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Justin Smith: D-Line Has Depth

Posted Aug 7, 2013

Justin Smith's eyes tell him that San Francisco returns plenty of talent to defensive coordinator Vic Fangio’s unit.

From stalwart in the locker room to spectator on the practice field lately, Justin Smith has a sharpened perspective in one respect. The eyes of the 49ers defensive tackle tell him that San Francisco returns plenty of talent to coordinator Vic Fangio’s unit.

Smith, who has been wearing a wrap over a finger on his right hand, is unlikely to play in Thursday’s preseason opener against the Denver Broncos. He is likely to be seen on the sideline, speaking into the ear of his younger teammates, nose tackle Ian Williams and five-technique tackles Demarcus Dobbs and Will Tukuafu chief among them. Dobbs would start in Smith’s place against the Broncos.

“They’re going out there trying to earn a job,” Smith said of the twentysomethings. “It’s a stressful time a little bit. The main part is to let them focus and do what they do. They don’t need a lot of input.”

Still, Smith, a 13-year NFL veteran entering his sixth season with the 49ers, is in a position to give advice. He did say that Williams, Dobbs and Tukuafu would all benefit from lining up opposite Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who is sure to give San Francisco’s defense plenty to think about – and plenty of time to think about it at the line of scrimmage.

“Ian, Demarcus, Will – these guys just keep getting better,” Smith said. “If you’re not getting better, you’re looking for another line of work. … Coming up in this preseason game, I expect big things of everybody.”

[ PHOTOS - TRAINING CAMP: AUG. 6 ]

Also catching Smith’s attention in training camp is the return of outside linebacker Parys Haralson, who is a key reserve on the 49ers defense. San Francisco survived the 2012 campaign without Haralson, who was placed on the injured reserve due to a torn triceps muscle. He now backs up second-year sack-master Aldon Smith.

“Parys is a heckuva football player,” Smith said. “Anytime you have a guy like that on the bench – he could be starting on a lot of teams – it just adds to the depth. Really good teams have really good depth, and you got to because the season is long and injuries happen. We could have used him last year, but that’s the way it goes.”

Haralson will be seeing his first action since suffering the injury a year ago against the very same Broncos. 

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