49ers Clubhouse 

Rebuilding Of Devastated Roster Still Not Done

November 26, 2002

by James Parrott
Clubhouse Staff Writer

When Bill Walsh came back to the 49ers he saw an aging team, low on talent and athleticism, way over the salary cap and thanks to Carmen Policy and Dwight Clark, a disgrace to the 49er name that Walsh had started to rebuild way back in the late 1970ís.

With the worst defense the team had fielded in over two decades the 1999 49ers finished at 4-12.

Since then the team has concentrated on rebuilding itís defense, mostly through the draft.

Deep into the fourth season of the 49ers attempted rebirth, the job still isnít done.

With injuries and a continued infusion of youth, the teamís defense looks woeful at times.

For instance, this years first pick Mike Rumph looks totally unready to contribute to a team that expects to challenge for a run deep into the playoffs.

Itís generating no pressure, allowing receivers to run free and without safety Zack Bronson and linebacker Jamie Winborn struggles to stop anybody.

Without those two co-ordinator Jim Mora still has four first round draft picks from the 2000-2002 drafts, as well as other first day picks from those drafts.

Itís difficult to see what can be added that hasnít already. Perhaps a dominating, athletic defensive tackle to rotate with (and eventually replace one of) Bryant Young and Dana Stubblefield.

On offense they found another Pro Bowl quarterback in Jeff Garcia and may have his eventual heir in Cade McNown. The latter is definitely not a sure thing.

At running back they have Garrison Hearst back from a career threatening injury and Kevan Barlow to be the main ball carrier by 2004 at least.

The offensive line will need a young tackle to eventually play at left tackle, but for at least another year Derrick Deese will protect the QB and run block well.

Also, young guard Eric Heitmann needs to continue his development and become a stronger blocker.

At receiver, Terrell Owens could well be the best in the league. JJ Stokes is slow for a wideout and his days in San Francisco are surely numbered. Tai Streets has been better than Stokes but is not a real impact player. Cedrick Wilson probably wonít become the next John Taylor.

The team hasnít really replaced Taylor and he retired after the 1995 season.

Terry Donahue and his staff need to find a player akin to Green Bayís Javon Walker and New Orleansí Donte Stallworth, both of whom were drafted in the first round of the 2002 NFL draft.

At tight end Eric Johnson has been a major suprise as a seventh rounder and Justin Swift is a decent backup.

Special teams have long been awful by the Bay.

The team hasnít had a good punter in years. Hopefully 2002 fourth round draft pick Jeff Chandler can solve the placekicking woes.

Coverage units are less than stellar and have been for a while now, and I canít recall the team having a returner who was a threat to break one at any time.

More than anything, the team needs to toughen up itís attitude and approach to the game.

Games like the pummeling by the Philadelphia Eagles have shown this team up for what it is.

Itís mostly inexperienced. Itís not deep at most positions. It fails to clamp down on teams when holding a lead, and itís not yet a big game team.

Thatís why itís lost four games to team with winning records, two of those at home and two in games when they held late leads.

Chances are they will win the four games needed to take the division from the Rams, but itís unlikely that theyíll go very far into the post season.

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