49ers review: Defensive line

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49ers review: Defensive line

This is the third installment of a nine-part series that reviews every 49ers player and position group.The 49ers made a decision to re-sign non-starting defensive lineman Ray McDonald to a contract that fellow free agent Aubrayo Franklin, the team's franchise player the previous year, would've gladly accepted. It was a decision that ended up strengthening two positions on the 49ers' defensive line. McDonald, the recipient of a five-year, 20 million deal, was outstanding as an every-down player on the left side of the defensive line. And veteran Isaac Sopoaga moved to the nose tackle, replacing Franklin. He also provided an upgrade. Oh, yeah, and the 49ers' defensive line also featured a guy named Smith -- Justin Smith. Grade: A
Justin Smith -- He was the unquestioned team MVP. He did everything well and should be a top candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He was more than just solid. He made every play, he fulfilled every duty. And then he went above and beyond. He gave himself up, taking out two offensive lineman on several occasions, to open the door for Aldon Smith to get sacks. Justin Smith recorded 7.5 sacks of his own, and ranked third on the team with 105 tackles (by the 49ers' count). That's an amazing number for a 3-4 defensive lineman. He ran down speedy wide receiver Jeremy Maclin to force a game-saving fumble at Philadelphia. He batted down an Eli Manning last-chance pass to preserve the regular-season win over the Giants. He man-handled New Orleans left tackle Jermon Bushrod in the playoffs. It's impossible to poke holes in Smith's season.Isaac Sopoaga -- As a nose tackle, a lot of the job consists of dirty work. Sopoaga did not pile up great stats. He was seventh on the team in tackles. But Sopoaga did an excellent job of clogging the middle and keeping offensive linemen from getting to the second level to block inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. The 49ers ranked third in the NFL, allowing just 3.2 yards a carry, on run plays up the middle. That is a direct reflection on Sopoaga's ability to hold the point and stand his ground against the power run game.
Ray McDonald -- Aside from times when he was bothered by hamstring strains, McDonald rarely came off the field this season. There were games in which he played every defensive snap. McDonald worked out daily with Justin Smith during the lockout, so it was no surprise that both men were in the kind of physical condition that would allow them to play so much. McDonald was fourth on the team with 93 tackles. He recorded 5.5 sacks and had a team-high 14.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. McDonald ranked behind only Justin Smith with 62 quarterback pressures and 45 hits on the quarterback. And McDonald was at his best in the NFC Championship Game with 2.5 sacks of Manning.Ricky Jean Francois -- As the top backup across the defensive line, Jean Francois played well when called upon. He started at nose tackle against Tampa Bay and recorded six tackles. He started on the left side against Washington and had five tackles. He saw most of his action at nose tackle during the course of a game to give Sopoaga a break. Next season, he figures to be a bigger part of the rotation, so that the 49ers can give each of their defensive linemen periodic rests throughout a game. Demarcus Dobbs -- The undrafted rookie from Georgia earned his way onto the team with a strong training camp, which included a couple sacks in the exhibition season. He appeared in 12 regular-season games, and saw limited action on defense with just three tackles. Dobbs had a role on special teams, including on kickoff coverage, in the two playoff games. (He also saw one snap of offense but whiffed on a block.) But the 49ers felt compelled to use him in those ways because of his unique skills. After all, it's not often you see a 275-pounder with enough athleticism to run down the field on kick coverage. Ian Williams -- He went undrafted out of Notre Dame, but there was a lot of competition for his services as a free agent. Williams decided to sign with the 49ers. The 49ers kept him around after final cuts to give him a chance to develop. He played in just one game all season, recording a tackle against Tampa Bay on Oct. 9. So he'll get his chance to prove he can contribute in 2012.Will Tukuafu -- He earned a spot on the 53-man roster with a solid training camp. And he was among the five active defensive linemen for the first four games of the regular season. But Tukuafu's season came to an end when he sustained a right wrist injury while blocking on a kickoff return Oct. 2 against the Eagles. He'll be able to participate in the entire offseason program.

Staley sits out 49ers practice with hamstring injury

Staley sits out 49ers practice with hamstring injury

SANTA CLARA – Left tackle Joe Staley, who has not missed a game since 2010, did not practice Thursday due to a hamstring injury.

The 49ers’ five-time Pro Bowl performer has the third-longest active streak among offensive tackles with 92 consecutive starts. Only Cleveland's Joe Thomas (156) and Oakland's Donald Penn (152) have started more consecutive games.

Staley’s availability for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets at Levi’s Stadium is in question after he was held out of practice on Thursday after going through the full workload on Wednesday.

If Staley is unable to play, the 49ers would likely move left guard Zane Beadles to left tackle and insert Andrew Tiller at left guard. Tiller started the first five games of the season at right guard before rookie Joshua Garnett took over.

49ERS PARTICIPATION REPORT
Did not practice
T Joe Staley (hamstring)
Limited
DT Quinton Dial (elbow)
DT Glenn Dorsey (knee)
RB Shaun Draughn (ribs)
LB Eli Harold (toe)
LB Aaron Lynch (ankle)
Full participation
DT Ronald Blair (hamstring)
C Daniel Kilgore (hamstring)

JETS PARTICIPATION REPORT
Did not practice
S Antonio Allen (concussion)
T Breno Giacomini (back, calf, shoulder)
WR Jalin Marshall (concussion)
DT Steve McLendon (hamstring)
RB Khiry Robinson (lower leg)
Limited
LB Lorenzo Mauldin (ankle)
S Calvin Pryor (concussion)
DE Muhammad Wilkerson (ankle)
Full participation
RB Matt Forte (knee, foot)
WR Brandon Marshall (knee, foot)
CB Nick Marshall (ankle)
DE Leonard Williams (illness)
CB Marcus Williams (ankle)

Pearl Harbor speech: Admiral calls out Kaepernick, others for anthem kneeling

Pearl Harbor speech: Admiral calls out Kaepernick, others for anthem kneeling

Wednesday was the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Although he didn't call out Colin Kaepernick by name, Admiral Harry B. Harris gave a speech that included a message intended for a certain group of athletes and/or entertainers.

“You can bet that the men and women we honor today, and those who died that fateful morning 75 years ago, never took a knee and never failed to stand whenever they heard our national anthem being played."

Many of those in attendance gave the Admiral a standing ovation.

During the preseason, Kaepernick remained seated on the 49ers' team bench during the national anthem.

After sparking a national controversy, Kaepernick began kneeling as opposed to sitting.

After the 49ers' loss to the Bears on Sunday, Kaepernick said he will continue his demonstration moving forward.

"Today we have a precious opportunity to reflect -- to reflect on what it means to be a patriot, to reflect on what it means to be a nation tested by war, and to reflect on both the costs and the blessings of liberty," Admiral Harris added. "To America's World War II patriots here and watching at home -- we will never forget your courage under considerable fire and seemingly insurmountable odds.

"Because of you, our future remains bright. We owe you an immeasurable debt and we can't thank you enough for answering the call of duty when Lady Liberty needed it the most."