The 49ers Bend But Don't Break Defense

Because I'm always looking for an excuse to show this picture of the 49ers sacking Brett Favre (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

It's no surprise that arguably the 49ers strongest unit on defense is the inside linebackers. Patrick Willis may not be putting up his best numbers and Takeo Spikes might be showing signs of age, but they still are probably the best part of the defense. Having such a strong presence has been one of the reasons the 49ers continue to rank highly as a rush defense. Football Outsiders ranks the 49ers overall defense seventh, with a 20th ranked pass defense but a 2nd overall rush defense. This shows through as well in the red zone, where the 49ers are 22nd against the pass and 8th against the rush.

The 49ers defense has employed a bend but don't break style that has infuriated one and all. Normally bending and not breaking aren't the worst thing in the world. Last season this style of defense cost the team at times, but they were usually able to stiffen up. This year it has been more or less a total disaster when it has become a key time for the defense.

My question as we all start looking to improving this team in the future is what would be the best solution? A lot of folks are looking to grab a potential shutdown corner in the draft. Other folks want to fire Greg Manusky. Other folks want to swap Taylor Mays and Dashon Goldson, or let Goldson walk entirely. Some folks want a combination of all of this. At this point I'm probably in the boat with the first group looking for a big-time corner in the draft. The 49ers haven't had a legit lockdown cornerback in quite some time.

On the other hand, I do find myself wondering whether Manusky is the right guy for the job at this point. When the defense has been solid it's been amazing. Flying all over the place, creating turnovers, sacking the QB, generally dominating. The problem is a wild lack of consistency in most phases. Is this something that should fall on the shoulders of the defensive coordinator?

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