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Weekend Whirlwind Part 2: 49ers defense heading into 2009

And we're back for the second part of this holiday weekend roundup. If you missed the first part, we covered the offense earlier this morning. The 53-man roster decisions made for some interesting options on offense. This afternoon we're here to check out some of the roster decisions for the defense.

Shawntae Spencer
I have to admit, this stunned me. Even though Coach Manusky said it was a 3-way battle for the #2 cornerback position, I still didn't believe it. I like Shawntae Spencer, even throughout the injuries and less than stellar play at times. When he was starting, he never came across as a #1 shutdown corner. At most he was the #2 guy, but in reality I felt like he was best served as the nickel back. He's certainly a talented cornerback, but there have been a lot of inconsistencies over the years.

So what does this mean for the 49ers in the coming days, weeks and months? I can truthfully say I have NO idea at this point. It definitely means I should pay closer attention to Coach Manusky post conference transcripts, that's for sure. However, in terms of the on-field product, there are several things that could be in play here, all, some or none of which could be true.

At this point, Coach Manusky and Coach Singletary think Shawntae Spencer is the best man for the #2 job. While I can buy it, it's still amazing how easy it was to overlook Spencer on game-day. Is that a good or a bad thing? One possibility is that Brown missed a good chunk of time with his toe injury and this is one way for the team to ease him back into things in terms of game action. He's seen the field in the preseason, but not nearly as much as Dre Bly did. So, we very well could see Tarell Brown re-asserting himself as the starting corner at some point this season.

While I do not disapprove of the decision, it remains a bit of a mystery. In the transcript before the Chargers game, Manusky simply said they would be looking at all three guys. Later tonight I'm going to check out the game tape and I definitely will be keeping a close eye on Shawntae Spencer.

Seventh Round duo
Aside from Spencer, the most interesting decisions seemed to involve the youngsters on the roster. Most notably, Ricky Jean-Francois and Curtis Taylor both made the 53-man roster. This isn't a stunning decision, but at the same time, it certainly has me curious. One upside to having a pair of rookies on the roster is the ability to use them as fodder for the inactive list.

At this point I'd imagine Curtis Taylor will see a lot of time as an inactive, barring injuries. The team has depth at safety (even if you don't like some of it) in Mark Roman and Reggie Smith. On the defensive line, RJF is also likely to spend a fair amount of time on the inactive list. Justin Smith can be penned in at right defensive end. On the left side Isaac Sopoaga and Kentwan Balmer will be battling for playing time. Ray McDonald would seem to fit in as the situational pass rusher, while Demetric Evans will be playing a bit of a utility role. Again, whether you "like" the depth or not, that's a lot of bodies for a rookie to leapfrog on the depth chart.

Aside from Spencer and the two 7th round picks, the defense more or less fell into place. I know there are some folks who are disappointed to see Diyral Briggs get waived. The 49ers do have an extra spot on the practice squad and I (along with Barrows and others I'm sure) fully expect Briggs to end up there if he clears waivers. If this posts after the Briggs issue is resolved and I have not updated this post, I'll get to it.

At this point, we head into the season with the defense more or less as we expected...except for the whole Shawntae Spencer resolution. Just reading that still blows my mind. I honestly figured his starting days were absolutely done. I certainly don't mean that as a sign of disrespect for Spencer. However, he's coming off a torn ACL and has always struggled to stay healthy. Is there a reason to expect him to make it through the season healthy as a starter?