Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye had his first face-to-face media session since being hired three months ago. (And, yes, that is weird). The central theme of last year's offseason was the two-way, then three-way, quarterback competition that lasted well into the preseason. Raye was asked if he had a timeline on this year's competition between Shaun Hill and Alex Smith. The short answer is, no. Raye said that he would let the competition "run its course," and if it ran into training camp, so be it.
One key difference is that last year's OC, Mike Martz, didn't think much of the top two QBs that offseason, Hill and Smith. That doesn't seem to be the case with Raye. He seems to have a much more nurturing, fatherly style than Martz had (especially with Hill). "I like them. I like them both," Raye said. "I like the competitive rivalry between the two of them. I think when it's all said and done, the best player will come out of this and we'll have, between the two of them, we'll have the best quarterback for what we're trying to do."
Asked about Hill's reputation as a poor practice player and whether he would take that into account, Raye said he has no issue with how Hill practices. "What I've seen from him in practice, and the things we've asked him to do, if it increases and speeds up and is better in the game, it will be a plus, plus for us."
Asked about Nate Davis and the learning disability that scared off so many other teams, Raye said at this point he saw no difference between Davis and any other rookie quarterback he has had over his career: "Since he's been here ... His entrance into the meetings has been the same as most young quarterbacks I've had: confused, trying to sort things out, anxiety and nervous. ... There's no rush (with Davis). We'll bring him along and we'll let him do what he can as best he can."
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky also addressed the media ...
The team did not draft of a pass rusher like many observers (like me) thought they might, but Manusky said he was content with the six players at outside linebacker. Parys Haralson and Manny Lawson are the starting OLBs, and Manusky said he expects both to be three-down players. Both played sporadically at the start of the 2008 season in Mike Nolan's amoeba system. The 49ers, however, will stick to a 3-4 scheme this year. That, coupled with Lawson's full recovery from a torn ACL, spells more playing time for each player.
Manusky also seemed to be high on Ahmad Brooks, who could be the most physically gifted player on the defense. Brooks' problem has been motivation. It's way too soon to jump to any conclusions, but I will say that Brooks looked focused and energized during yesterday's session. "He's doing pretty good," Manusky said. "He's a bright spot at that position. The other OLBs are Marques Harris, Jay Moore and rookie Diyral Briggs.
At nose tackle, Manusky said three players would be rotated at the position: Aubrayo Franklin, Isaac Sopoaga and, yes, Kentwan Balmer. Manusky said that Balmer, like all rookie defensive linemen, was slowed last season because there is so much technique involved with playing defensive line at the NFL level and because "those offensive linemen are so technique-sound." Manusky said that, as of now, Sopoaga, not Balmer, is the starter at left defensive end. Sopoaga also figures to be the No. 2 at nose tackle.
Manusky said that Reggie Smith would continue to play safety because it was the best way to get him on the field and the best way to have him learn the defense. He did not rule out Smith moving back to cornerback at some point.
As far as Ray McDonald's ACL injury, here's what Manusky had to say: "I am not the trainer but right now we're expecting him hopefully in training camp or the first part of the season to be able to play." McDonald was limited over the second half of the season last year. As of now, Justin Smith, Demetric Evan and rookie Ricky Jean-Francois are slotted at right defensive end.
-- Matt Barrows