Something clicked with 49ers nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin in the second half of last season. He finished strong once the 49ers went exclusively to a 3-4 defensive scheme. And he has picked up this season where he left off.
Franklin has provided the 49ers with outstanding play through the first nine games of the season. Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, one of the hardest-working and most-respected reporters in the country, named Franklin to his Midseason All-Pro team.
Here’s an interview I conducted with Franklin on Thursday:
Generally, nose tackle is not a position that stuffs the stat sheet. However, Franklin ranks third on the 49ers behind Patrick Willis and Dashon Goldson with 56 tackles, including 6.5 for loss. The seven-year pro also has a career-high two sacks, which is tied with New Orleans‘ Remi Ayodele for most in the league from a nose tackle.
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In the podcast interview Franklin says . . .
–The 49ers have their backs against the wall. Obviously, it’s an important game for both the 49ers (4-5) and the Packers (5-4) on Sunday at Lambeau Field. “Both of us are the hunt for a wild-card,” Franklin said. “If we win out, we have a good shot of going to the playoffs.”
–The 49ers own the No. 3 run defense in the league. The team’s goal is to shut down the run and make the opponent one-dimensional. Green Bay‘s Ryan Grant is ninth in the NFL with 700 yards on 168 rushing attempts (4.2 average).
“It’s really big,” Franklin said. “Week in and week out, as a defensive line, our goal is to keep those guys under 100 yards. If get to third and long, we’ll have an advantage.”
—Franklin did not appear to begin making big contributions until after defensive coordinator Greg Manusky received autonomy from Mike Singletary after the departure of Mike Nolan. That is when Franklin says his game took off. He said Manusky focused on doing “the things we do well.” That enabled the 49ers’ defense to play fast, Franklin said.
“Coach Manusky gives me a little leeway and if he thinks I can go ahead and penetrate, he gives me a chance to go ahead,” said Franklin, who added he still “two-gaps” a lot, too.
—Franklin is signed through this season. He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. I asked if his uncertain future every weighs on his mind.
“It kind of does, but right now my main goal is to help get to the playoffs and hopefully I’ll be back here,” Franklin said.
–If Franklin were to become a free agent, he would likely command big money on the open market. It is likely the 49ers will take whatever steps necessary to keep him around in 2010. If the organization can’t sign him to an extension, the 49ers would probably attempt to restrict Franklin‘s ability to hit the open market by placing the franchise tag on him. When I asked about that possibility, he said he’ll “worry about that after the season.”
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Here’s more in today’s paper on my podcast subject of yesterday, Frank Gore, and his responsibilities in Sunday’s game.
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