Originally Posted by AcheTen
Willis and Bowman are great players who are still in their prime. However, they also happen to play the least important position on defense: inside linebacker.
If the secondary isn't covering, and the pass rush isn't getting there, the best inside linebackers in the world don't matter. We saw that last year in the latter half of the season and in the playoffs.
Ahmad Brooks is an average player. Ray McDonald is nothing special. Cris Culliver gets burnt in coverage often. Terrel Brown is no great talent.
Aldon Smith is good, but without Justin Smith holding guards I don't see a special 1-on-1 pass rusher capable of beating individual blocks.
There's just a general sentiment on this forum that "let's pencil in the 49ers as the best team! Their defense is a lockdown unit!". I think their offense will be great, but I also think that the defense will not be so great and they will end up looking like the 2010 Saints.
where do we start?
ILB the least important position? Well, MLBs are generally the QBs of defenses, so I dont exactly buy that. Lets think back on the great MLBs of the game in recent years...Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher...to bring anyone else up would honestly be a disservice to Pat Willis, because there is no other ILB in the past 20 years besides those two who can even compare to Pat Willis...Those guys have played with a revolving door of players throughout their careers, and their defenses have always been great....And if you remember, Pat Willis instantly transformed this 49er defense from his rookie season. The 49er D used to stink, they instantly got WAY better when they drafted Pat Willis, and they have built a powerhouse D around him. And having the two best ILBs in the game is huge, to say that any position isnt important is ridiculous. Yes, its true its not that hard to find ILBs that can plug in and be productive, but game-changers are game-changers, and thats what P Will and Bowman are.
OK, onto Aldon Smith. He has combined for damn near 40 sacks in his first 2 seasons as a pro and youre saying that its because of Justin Smith holding linemen for him??? GTFOH!!!!! Have you watched the kid play? He is basically on par with Von Miller. He is an absolute freak athlete, for you to say he cant beat people 1-on-1 is absolutely ridiculous. Truth is, very few offensive lineman can take him 1-on-1. The reality is teams have adjusted by having their QBs take quick drops and make quick throws and send extra blockers at Aldon because they know what he can do. That, more than anything, is the reason why he didnt keep putting up gaudy numbers late in the season.
Ahmad Brooks is average? Maybe if you compare him to the rest of the players on the 49er defense. He is a very good OLB and most teams would love to have him, theres a reason the 49ers locked him up with a big extension.
Chris Culliver is a young corner who gets beat some, but he is an up-and-comer. He is a great competitor and plays with the confidence and short memory you need as a corner. I believe he will develop into a very solid starting cornerback in this league. He will be taking the job of Tarrell Brown, who is a pretty average player, this year, and I think it will be a breakout year for him. I see the 49ers starting Culliver and Aso, with Rogers being the slot guy and Brown being the dime back. I think Aso will return to form and start locking guys up - I think his play will resemble that of Rogers in 2011. Whitner is a very good starting SS. Instinctive, smart player, good range, big hitter. His main drawback is he has no hands, but thats why hes a DB. Im concerned about the FS position, losing Goldson was huge and Dahl is a servicable starter at best. But I believe theyre gonna either sign C Wood, or draft a safety.
Justin Smith can still play, youre going overboard acting like he is completely over the hill just cuz he got hurt last year. He might not be elite anymore, but hes still damn good. And with McDonald and Dorsey, thats a very solid group along the DL.
And lets not forget that they have a glutton of draft picks to bring in young talent across the board, and very few pressing needs. I would expect that they will bring in a rangy FS with coverage skills, a run-stuffing NT, a DE to grrom to replace Smith, and another pass-rusher.
And they have a great defensive coordinator.
To me, this is the best defense in the league. They have one of the best groups of LBs in NFL history IMO, and very deep and solid groups along the DL and secondary.