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49ers Free Agency Strategy: Pass Rush/Secondary, Chicken/Egg?

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We've all been relatively impatient with the 49ers self-proclaimed "patient approach" to free agency.  One of the most notable positions from which the team has seemingly stayed away is cornerback.  Nate Clements left in free agency to the Bengals just last week and the team has yet to replace him with a starting-caliber CB.

Curtis Holcomb, the team's seventh round draft-pick, suffered an achilles tear on the first day of on-field practices and is out for the season.  For a team struggling statistically in passing defense, it would seem they are in need of some players.

But this got me thinking: What if the team's strategy isn't to bolster the pass defense via adding big-time free agents to the secondary, rather it's to focus heavily on the pass-rush in order to make the secondary look better?  We've had the debate before of "does the secondary need a pass-rush or does the pass-rush need a secondary?"  Sort of a "Chicken or the Egg" debate.

After the jump I'll briefly explain my thinking.

The team selected Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the draft this year.  Thus-far Smith has not disappointed, albeit in limited practices.  Still, many of us have hope that Smith will be a menace every time he's on the field.  Couple that with Justin Smith making life miserable for the interior line and perhaps a resurgence by an Ahmad Brooks - who was a problem for opposing teams in 2009 - and perhaps the secondary will look quite good.

Vic Fangio is known for being creative with his schemes, using plays that suit the personnel on the roster.  The team has shown promise in the OLB position and with guys like Thaddeus Gibson added last-year, it's not too far out of the question to surmise that perhaps the 49ers will attack opposing QB's fervently and not give them enough time to "burn" our secondary.

Then again, it's also possible that Fangio and new secondary coach Ed Donatell turned on the tape and felt like they had a lot they could work-with in the secondary.  Different staffs see different things in players and Lord knows Mike Singletary's staff didn't seem to be able to get much out of anyone on the roster, at least not consistently.