With 24 years of NFL front office experience, Charley Casserly knows his football. Casserly, who was a general manager for 16 years with the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans, is currently an insider for the NFL Today on CBS. Taylor Price of 49ers.com spoke with Casserly about the impact of first-year 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, while also discussing the new mentality and attitude surrounding the team. You can follow Casserly on Twitter (@CasserlyCBS)
Count Charley Casserly as one of the believers in the 2011 49ers. Under new head coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff, the 49ers have forged a new identity as a tough defensive team with a progressive offensive game plan. After watching the 49ers through the first six games of the season, Casserly attributes much of the team’s success to its impressive defense.
“Very strong front seven,” Casserly said. “There’s no question in my mind that this is a legitimate top-10 defense in the National Football League.”
Casserly singled out linebackers NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith as players who have added a spark to the unit since last year with their increased production. While Bowman and Brooks were on the 49ers last year, they have thrived in their new starting roles this season. Bowman currently ranks fifth in the NFL in tackles (56), while Brooks has become a versatile weapon in his first season as an every down linebacker.
Smith, meanwhile, was just one of many quality draft picks by 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke and his staff, according to Casserly. Casserly was also quick to praise Baalke for adding key free agents like veterans Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner and Jonathan Goodwin.
“Trent’s done a great job here with the draft,” Casserly said. “He’s been solid in that area. … That’s what personnel decisions are, they’re tests. If you’ve done your homework, you’re going to feel confident in making a decision. That’s what I see in the 49ers.”
Casserly said the 49ers are clearly the top team in the NFC West as they head into their bye week with a 5-1 record and a 2.5-game lead over second place Seattle (2-3). Casserly said the 49ers are also lucky to have a player like Braylon Edwards expected to have a chance to return in time for the Week 8 matchup against the Cleveland Browns. The seventh-year veteran wideout hasn’t played since Week 2 due to a knee injury.
“Edwards is a big guy who gives you a big target, has got some speed, physical-type player,” Casserly said.
Above all, Casserly said he’s been captivated by the team’s new mentality under Harbaugh, saying he hasn’t been surprised by the instant success given Harbaugh’s track record.
“They’re doing a good job of moving people around with formations and shifting and motion to get edges on numbers and getting people outnumbered,” Casserly said. “They’re very creative there. That’s the thing that sticks out to me as much as anything. And obviously there’s a discipline and a workman-like approach that he brings to things that clearly the players have bought into.”
Click here to listen to Casserly’s conversation
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