Notebook: Where will the pass rush come from?

The 49ers appear to have good talent in most spots on defense. But the big question is whether they can provide a consistent pass rush. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky believes the 49ers have the talent to get steady pressure on the quarterback. This offseason, he made it a point of emphasis to the team.

"To get pressure on the quarterback, you have to have the people to do it," Manusky said. "But you also have the guys on the back end covering people and forcing the issue. We stressed the pass rush this offseason. We're focusing on that and trying to get pressure on the quarterback. That's what we're trying to do. Every day, we're stressing that. That's what we want."

The 49ers ranked 24th in the NFL in sacks per defensive play in 2007. The club recorded 31 sacks with retired defensive end Bryant Young leading the way with 6.5 sacks for the season, with 5.5 sacks coming in the 49ers' two games against the St. Louis Rams.

Outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, whom the 49ers signed to a three-year, $9 million contract, was a disappointment in his first season with the club. Banta-Cain recorded just 3.5 sacks.

So who do the 49ers believe will supply them with a pass rush this season?

Manny Lawson returns at outside linebacker after missing 14 games last season due to a torn knee ligament, but he has not shown any hints of being a pass-rusher at the NFL level.

The 49ers signed high-priced free agent Justin Smith, who was coming off a disappointing two-sack season with the Cincinnati Bengals. Smith could get swallowed up at right defensive end in the 49ers' 3-4 scheme, but the team plans to try him out as an outside linebacker in pass-rush situations.

Third-year player Parys Haralson showed signs of coming on as a pass rusher last season. He ended up with 2.5 sacks. And left defensive end Isaac Sopoaga has the quickness to get to the quarterback. Sopoaga had 1.5 sacks last season as a backup nose tackle.

One wild card in the 49ers' quest to get to the quarterback is inside linebacker Patrick Willis. He finished the season by recording three of his four sacks in the final two games of the season. With his exceptional all-around play, the 49ers might use him more on blitzes.

***** ***** *****

Manusky begins his second season as 49ers offensive coordinator after coming from the San Diego Chargers, where he coached a dynamic group of linebackers.

Manusky said he does not try to compare and fit players with the 49ers into the roles of the players he had with the Chargers.

"I try not to compare players because everybody is different, Manusky said. "We had Donnie Edwards down there and we have Patrick Willis here. Even as a player myself, it's 'Who do you resemble?' I'm just myself. I have my good qualities and I have my bad qualities. There are things I do well and things I don't do well. Maybe you can pattern a little bit, but everybody's different. You gauge what we had in San Diego, and compared to what we have here, it's two totally different teams."

***** ***** *****

TRAINING CAMP CALENDAR: The team reports to training camp in Santa Clara, Calif., on Thursday, July 24, with first practices scheduled for Friday, July 25. The 49ers break camp on Aug. 22.

***** ***** *****

The 49ers waived defensive end Melvin Oliver, who started 14 games as a rookie but did not play last season after sustaining a torn ACL during the offseason program.

Oliver worked out on his own in Louisiana, and appeared to drop a lot of weight during his rehabilitation. Some question whether Oliver was miscast in the 49ers' 3-4 defense. He would have been competing for a roster spot at defensive end among a crowded group that includes Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, Kentwan Balmer, Ray McDonald, Walter Curry, La Juan Ramsey and Louis Holmes.

***** ***** *****

Based on a guess of the secret formula the NFL uses to determine compensatory draft picks, the 49ers figure to get two additional selections in next year's draft.

The 49ers had two net gains in free agency (Justin Smith and Bryant Johnson) and four net losses (Justin Smiley, Marques Douglas, Kwame Harris and Maurice Hicks).

***** ***** *****

The 49ers expected to sign all six of their draft picks prior to the start of training camp. The club was working on four-year contracts with everyone, except first-round selection Kentwan Balmer, who was likely to receive a five-year deal.

The 49ers reached a four-year agreement with second-round pick Chilo Rachal. He was selected as a guard, but the 49ers moved him to right tackle during organized team activities to see what he could do. After the 49ers signed veteran tackle Barry Sims to a two-year contract, the 49ers were leaning toward moving Rachal back to guard.

The 49ers have some uncertainty at right guard after presumptive starter David Baas sustained a torn pectoral tendon while lifting weights in April. Tony Wragge, who played four games solely on special teams last season, moved into the right guard spot. Baas might not be available for any exhibition games, but the club expects him to be ready for the start of the regular season.



Niners Digest Top Stories