Douglas to the defense

Cross off another hole the 49ers don't need to worry about filling in the upcoming college draft. Marques Douglas will plug the void just fine for a big, bruising defensive end to fit the team's new defensive scheme. Douglas comes to the Niners with a 3-4 pedigree, good-citizen character and the confidence that he can make a difference on a rebuilding team. And, to hear coach Mike Nolan tell it, the Niners are getting a guy who will do that in more ways than one.

Nolan would know. He coached Douglas the past three years when both were with the Baltimore Ravens, and Douglas became one of his star pupils, producing 10 sacks over the past two seasons as the starting right defensive end in a scheme that does not highlight ends as sack artists.

Douglas will play exactly the same spot in the same 3-4 defense Nolan is installing in San Francisco, and he could become a centerpiece in that scheme, even if Nolan claims Douglas is not being handed a starting position that currently – or, should we say, marginally – belongs to John Engelberger.

But, to be sure, Douglas is everything the 49ers need for one piece of their new defense, a proven right end who has the size to hold up stoutly against the run but also the power and skill to provide heat in the pass rush on a three-man front.

Then, there are all of those "intangible things that you look for in a guy." According to Nolan, Douglas has them.

"He's got tremendous work ethic," Nolan said. "He knows all of the things that really matter, as far as on the field and off the field. He knows, as far as hitting the target and knowing what it takes to be a really good defense. He's been on one of the best defenses in the league for the last four years, so he knows what that takes. He understands the importance of accountability, which is real important to build chemistry on this team. It is my expectation when (other 49ers) see him work, his work ethic will rub off on some other guys."

And Douglas' ability should rub off on a defensive line that, beyond veteran tackle Bryant Young, has been lacking in impact quality for at least the past few seasons.

At 6-foot-2 and 290 pounds, Douglas made himself into that kind of player the past two seasons in Baltimore after entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He had his best pro season last year, when he recorded 72 tackles (48 solo) and 5.5 sacks on a star-studded Baltimore defense.

That made Douglas a hot item on the free-agent market, but the Niners were able to sign him to a three-year deal for the relatively bargain rate of $4.5 million after Douglas spurned a final offer from the Cleveland Browns, who had been pursuing him heavily for weeks.

"Marques is in the prime of his career right now," Nolan said. "He brings something to us that we want to build on. He's an individual that wants to know that he's got to earn anything that he's going to get. That is one thing I do like about him. He's not afraid of competition."

Afraid of it? Douglas loves it.

"I'm never fazed to line up against some of the best left tackles in the league," said Douglas, who has the versatility to move across the line in the 3-4 setup and can play over the center in nickel defensive packages. "I play everywhere – wherever I'm needed. I've had tremendous games at all positions."

Did we say Douglas brings confidence to the 49ers? He also brings his expertise of and in the new system at defensive end, a factor that won't be taken lightly by his new team, which will be introducing all its holdover veterans to the new demands of the position.

"I can add some things, as far as just coaching (teammates) a little on what guys need to do to be effective in certain situations," Douglas said. "We have excellent coaches to serve as a source of reference, but if guys want to come to me to ask questions, I might be able to help."

Douglas is here to help, all right. And then some.

"Everyone assured me that the team is moving in a positive direction and that they're building," Douglas said. "I want to be one of the blocks to be put in the building. I have to take ownership of that. I'm part of this organization, so I have to take on a role of accountability if I want to help make this team a winner. I've been associated in the past with some very good defenses and we always set out in the preseason and offseason to have ownership of defense, so that's what we have to do here."


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