Niners Nation #Channel49 Twitter Q&A Mailbag, Vol. 13: The Eric Mangini Hiring, Inside Linebacker Depth & More

Like a cheetah stalking its prey, so does the Patrick Willis roam the gridiron. - Ezra Shaw

Woods and I held our weekly chat session on Friday. After a little prodding to get things going, the conversation picked up and the questions flowed forth. We've taken 8 of the questions and expanded on the answer to make this post.

Fooch's Note: For those who are not around on the weekend's, Aaron Malone and Trevor Woods run a Twitter chat called #Channel49. They solicit questions about the 49ers and the NFL in general, answer them on Twitter, and then put together a mailbag column that normally posts on Sunday. If you are not on Twitter but want to contribute mailbag style questions, feel free to email nnmailbag@gmail.com. Given how quiet things are right now, I'm going to get a separate mailbag column going each week.

Woods' Wonders

I wouldn't say they are grooming him to be Fangio's replacement, but the 49ers are putting Mangini in a situation where he will be able to be considered a legitimate option to replace Vic Fangio. There's no doubt Eric Mangini has been a good defensive mind in his career, just not a good head coach. The 49ers staff will know how well Mangini meshes with the coaching staff between now and a possible Fangio future departure. He would be interview-worthy at the very least.

The Jacksonville Jaguars might start playing two games per year in London, and I expect that number to go up as time goes on. The Jags fan base isn't a very strong one, and London has enough people to support an American football team. I don't know how soon it's going to happen, but I'd say sooner rather than later an NFL team is permanently in London. It probably would be good for football in general making it a global sport, which would not be shocking (football is the greatest sport ever). It could also bomb though and the Brits wouldn't show up to support a sport that you can use your hands. They love their soccer across the pond. I'm not for or against the move to London, but it's going to happen.

I wasn't surprised at all they drafted Vance McDonald in the second round. This isn't a spread offense that uses a lot of four receiver sets, this is an offense that primarily has two tight ends on the field. The second tight end is very important in Jim Harbaugh's offense, and the 49ers made sure they drafted the tight end they felt was the best on the board. I didn't think the Niners would draft a tight end with their first two picks, but I felt with their last second round selection they'd grab a tight end, and that they did. When the 49ers traded up to get McDonald, initially I thought they traded up to draft Tyrann Mathieu, but when Mcdonald's name was called I was not disappointed. McDonald was a riser on my board and had him as the second best TE available after Travis Kelce. While McDonald has some things to work on, mainly in line blocking and not dropping open passes, he has a high ceiling and could be a big contributor year one.

As much as I love the bro (he's a cool dude), he's nowhere near as infamous as Bob Lange's legendary blocking of Jim Schwartz. I actually think Lange should receive a Medal of Honor, or something prestigious, because if it wasn't for him, Jim Harbaugh may have possibly laid a thunderous right hook on the Lions head coach. Photobombs are fun and all, but will that be remembered in twenty years? No. What will be remembered is the little guy who tried to separate two coaches from going at it after a game. Here's to you Bob Lange, the most interesting PR Director in the world.

Malone's Magnificence

This is a bit of a concern that hasn't been addressed. The guys behind them on the depth chart are Dan Skuta, Michael Wilhoite, Nate Stupar and Nick Moody. None of them stands out as a guy you want on the field every play, helping to anchor a top-class defense. Wilhoite has been with the team the longest and would be next in line, in theory. But training camp and the preseason is going to sort this whole mess out. Each of those four will have every opportunity to separate themselves from the pack, and hopefully one of them emerges as a viable backup. If nobody shines, there's always the possibility of bringing Larry Grant back, once he serves his four-game suspension for PEDs.

I like these types of questions during the session because they tend to generate the most conversation. I'm expecting a bit of conversation in the comments below. My favorite current 49er is Patrick Willis, and not just because it segues from the previous question. Hard to choose amongst them all, but Willis has a great story, is extremely humble and plays hard. He's been with the team through the bad times and has been a great leader throughout. Even now, as NaVorro Bowman eclipses him in tackles, is garnering as much recognition and taking some playing time from him in Nickel packages, Willis continues to lead the team. He does it by example, never complaining, never making excuses. My favorite Niner growing up was Ronnie Lott, and Willis is this current generations's reincarnation of Lott.

3-4 is our base defense (despite what Cohn says). The heavy reliance on passing in the League forces us from our base into nickel and dime packages on around 1/2 of the plays. The only thing I can think of that could affect this in the upcoming season is the team's propensity for starting slow. If the 49ers, being the better team, were to get out to leads early, we could see teams forced to pass more than they did last year. We actually forced ourselves to pass more often than what may have been desired by falling behind early. Other than that, I would expect the trend to continue, seeing slight variances depending on the opponent.

I just want to stress that at this time of the year, there is not much to be impressed by, nor be concerned by, coming from the rookies. Some of their physical gifts may be on full display and have a bit of wow factor, but we knew about all of those when we drafted them. Very few rookies don't appear lost at this point. The NFL is so much faster and more complicated than college. They're basically up against a college conference all-star team that's been playing together for years and each player knows their role and what the other guys are doing. Everyone, that is, except the rookies. Eric Reid, as the number 1 pick, is being picked over the most. He'll be fine. By all accounts he was a hard-worker, leader and good study at LSU. That hasn't changed. He just needs time to adjust.

Being a Sheep

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