The Defense Rests

Yesterday, I looked at the keys to an improved offense this coming season, which got me a ripe umbrage tomato heaved out of the crowd and splattered against my schnozz. Today, I’ll look at the defense, while the neighborhood kid stands ready to take one in the chops for the old guy should soggy missiles fly my way again. These kid stooges cost a lot more than the quarter I used to get for being an adult guinea pig.

The 49er defense is pretty damn good already and does not have to make the quantum leap the offense needs to accomplish this year. It is not a lock down defense in the mold of the ’86 Bears, but excels at keeping opponents out of the end zone, finishing 4th in points allowed last year, but much further down the list in yardage given up per game.

It also was torched by Atlanta, Green Bay, and Houston. Some say this occurred because our secondary wasn’t fast enough, but all three of these games occurred in the first half of the season when Dashon Goldson was still breaking himself in as a full time starter at FS. So maybe that had something to do with it. There might also have been a let down during these games due to the ineptitude of the offense that led to the benching/scapegoating of Shaun Hill.

At any rate, Goldson’s maturity and level of play in the latter part of last season, suggest the secondary will be slightly improved from last year. Tarell Brown got his first taste of extensive action last year, also, and should be improved this year as he settles into the 3rd CB role. He is probably the key to any significant improvement in the secondary. Last year, his play was up and down. It must be consistent and a notch up the step-it-up ladder this year.

It’s hard to see the Dline being anything more than about the same as last year. Abrayo Franklin, Isaac Sopoagna, and Justin Smith are all veterans and form a solid unit. Behind them, are two guys who need to improve this year or run the risk of being phased out. Kentwan Balmer enters his 3rd year and needs to start pressing Sopoagna for playing time or face a long year being called a bust by Sophrosyne and probably a growing chorus of others. Ray McDonald has played well, especially considering the banged up condition of his knees. This condition was dealt with medically last season and this year, with a full year of health behind him, he really needs to become more of a force in his role of nickel pass rushing Dlineman. Though our line is stout against the run, it does not create much push directly up the gut on pass plays and that is where McDonald can make the unit more of a force.

Which brings us to the linebackers. Patrick Willis enters his 4th year and should be settling into his prime as a perhaps the best inside linebacker in the NFL, but two outside linebackers, Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson, are the keys to pushing the defense from very good to dominant.

Haralson’s play as the primary sack man fell off last year from the year before. It was revealed in the off season that he had been bothered all year by a hip-pointer injury, which would help explain his ineffectiveness. Apparently, these pointing hip deals affect the ability of a player to lift his knee upward. Perhaps there’s a doctor in the house who can provide a more succinct diagnosis. If this explanation isn’t just so much balderdash to cover up for giving this guy a pay raise two years ago and expecting him to be a double-digit sack guy, then we should expect him to, in fact, be a double-digit guy this year.

But Brooks is the most intriguing fellow on the defense, IMHO (get ready kid, I may have to duck here). After floundering around for a few years in the league as an underachieving headcase, Mother Singletary took him under his wing and nursed him forward towards his best self, which sprang forth upon the league in the final six games of last year, as he forcefully threw down six sacks in those six games. If that effort wasn’t a flash in the pan performance, then a full year of the new and improved Brooksie could give the 49ers a Dwight Freeney type terror that could push this defense from very good to dominating. A three and out machine that would finally put an end to this annoying habit the 49ers defense has developed of letting opposing QBs stand back in the pocket for a ridiculously long time waiting for our DBs to finally lose containment of their WR assignments or Manny Lawson to finally get one of his coverage sacks – whichever occurs first, and meanwhile the fans are turning blue holding their breath.

Our sack totals jumped last year from 30 to 44, landing us in the top 10 in the league for team sacks. But critics have pointed out, with justification, that a good chunk of these sacks occurred in bunches against bad teams, and not much at all against good teams. That is the key for this defense to be considered improved. Quality, timely sacks.

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34 comments on “The Defense Rests
  1. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    Damn the tomatoes, full speed ahead!
    Against Green Bay the biggest problem was the terrible play calling by Manusky. That got me so ticked off I sent a letter to Sing explaining how bad the passive play calling was. In the 2nd half we called the defense well but were out of the game by then. Then I hear the defense, as well as the offense, went to Sing after the game to voice the same concerns. The problem in the first half is we did not aggressively rush the passer or bump the receivers. I explained to Sing that when playing a WCO(rhythm passing team) the receivers need to be bumped off of their timing. Anyway, as anyone could see, the letter got there by the 2nd half and we came close to shutting them down.LOL!
    IIRC, that was the game where Alex threw the int deep in GB territory when we got close. The int was caused by Davis and Walker running the same route and creating too much confusion. The two TEs split and the DB just stood there and said thanks. A good case of using WRs as WRs and not TEs as WRs.
    Also in the GB game, Goldson tried to blow up Jennings instead of just tackling him which created a 65,or so, yard TD catch on a play that should have made about 15.
    In all three games, ATL, Houston and GB, it was also the SCO that got us killed. Sardine can formations causing 3 and out ad nauseam, which just did nothing but tire our own defense. The Atlanta game was the beginning of the end for Hill. We tried to run a wide open offense in the 2nd half of that game and Hill could not perform. IMO, that is why Smith came in in the 2nd half of the Houston game instead of Hill.
    A healthy Ray McDonald makes a huge difference in our pass rush, even when he isn’t the one actually doing the sacking. He is good at causing havoc in the front of the pocket.
    Mostly I agree with you here Mr Skeebs. Does that mean it was a good post? I think so, but there could still be some tomatoes flying! They will probably be more directed at me. This is where I could use a “Watch out Joe block” from Bubba Parris!

