JUNE 23, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Defensive lineman Ray McDonald will not have to go anywhere to get his chance to be a starter in 2011.The 49ers anticipate nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin to sign a big free-agent contract and the club has made contingency plans to compensate for his potential departure, according to team sources.As previously reported, the 49ers have talked about moving Isaac Sopoaga to nose tackle, where he played earlier in his career. Sopoaga started all 16 games last season at left defensive end. Ricky Jean Francois, Franklin's backup last season, also returns.
McDonald, a four-year veteran eligible for free agency, would become among the team's top priorities to re-sign, and he would be the clear choice to start at left defensive end. McDonald started nine games in 2008 but has mostly seen action on third downs as an inside pass-rush specialist.
McDonald told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee this week that he yearns to be an every-down player."I know I'm an every-down player, a starter," McDonald said. "And that's what I'm looking to do this year. I'm not looking to back up anybody. I'm looking to start this year."Last season in a part-time role, McDonald tied for 10th on the team with 57 tackles, including five for losses. He did not record a sack, but he was credited with 56 pressures (second on the team, behind only Justin Smith) and his 26 hits on the quarterback tied him for third on the team. He added one interception and broke up three passes.
McDonald would have to earn his job if he re-signs with the 49ers. He is going about it the right way. McDonald has been a regular at the San Jose State conditioning sessions, often seen hanging out with right defensive end Justin Smith.McDonald will be a starter when the season gets going. And there's a good chance it'll be with the 49ers.