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Observation deck: Strong coverage plan

8/12/2007 - NFL

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Five observations from San Francisco 49ers training camp, gleaned from the team's practices:

1. No secondary concerns
Nate Clements may not have the speed of Champ Bailey, but he's a great addition as a No. 1 cornerback. His ability to read a route and break on the ball is exceptional. He may be vulnerable to receivers with great downfield speed, but how many will he really face? He is the perfect cornerback for the NFC West, a division loaded with talented receivers, but few breakaway threats. Clements is a complete cornerback partly because he is a good tackler. His size (6-foot-1, 215 pounds) is important in a division featuring Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. With Clements, Walt Harris and Shawntae Spencer, the 49ers should match up well against three-receiver sets, another staple of the NFC West. Michael Lewis is a big safety with speed who adds more athleticism to the secondary.

2. Surplus of size
The transformation of the offensive line might be one of the most interesting developments on the team. First, the line is getting bigger in the middle to accommodate the inside running of Frank Gore. Justin Smiley, a free agent after this season, is currently running first team at right guard, but David Baas (331 pounds) will eventually inherit that position. LG Larry Allen is listed at 325 pounds. Gore's best runs are between the tackles so beefing up the middle is important. Joe Staley has started to make his move at right tackle on former first-round pick Kwame Harris. Staley has the potential to be the left tackle of the future, but Jonas Jennings is too valuable to move out of the left side. Harris is a free agent after the season, and it's unlikely the team will re-sign him. A good preseason by Staley could give him the chance to beat out Harris. The 49ers might then trade Harris, if they get a second- or third-round choice in return. The 49ers love Smiley but it's going to be tough to re-sign him considering the price top guards command. For the first time in years, the 49ers have talent to burn along the offensive line.