  2. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    You know the old saying, Berger: Tomatoes roll downhill.

  3. DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Excellent synopsis, Skeebers. I was just telling Berger the other day how I marvel at your ability to continually come up with new, fresh and provocative topics. Nice job.
    Was going to make a quick comment about our defense, then the “tomato talk” threw me for a loop. Speaking of tomatoes and loopy, check out “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” (1978) for a good chuckle. It’s a great B-Movie comedy that pretends to be nothing more. And besides, where else can you see a guy in a parachute, a scuba diver and a black Adolf Hitler all at once?
    Which reminds me. A guy in a parachute, a scuba diver and a black Adolf Hitler walk into a bar…:-)

  4. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    Thanks, Dennis. I’m not used to you speaking seriously, so I admit I was nudging the kid to be ready mid-way through your first paragraph.

  5. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    Were there any black Confederate soldiers? Or should I ask, any that fought willingly?
    It always amazes me that black people would vote democrat. The KKK was formed to keep blacks and Republcans away from the polls and the civil rights bill that was passed in the 60s was passed only because of Republican support. Most Democrasts opposed that bill. I guess just as most others, throw money at them to get their vote.
    Tomatoes are different, they would be at an advantage if we didn’t find out how good they taste on Pizza! In 1978 they tried a revolt and we ate that up. You never know when they’ll strike out again. They don’t look for money from politicians, just black Hitlers! Thanks for the warning Dennis, look out Joe!

  6. robNo Gravatar says:

    i love attack of the killer tomatoes ! ray mcdonald too !

  7. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    BTW- I forgot to mention above that the KKK was formed by southern Democrats.

  8. robNo Gravatar says:

    skeebs , good point about goldson , i hope you’re right !

  9. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    Speaking more on tomatoes. What would the Tomato Can Offense(TCO) look like? I would think it would be very bland. Sounds like something SingRaye could endear.

  10. robNo Gravatar says:

    the tomato can offense ?
    i wouldn’t want to go with it !
    if we did use it i think we’d probably get squashed !

  11. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    rob- Maybe pasted or diced, which would cause some of us to get sauced!

  12. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    I couldn’t agree more, NoFear. It might be fan despair coloring my view, but it has seemed for too many years that third and long – of any distance – is our Achilles heel. I always feel better when the opponent has third and short. We can stop that fairly regularly because the other team doesn’t try to complete a 15 or 20 yard pass, which is easy pickins against us. Very demoralizing, too.

  13. robNo Gravatar says:

    skeebs !fan despair ? would you like me to copy and paste some comments from thnkbg , V and zero from the insider ?
    or are they just desperate for attention ?!!!

  14. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    NoFear, Skeebs- I agree to an extent. But I think we were much better at stopping third and long this last year. I think the reason is about 30 or 31 of our 44 sacks actually came from the front 7. We were 3rd or 4th in the league in sacks with most coming from the front 7. A good combo.
    I feel the reason for the problem you guys state on defense is the play calling by Manusky sometimes. He usually does a good job, but inexplicitly, sometimes he just goes passive. Like in the first half against Green bay.

  15. robNo Gravatar says:

    speaking of attack of the killer tomatoes , two other funny low-budget spoofs of low budget 50’s and 60’s sci/fi horror (if you like that stuff as much as i do ) are

    the lost skeleton of cadavara
    killer klowns from outer space !

  16. robNo Gravatar says:

    berger , nofear , skeebs
    imho the problem might not be any of those as much as this !
    we can hope brooks and to a lesser extent laboy and a healthy harralson can produce at least one double digit sack guy !
    more to the point , our defensive line is doing much better since nolan was cut loose and we started to use our d-linemen to their strenghts ! the problem is smith is beind called on to ” two gap ” all the time from the DE so franklin can ” one gap ” (and we are attacking more) ! this has been a big help to our defense , but
    it would be so much better if we had a big time NT who could draw double teams (and collapse the pocket ) on our d-line !
    this is probably partly (along with seeing if he can repeat his contract year performance ) why we didn’t rush to re-do franklin’s contract and instead chose to franchise him !
    (i only wish we had been able to add someone like cam thomas in the draft this year , just to add insurance ! )

  17. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    rob- I wish we would’ve drafted Cam Thomas instead of Bowman.
    We got 12.5 sacks from the Will LB spot. Lawson had 6.5 and Brooks had 6. Would Brooks get as many sacks if he didn’t come in fresh for passing downs? Don’t know, but I like the combo of Lawson and Brooks.

