Warhop getting line in order

The 49ers' offensive line was targeted for major changes when the new coaching/management regime had a chance to analyze the club's 2-14 season from a year ago. Although the 49ers began the exhibition season without the services of four starters on the offensive line, some of those players are expected back shortly.

The line was considered the worst part of the 49ers last season. It did not open holes in the run game, and it surrendered 52 sacks.

"There were a lot of issues that went on here last year that wasn't any of my business," said 49ers offensive line coach George Warhop, in his 10th NFL season as an assistant. "We felt we needed to add some depth, which we did. We felt we needed to increase competition, which we did. We felt we needed to strengthen our tackle positions."

The 49ers signed free-agent Jonas Jennings from the Bills to become the starting left tackle. Kwame Harris, who struggled at left tackle last year, was switched to the right side, where he played at Stanford University and also as one of the nation's most highly-regarded offensive linemen during his prep days.

Even before the new folks arrived on the scene, the 49ers started placing more emphasis on the line. They have selected four offensive linemen - Harris, Justin Smiley, David Baas and Adam Snyder - in the first three rounds since 2003. In the previous 24 years, the 49ers selected just six offensive linemen in the first three rounds.

The major knock on the offensive line last season was a multitude of technique breakdowns that never got corrected under coach Gregg Smith, a longtime Dennis Erickson assistant. Smiley, who said he has a special bond with Smith, said Warhop's tutelage has enabled him to be more fundamentally sound.

"Coach Warhop has brought a technical side that maybe coach Smith didn't have as much," Smiley said. "Coach Smith was more of the old school. He was unbelievable at coaching veterans, guys who have played for a while.

"I needed to be fine-tuned and polished up and coach Warhop has been a great asset. He helped me work on proper footwork and technique and things you need to be good at."

Warhop is a details-oriented coach who believes that most breakdowns on the offensive line can be corrected.

"In my opinion most sacks occur because an offensive lineman makes a technical mistake, not because he gets beat by a defensive lineman," Warhop said. "If we can decrease our mistakes - from a set standpoint or how we use our hands - it'll increase our chances of keeping our quarterback clean."

NINERS NOTEBOOK

KIRK REYNOLDS, THE FORMER 49ers director of public relations who lost his job this summer as a result of the controversial training videos from previous years, resurfaced last week in Canton, Ohio, as a personal assistant to Hall of Fame inductee Steve Young.

RECEIVER RASHAUN WOODS WAS injured most of training camp last season with various pulled muscles. Again, he has been sidelined due to a groin pull. Woods did not play in the 49ers' exhibition opener and certainly is no higher than No. 7 on the depth chart.

Yet, it appears to be a given that Woods will remain with the team. If the 49ers released the 2004 first-round draft pick, they would have to be ready to absorb a salary-cap hit of nearly $2.5 million.

LINEBACKER JULIAN PETERSON MADE his return in the preseason opener after missing 11 games last season with a torn Achilles.

"I was feeling really good to get some of that old rust off," Peterson said. "I got that first anxiety of being in a game all over again. It was great after that first hit."

HEAD COACH MIKE NOLAN won his first replay challenge during Saturday's 21-13 victory over San Francisco's neighborhood rival Oakland Raiders.

Originally, officials ruled Raiders punter Shane Lechler was not down by contact after he appeared to run for a first down after a bad snap. But, upon further review, it was determined linebacker Saleem Rasheed tackled Lechler to stop him shy of the first down.

BACK WHEN THE 49ERS hit the practice field for the first time for a minicamp in April, it was noticed that none of the players wore the "SF" decals on the sides of their helmets.

Although there were other practical reasons why decals were not placed on the helmets during the offseason, Nolan also said it was a way for players to know that no spot on the roster was guaranteed.

"They have to earn them," he said.

On Friday, the day before the 49ers' exhibition opener, the decals were on the helmets for the first time.

"They've earned their stripes," Nolan said. "(But) I guess we could take them off again."

QUARTERBACK-TURNED-RECEIVER RASHEED Marshall saw his first significant time at his new position but did not catch a pass against the Raiders. Still, Marshall, the Big East's Offensive Player of the Year last season as a quarterback at West Virginia, said he is feeling more comfortable running routes and catching passes in the NFL.

