I'd like to ramble a bit about possibilities and thoughts regarding our defense. The run defense is solid. Spikes and Willis in the middle, Franklin, J. Smith, Goldson, etc., etc.; I see no weaknesses in the run defense. Any thoughts on that are welcome.
Regarding pass defense, I am guardedly optimistic that the niners will do a better job than last year in containing other teams passing attacks, particularly the later part of the games. Though our personnel on pass defense is virtually unchanged, there are two rookies whose addition to the team could help the defense substantially*. There names are Iupati and Davis. The reasoning, and this is not new, is that they will be able to enable a running game, particularly in the 4th quarter, that will give the defense more time to rest and less time on the field. With fewer total plays per game, the defense will likely be less vulnerable and *more intimidating*. I am buying it; I am drinking that Kool-aide.
One of the strengths of the nickle defense is a plethora of impressive outside linebackers who tend to fill the outside line positions of the "4-2-5" (including, Lawson, Haralson, Brooks, LaBoy). I wonder if it might make sense to consider using Lawson in the 2nd ILB spot, alongside Willis, in the nickle*? (Has this been discussed already?) He has good cover abilities and is an excellent pass rusher. That way he could be an every down player -which i think he would like - playing OLB in base and "ILB" in nickle, and leaving Haralson, Brooks and LaBoy to share time in a 3-person rotation in the nickle DE spots. Is that too much playbook to expect one person (Lawson) to absorb? (or does it not seem advisable for other reasons?)
The alternative, in the past, has been to use Lewis in that spot. Another possibility is Mays, perhaps much later in the season or next year, though he (Mays) might be effective from a deeper position in nickle or dime defenses.
Regarding this Sunday vs Seattle, my expectation is that the 49ers will develop a significant lead (the Seattle OL seems suspect), in which case I would be very interested in seeing Mays get a role in the pass defense* in the 3rd or 4th quarter. I imagine that game experience in straightforward passing situations would accelerate his development as an NFL player. Of course I would love to see him get at least one blitz call.
Back to Lawson, this is a key (contract) year for him; he is also fighting for playing time within our aforementioned very deep and strong OLB core (i know Brooks is not healthy yet.) I would be surprised if he doe not play very well and get at least one sack and maybe a few pressures on Sunday.
* A typical nickle would then be:
(Haralson or Briggs) McDonald Smith (Brooks or LaBoy)
Clements TBrown RSmith? Goldson Spencer