A few days ago, Patrick Willis stated that he thought the team's defense could be top 10 or better this season: "Not only top 10, if not top five – if not No. 1." Certainly bold words, but not exactly surprising coming from one of the players. Even if it doesn't happen, I'd certainly prefer the players think it can happen.
In conjunction with that comment were some interesting rankings. The Sporting News recently completed ranking the top 20 players at various positions, and recently moved on to coaches. A few days back they ranked defensive coordinators. Greg Manusky cracked the top 20 at 19:
19. Greg Manusky, 49ers. He emphasizes a 3-4 press-type style with lots of different looks and frequent shifting of personnel. The key element for opponents is trying to figure out where the fourth pass rusher is going to line up. Frequent blitzing by cornerbacks and safeties is a staple -- as well as lots of man-to-man coverage -- but the main pass rush must come from the outside linebackers. He also will show a 4-3 nickel front in passing situations. This defense will resemble the Steelers at times, and don't be surprised to see Patrick Willis unleashed as a blitzer.
A lot of us have whined and complained about the lack of continuity on offense giving the rotating door known as the offensive coordinator (yours truly included among the whiners). Coach Manusky is entering his third year as defensive coordinator, which is practically a lifetime when compared to his offensive counterpart.
Given that relative continuity, I was wondering what people think that could mean for the defense in 2009? I realize questions persist about the pass rush and the secondary. However, will the team strongly benefit from having not only the same DC for a third year, but what I'd imagine is the system as was used in most of the last 8 games under Mike Singletary. Will the team be able to develop some kind of defensive identity this season? A year from now, where do people think Manusky end up being rated among DCs in the league?