Several members of the 49ers (ownership, coaches, staff, current and former players, and Gold Rush cheerleaders) trekked to Tahoe this weekend for the 8th Annual Winter and Wine Festival. The 3-day weeklong event is put on by the 49ers Foundation, and is one of the cornerstones of their fundraising efforts.
One of the events on Friday unveiled a few tidbits on the news front as head coach Mike Nolan, offensive coordinator Mike Martz and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky held a Chalk Talk session with the fans.
Fresh off the mountain where he was out skiing with his kids, Nolan gave more of an overview of last year and a preview of the upcoming season, and talked about some of the recent free agent additions that he expects to add to the talents of the team.
Asked about the 49ers upcoming draft, Nolan said they'd take the best player on the board but he did pretty much rule out a running back and a quarterback in terms of positions of consideration for those first two rounds.
He said offensive line, defensive line, linebacker and corner were possibilities, and that o-line and linebacker were probably the team's most pressing needs.
Manusky drew up and went over the difference between the 3-4 and 4-3 defense and then showed some sheets up on a projector of some of the different alignments and coverages the 49ers use. Manusky also said this off-season he's stressing a better pass rush and getting more turnovers, and that the unit will focus on those two aspects during their field work over the next few months of OTAs and mini camp.
Lots of fans were inquisitive about the defensive line lineup after the loss of Marques Douglas to free agency and the retirement of Bryant Young. Manusky said he expected Justin Smith to play right end, Isaac Sopoaga to work at left end and Ron Fields and Aubrayo Franklin at tackle.
Manusky was also asked about the new rule that was passed last week ich will allow him (or someone on his staff) to communicate from the box with a defensive player via headset.
"When the offense sends in their personnel, you can now tell that player you want dime or nickel and he can get the guys off the field quicker," said Manusky. "This does give us more of an even battle ground with the offense. They are able to give their guy information, and now we'll be able to do the same. It's going to have to be real secure in there because a quarterback isn't going to get hit on every play, but our guys are usually involved in contact on every play."
Since it needs to be a player who plays virtually every down, Manusky said it would likely end up being linebacker Patrick Willis or possibly Nate Clements. No firm decision has been made however at this point in time.
Following an overview from Martz of his offensive philosophy and his excitement about the weapons and talent he has on offense, emcee Gary Plummer asked the first question of the new coordinator, quizzing him on this often talked/written about criticism of the quarterback taking too many hits in his offense.
Martz first revealed the more accurate NFL rankings in terms of sacks per pass play which he said had never been extraordinary, and in fact, quite good up until he went to Detroit.
"In Detroit we were not a good football team," said Martz. "We were last in the NFL on defense and when you have to throw the football to win, that's not a good thing. We weren't good enough on the offensive line to protect him and throw the ball like we did. When I was with the Rams, we were. The number of hits on the quarterback when I was with the Rams near the end of my time there was about the middle of the pack. In the early goings, it was actually very low and we were ranked near the best in the league."
Martz also discussed in length the personnel on the offensive line in San Francisco, and said he feels very good about the talent level, especially with Joe Staley and Jonas Jennings at the two tackle spots.
Once the formal session was over, Martz stuck around and answered another dozen or so questions with a smaller group. Isaac Bruce was a hot topic during this discussion and one of the things that Martz highlighted about his former Rams all-Pro was his work ethic. Martz said the veteran receiver usually works out at least 2.5 hours a day.
We'll have more from Martz on Monday as the coordinator also answered several questions from our fans as part of our recent Ask a Coach feature!
Check back for those!