Niners make roster change but will stay the course

After the 49ers got their heads handed to them in Philadelphia, heads rolled Monday at team headquarters. The 49ers gave up on athletic safety Dwaine Carpenter to clear a spot on the roster for free-agent tackle Anthony Clement, who may be good enough to start for this team and certainly will provide a dramatic upgrade to the depth along the offensive line. But that key change in personnel doesn't mean the team has any big changes in approach planned for Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Despite taking an apparently huge step back Sunday while getting squashed 42-3 by the Eagles, Niners coach Mike Nolan expressed that his team will be staying the course and could learn more from losing big to the defending NFC champions than it learned while winning in upset fashion the week before against the St. Louis Rams.

"I guess you can say we did take a good whipping to some degree, but there have been many other teams that have a defeat such as yesterday's," Nolan said.

"When I was at Denver (as an assistant), we had our lumps in our Super Bowl years," he continued. "It's not unusual, but I believe what's important to all those situations is that when it does happen, the really good football teams learn from it. They come back paying closer attention to detail and those kind of things. That's the upside. I believe that is how we'll respond to it, and that's the way we'll approach it."

With Dallas looming Sunday at Monster Park, a perfect opportunity for the Niners to leave the Philly debacle behind them and get their season right back on track, Nolan talked about the urgency to get his team's running game going in Week 3 and said, "I am confident it will continue to get better. We're continue to gel as a group."

That hasn't been particularly evident so far this season, since the 49ers had just 92 yards rushing on 38 carries (a 2.9 average) in their first two games, but the addition of Clement will, at the very least, give the Niners a proven veteran backup they can count on instead of the inexperienced youngsters they have at every backup spot along their offensive line.

The 49ers announced the acquisition of Clement, the 36th player selected overall in the 1998 draft and a six-year starter at tackle in Arizona, after Nolan had spoken during his Monday news conference, so the coach did not get a chance to talk about his plans for the newcomer.

But the Niners very well could be planning to insert him into the starting lineup after he gets introduced to the team's system. So at least three starters along the line – since Clement, despite his imposing size (6-foot-8, 330 pounds), also has skills to play guard – might be feeling a bit more heat the next few weeks.

To make room for Clement, the Niners made a somewhat surprising move by waiving Carpenter, because it leaves the team with just only seven defensive backs and just three safeties. Carpenter has good athleticism and was a contributor on special teams, and his ability to play both safety and cornerback has made him an intriguing prospect since he made the roster in 2003 after playing in the Arena League.

Yet, though he started six games at cornerback last year and two (one at safety and one at cornerback) in 2003, Carpenter could not be trusted in coverage because of his poor technique. That was an area he failed to improve upon this year, so the team wasn't planning on using him much on defense.

In other news, Nolan said left tackle Jonas Jennings – who had to leave the game Sunday after being hit in the throat – is OK and should "be fine" to practice this week and play against the Cowboys.

The news on tight end Eric Johnson, who missed the first two games with a foot problem, isn't as encouraging. Johnson was expected back this week but apparently is having some further complications with his injury and will be listed as doubtful to play Sunday.

When asked if the possibility Johnson will need surgery is a concern, Nolan responded, "It's a big concern. You'll probably know more Wednesday than you've known (about that) up to this point. I'll know more Wednesday than I've known up to this point."

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