Winborn hungry to feast in 3-4 scheme

The 3-4 defensive scheme the 49ers will unveil this season means different things for different San Francisco players, but for Jamie Winborn it means liberation. The flashy fifth-year linebacker envisions himself being unleashed in the new system that will see Winborn beginning a season as a full-time starter for the first time in his career. "Everybody can feed in this defense," Winborn told SFI. And what will he be feasting on this fall? "I'll be eating anything that comes my way," he said.

Winborn plans to devour opponents at a true outside linebacker position that should allow him to take advantage of his unique package of skills that combines speed, aggressiveness and instincts with energetic, hard-nosed play. It also could allow the undisciplined nature of his style to become less of a detriment than it sometimes was in San Francisco's former 4-3 scheme, where Winborn would rely more on quickness at the expense of technique and run himself out of plays.

"It's just a defense that gives you a lot of options, man," Winborn said.

Winborn was talking about the system in general, but he also could have been talking about what it means to him in particular.

Instead of the more confined responsibilities of his right inside position in the old 4-3, Winborn will be allowed more opportunity to freelance with unpredictable assignments an the right edge in the 3-4, much as Julian Peterson will be allowed to do in his featured role of the entire defense on the left edge.

"This defense gives you a lot of options to bring pressure through a lot of different people at a lot of different positions," Winborn said. "So, it's going to be good for everybody."

Winborn couldn't shy away from the question when SFI asked how good the new scheme was going to be for him.

With the same confident smirk that has characterized him since he joined the team – and has made him appear on the verge of breakout performance each of the past three years before injuries thwarted his progress – Winborn gushed about how the new system is better suited to his skills.

Winborn is not a big man at 5-foot-11 and should be more effective in the open space the new scheme will provide him.

"Because I'm rushing a lot more, just straight ahead, trying to bring pressure, and (coaches) want it to be deceptive in the backfield," Winborn explained. "That's something that this defensive alignment will do a lot. However I can help in that scheme, I'm going to do that.

"But it's pretty much the same style of play for me. I'm going to remain aggressive. I mean, you're going to get some drops, you're going to get some rushes, and you just have to make the best of everything you get. Any opportunity you get, you have to make the best of it."

Winborn has been making the best of his opportunities since coming to the 49ers as the team's second-round draft pick in 2001. He was an All-Rookie choice after starting four games that season, then began his sophomore season of 2002 with a dominant performance in the nationally-televised season opener against the New York Giants (16 tackles, one sack, two passes defensed, two tackles for loss) that earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

But two weeks later, a knee injury ended his season. The same thing happened after nine games in 2003 – this time, due to a career-threatening neck injury – when Winborn was off to a solid start with 61 tackles and three sacks.

Last year, despite ending the season on the inactive list due to another injury, Winborn started 10 games and began to come into his own with career-high totals of 104 tackles, 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

He's looking forward to building on those numbers from the start this year in a scheme that will provide both Winborn and his defensive comrades opportunities to succeed.

"In my opinion, with everybody out there that we have, man … We're real high tempo out there and guys will do good out there, man," Winborn said. "It's a good strategy, a good defense, and it seems to be helping us out there. Guys are really, really homing in on what they have to do and it's looking good so far. Now, it's just let's everybody get on the same page (in training camp), and let's make it work."

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