Over the course of training camp I've occasionally chimed in with some of Mike Nolan's answers from post-practice media sessions. I think Nolan's Nuggets is a quality title for this piece. While he's the master of "coach-speak," I still like to throw out some of his thoughts. One reason is the chance to try and read through the lines and figure out what he's "really" saying.
For this particular week, we're focusing mostly on the wide receivers. As previously stated, injuries have complicated things there. I'll be doing one last 53-man projection later today and that is certainly one of the bubble-ish positions.
Nolan was asked about the starters for this Friday's game against the Chargers. Josh Morgan is out with what sounds like a really bad illness. Must be a nasty flu bug or something. On who would start otherwise:
“It will be between Bryant Johnson and Ashley Lelie. Bryant Johnson, if he’s well, looks like he was able to go today pretty good, so it’ll be nice to see him, and at the other position it will be Isaac Bruce and Arnaz Battle, three wide receivers. Obviously all three receivers will be in the game at the same time.”
On how much time Johnson and Lelie might see:
“Yes, those guys haven’t played much, so a quarter, if not a half. I hope to see more of them. Some of the [reps] will depend on them. If they start to feel it tightening up or whatever, they absolutely won’t get as much. I hope that does not occur because, just liked we talked about, we want to get in that first [season] game with that healthy group.”
On work outside of the game:
“We did put a lot of emphasis these practices this week. We went good against good the entire week, which is not typical for this week, so we got a lot of good work and that was exactly what you guys were talking about. J.T. [O’Sullivan] got a lot of work with those guys that you were talking about in practice. Even though it maybe limited in the game, like I said, we tried to get in three days here this week as opposed to one game and I thought that was more important.”
Best answer of the day came in response to: Getting back to the receivers, during the offseason, you cut ties with Darrell Jackson and you kept [Ashley] Lelie around. You could argue that Jackson was more productive last year than Lelie. What is it about Lelie that you saw in him, that maybe this guy is going to be a worthwhile 49er. Was it Jerry Sullivan chiming in on that?
Nolan response: “I can’t recall. I can’t answer that.”
Considering Lelie was in Sullivan's doghouse for parts of last season, the whole thing just blows my mind. Maiocco made an excellent point when discussing his own 53-man roster projections:
If the 49ers keep five receivers, Lelie does not make it. But the 49ers proved Monday that Lelie is still in the game. If they had written him off, they would not have allowed him to practice. But they want him to make this team because he gives them a proven speed element. If they were set on cutting him, they would've cut him as soon as he passed the physical. Instead, they're taking a chance that he'll get reinjured, and then they'd owe him a good chunk of change in an injury settlement.
Is his speed element truly worth all this hassle? He's a burner but is it possible Josh Morgan could bring a legit deep threat to the team? Lelie's best season was in 2004 and his numbers went down every season since. If he could stay healthy I suppose the speed is there, but we also have to consider who would be cut in his place.
So I guess burning question we're left with is simple: If healthy, is Ashley Lelie that good?