"It's coming along, I feel like I'm getting better every day," Marshall said. "Every day I feel like I'm faced with a different obstacle, but I'm learning different something new every day."

Marshall, a fifth-round draft pick, should earn a spot on the 53-man roster because of his athleticism and versatility. The 49ers selected him as a receiver, even though he played just two snaps at that position in the Gridiron Classic, a college all-star game. Prior to that, the last time he lined up at receiver was for a few plays his sophomore year of high school.

"I've been a quarterback since I stepped onto the field," he said.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we light it up, they'll say, 'Wow, that 3-4.' If it doesn't light it up, they'll say, 'What is wrong with that 3-4?'" -- 49ers coach Mike Nolan on how the fans will react to the club's new defensive scheme.

CAMP CALENDAR: Camp closes at the team's Santa Clara, Calif, practice facility on Aug. 24. Most remaining practices are closed to the general public. For more information, go to www.sf49ers.com.

BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Isaac Sopoaga vs. Anthony Adams vs. Ronnie Fields at NT - Adams is the starter but there is some doubt whether his body type allows him to be the kind of presence on the nose that a team running a 3-4 defense needs. Adams has also seen some time recently at defensive end. Sopoaga, a raw second-year player who missed his entire rookie campaign with a bad back, looked good Saturday against the Raiders. Sopoaga held the point of attack and recorded two tackles. Fields, a rookie, was drafted as a true two-gap defensive lineman.

OTHER BATTLE FRONTS: Rookie Alex Smith, who will remain as the No. 1 guy for at least another week, vs. Tim Rattay, who appears to be a reliable security blanket if Smith struggles, at QB; Kevan Barlow, who is coming off a disappointing season, vs. Frank Gore, who has missed a week of workouts due to a shoulder injury, at RB; Jamie Winborn, a versatile player whose athleticism allows him to do a lot of different things, vs. Andre Carter, a converted DE who is more comfortable in a one-point stance, at OLB.

ROOKIE REPORT: Smith struggled in the exhibition opener, completing just 3 of 9 passes for 25 yards. But, obviously, not all of it was Smith's fault. He was pressured a great deal, as his makeshift offensive line struggled against the Raiders' first unit. ... G David Baas is out another couple weeks with a hamstring tear. ... G/T Adam Snyder is taking starting naps at RG and could be in line for a starting job when the regular season begins. He played well in his starting assignment at RG against the Raiders. ... LT Patrick Estes started in the team's first exhibition game. Estes has made an impressive transition after spending last season as Virginia's backup TE. In addition to the position change, Estes is also playing with a broken left hand. ... Marshall is beginning to look more comfortable at his new position. He is also spending a lot of time working on catching punts, with varying degrees of success. Marshall did not catch any passes or return any punts in the exhibition opener. ... Gore might miss another week with a shoulder injury. ... WR Marcus Maxwell, perhaps the most physically gifted of the wideouts, opened a lot of eyes with his play prior to sustaining a heel injury. Depending on how Maxwell performs in the exhibition season, the 49ers might be forced to keep him on the roster. Maxwell (6-4, 205) combines good size with tremendous speed. ... CB Derrick Johnson had an impressive debut with two interceptions, including one he returned 87 yards for a touchdown. Johnson and fellow rookie Daven Holly have shown a lot of progress in their first NFL camps.

INJURY REPORT: Gore (shoulder), tight ends Eric Johnson (foot) and Steve Bush (shoulder), offensive linemen Jennings (hand), Smiley (calf), Baas (hamstring) and Jeremy Newberry (knee), receivers Woods (groin) and Derrick Hamilton (knee), and defensive backs Shawntae Spencer (hamstring) and Arnold Parker (shoulder) did not play in the exhibition opener due to injuries. Only Baas, Newberry and Hamilton could be out several more weeks. Seven players appeared on the team's injury report following the game, all of whom are listed as probable for Saturday's game against the Broncos: safety Dwaine Carpenter (shoulder), linebacker Derek Smith (lower leg cut), cornerback Rayshun Reed (ankle), receiver Fred Amey (concussion), Snyder (knee bruise), receiver P.J. Fleck (shoulder) and defensive lineman Tony Brown (hand).


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