**Update** The Niners claimed defensive end Derek Walker (6-4, 270) off of waivers and released CB Keith Smith. Walker is an undrafted FA out of Illinois who spent time with Seattle this year.
The 49ers defense ranks fifth in the NFC with 33 takeaways, six of which came against Detroit. Asked about the second-half surge in that category today, Mike Singletary pointed to the development of two players - safety Dashon Goldson and outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks. Singletary said in the beginning of the year that Goldson, a first-year safety, was honing in on the receivers. Now he is watching both the receivers and the quarterback. "I think Dashon has really matured and gained more confidence as he's gotten more comfortable back there," Singletary said. Indeed, Goldson's development has to be viewed as one of the more positive developments in 2009.
Another big positive - Brooks. He has somehow made more plays than his fellow linebackers despite receiving a fraction of their playing time throughout the season. So why hasn't Brooks become a starter? Singletary said the team has eased him into the position by first giving him the role of third-down pass rusher. Over the offseason, he'll learn how to be a three-down outside linebacker. Asked if there would be a three-way competition in the offseason for two outside linebacker spots, Singletary said, "It's possible."
Singletary said an obvious priority going into the offseason will be to find a return man. (Note: Michael Spurlock had a 77-yard punt return for Tampa yesterday in their upset of the Saints). He said he'd rather not have Josh Morgan handling kickoffs next year, although he conceded that Morgan has done it well. Morgan is averaging 29.7 yards a return, which is the second-highest in the league among players with 10 or more returns.
Chilo Rachal will have an MRI today on his knee. Rachal suffered the injury on a goal-line play yesterday. He missed one play and returned to the game. If he can't go, Tony Wragge or perhaps Cody Wallace would get the start at right guard. Singletary called Joe Staley (knee) day to day. Staley was walking through the locker room today without a limp. Neither Joe Nedney (hamstring) nor Nate Clements (shoulder) will play in Sunday's finale in St. Louis.
This isn't exactly news, but Singletary left no doubt that offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye would be back next season. "Going into this last game, hopefully, we can put it all together," Singletary said of his offense. "This offseason will be the first time ever that anybody on offense has a coordinator or has a consistently going into the offseason. Hopefully, next year will be a lot better."
The 49ers went into yesterday's game against the No. 32-ranked Detroit defense with the No. 27-ranked offense. Today they find themselves ranked No. 29 in offense ...
-- Matt Barrows