last post is so bad I can’t help myself. I doubt anybody else sees the humor, but I am just cracking myself up. Nothing but love, but who cares abut love?

  15. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    I also agree about Lawson. Have always liked him. Solid guy who makes more plays than people give him credit for. If he had been drafted in the 3rd round, instead of late in the 1st, nobody would be complaining about him. They’d just think he was a very good two down player, like Spikes is, like Turner was. The sacks he gets would then be considered a plus, instead of not enough.

  16. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    I forgot to mention Diyral Briggs in the LB mix. Barrows threw him a bone this week and he did have some juice as a pass rusher last pre-season, IIRC. I think he’s still got PS eligibility, though.

  17. winderNo Gravatar says:

    Berger – It is possible that I view Lawson from a 1st rd pick point of view. I think he’s a pretty good football player myself, and an asset to the team. I just think we could do better at his position.

  18. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    winder- I don’t delineate picks from founds. If you like to fuck him for being a 1st round pick, so be it. He reminds me of Keena Turner. I like him a lot. You are allowed to have your own opinion. Am I right? I’d like to think so, but I’ve been wrong many times. We’ll see what happens. In a few years we can get back to Lawson and one of us wil be right. My opinion is he is a very good football player and they are always needed.

  19. DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Gravatar test

  20. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    Nicely done, NoFear.

2021 Schedules
09/12: W 49ers 41, Lions 33
09/19: W 49ers 17, Eagles 11
09/26: L Packers 30, 49ers 28
10/03: L Seahawks 28, 49ers 21
10/10: L Cardinals 17, 49ers 10
10/17 BYE
10/24: L Colts 30, 49ers 18
10/31: W 49ers 33, Bears 22
11/07: L Cardinals 31, 49ers 17
11/15: W 49ers 31, Rams 10L
11/21: W 49ers 30, Jaguars 10
11/28: W 49ers 34, Vikings 26
12/05: L Seahawks 30, 49ers 23 12/12 · 10:00 AMCIN
12/19 · 1:05 PM v ATL
12/23 · 5:20 PM v TEN
01/02 · 1:05 PM v HOU
01/09 · 1:25 PM @ LAR

2021 Draft Class
1. QB Trey Lance, North Dakota State
2. OG Aaron Banks, Notre Dame
3. RB Trey Sermon, Ohio State
3. CB Ambry Thomas, Michigan
5. OG/OT Jaylon Moore, Western Michigan
5. CB Deommodore Lenoir, Oregon
5. S Talanoa Hufanga, USC
6. RB Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
2021 Prognostications
Bullit: 12-5
Grumpy: 13-4
NJ49er: 11-6
Skeebers: 14-3
Winder: 12-5
Rob: 17-0
Spitblood: 0-17