Parrish, Adams could be finished as starters

Although the 49ers surrendered 48 points in a blowout loss to the Chargers, it appeared as if the club's new starters played reasonably well. Strong safety Mark Roman and nose tackle Ronald Fields got their first starts of the season, taking over for Tony Parrish and Anthony Adams. Both Parrish and Adams have struggled this season, and now may see their days as starters on this team gone forever.

Parrish - who played at an All-Pro level in his early seasons with the team after joining the 49ers in 2002 - has been a liability in pass defense after coming back from a broken lower leg last year that ended his season in November. And Adams appears to be too small to play the nose in the scheme the 49ers want to run. He just can't get push up the middle against bigger, stronger offensive linemen.

Roman had three tackles and broke up a pass against the Chargers, while Fields had five tackles in about 50 snaps of action. He also nearly recorded a sack. He had Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in his hands in the end zone, but Rivers dumped off a pass and was called for intentional grounding. The call resulted in a safety.

"Both those players did a good job," Nolan said. "In particular, I think Ron did a good job on the defensive line. Mark Roman played about two-thirds of the snaps in the game and did very well himself. It's hard for me to say that anyone played outstanding on defense with the way we performed overall, but it was Fields who got the safety and he did some good things."

Fields was drafted as a nose tackle but has spent some time trying to transition to defensive end because Adams and Isaac Sopoaga were playing nose tackle.

"We had Adams and Sopoaga at the nose position, so we thought we'd make Ron the flip defensive end for us," Nolan said. "Our ends are typically our tackles. Bryant Young is a defensive tackle, but our ends play that role. We were not pleased with the performance on the inside, with the lack of consistency, so we put Ron in there and he did a good job. It will stay that way for now."

With a bye week upon them - the 49ers return to play the Bears on Oct. 29 - Nolan said he is looking for subtle changes to help a defense ranked 28th in the league.

"I think there are some things we can do as far as incorporating some players," Nolan said. "I think it's important to inspire players to play, especially backups who may not be getting many reps. To give them a role in the game is important, whether it's to come in every other series or something like that. Sometimes it's meant to create competition, as we've done with the safety spot."

Parrish has experienced a swift fall from grace at safety. A premier defender as recently as 2003 - when he led the NFL with a career-high nine interceptions - the ninth-year veteran remained one of the few strengths on the team when the 49ers sank to the bottom of the NFL in 2004. Parrish, a big hitter and strong run defender, led the 49ers with four interceptions that season and also was second on the team with nine passes defensed and fourth with 85 tackles.

He remained one of the few strengths on a defense in transition last year before suffering a spiral fracture in Week 10 against Chicago, snapping his 121-game starting streak - the longest by a NFL defensive back since current Kansas City Chiefs coach Herman Edwards had a 135-game streak.

Parrish's play had shown some signs of decline before his injury, but he has not been the same player this season and appears to have lost a step. The San Diego game was the first Parrish did not start in his 130 career NFL games.

He didn't start for a reason. Parrish did not record a tackle or any other defensive statistic against the Chargers, the second time this season he has gone without a tackle. Through six games, he has no passes defensed and has not got his hands on the football this season.

Parrish is in the final year of his contract with the 49ers, and it appears unlikely he will be back with the team beyond this season.

Adams, the team's second-round draft pick in 2003, is an overachiever who gets by with quickness and leverage in the NFL trenches. But at 6-foot and 297 pounds, he has struggled to make an impact in the team's defensive schemes that require more bulk inside. Adams has just seven tackles in San Francisco's six games despite starting five of them.

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