  18. robNo Gravatar says:

    berger , it would have been even better if we had offered our 1st plus …
    a 4th rd pick in 2011 and a 6th in 2010 to move up and get davis !
    we would have been able to add bowman in rd three and thomas in rd four !
    but then again , what do i know ???!!!

  19. robNo Gravatar says:

    or a 4th in 2011 and a 5th in 2010
    maybe even throw in a 6th in 2010 !
    i bet they would have gone for it

  20. SkeebersNo Gravatar says:

    Bowman was probably the biggest head scratcher of the draft. Don’t know if any of you watched the live cam of the 49er war room during the draft, but I remember the first day they were hugging like crazy over each of our 2 1st round picks, but I think it was the 3rd round where there wasn’t a lot of hugging and Manusky was up at the front of the room for a long time yapping at Baalke/Singletary about something. Was he arguing FOR or AGAINST Bowman? Don’t know.

  21. winderNo Gravatar says:

    nofear – I agree also, three-and-outs are murder on our defense and team moral. But, where does the problem really lie? Is it our OL that plays like a swiss cheese? Or our QB who plays like he’s running for his life most of the time? Or is it our play callers Raye and Sing? Next to Nolan’s prevent defense, our anemic offense has been driving me crazy for years.

  22. winderNo Gravatar says:

    Oh, btw, Skeebs, it is a pleasure coming here and getting away from the lameness that has taken over the insider.

  23. winderNo Gravatar says:

    Skeebs – I think Bowman is this years project player. Obvious BPA selection with a lot of upside.

  24. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    If Bowman turns out to be good player the all is forgiven. Last year we took McKillop in the 5th instead of Brinkley, bad move. I do like hearing about Bowman’s speed so I guess we will just have to wait and see.

  25. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    NoFear- I’m not one of those who thinks Franklin sucks. I like him a lot. But, since he is 31, on a one year contract he hasn’t signed, and predominately a one gapper, I can’t understand the lack of urgency to get another NT to develop. I’d love to know what the thinking is.

  26. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    Winder- You look a little blue!

  27. DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Little Boy Blue….? He needed the money. 馃檪

  28. winderNo Gravatar says:

    Berger – I do look blue and a little medicated I must say. I wonder why we haven’t addressed the NT position with a little more vigor myself.

    nofear – I also agree, our D had some pretty good games last year but 3 and outs were hard to come by.

    very funny dennis. Hey, are you the comish this year?

  29. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    I think our offense could be a high powered scoring machine if SingRaye would unleash it. I have little doubt about it. I do have doubt SingRaye will allow it. This is the biggest question I have for 2010, what will the coaches allow? A dynamic, diverse, opened up offense or the Sardine Can Offense? The first half of the 2nd Rams game or the 2nd half of the same game?

  30. robNo Gravatar says:

    nofear , you’re right about all of that stuff ! it was awesome until the birds started shitting all down the front of my shirt !

    now all i want is a michael carter type NT who can do both of those things ! i’d love to see us add a monster stud NT to our d-line !
    btw i was one of the few who defended franklin as ” pretty good NT and a useful member of our d-line rotation ” or something like that , when 90% of bloggers wanted to “get rid of him ” !

  31. winderNo Gravatar says:

    It would be so much fun if our offense could keep the opposing D’s off balance throughout the game? We have the tools, it’s up to us to use them. Play calling and Smith are the keys.

  32. BergerNo Gravatar says:

    Winder- If they don’t want to use Smith for what he is good at why even keep him. It is like using Peyton Manning to run a power I. Only a moron would do that. I don’t know if Smith can ever be great, but no way to find out if they want to run the two TE offense. Turn him loose and let us see what the kid has.

  33. winderNo Gravatar says:

    Berger – tru dat.

  34. robNo Gravatar says:

    i was so wasted friday i see i missed part of a comment to me …

    ” We got 12.5 sacks from the Will LB spot. Lawson had 6.5 and Brooks had 6. Would Brooks get as many sacks if he didn鈥檛 come in fresh for passing downs? Don鈥檛 know, but I like the combo of Lawson and Brooks.”

    me too , that’s been a pretty darn good combo so far ! now if brooks can start next season as hot as he finished this one we’ll be on our way ! the big question is just how good can brooks get and can he do as well once teams know about him and turn their efforts to stopping him !

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 路 10:00 AMCIN
12/19 路 1:05 PM v ATL
12/23 路 5:20 PM v TEN
01/02 路 1:05 PM v HOU
01/09 路 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