We here at Niners Nation love to argue and promote competitive jabber, but I think one thing we can all agree on is that the 49ers hit hard. When I look at the 49ers defense, I see a collection of particular men. These guys were the guys from their hometown that had opposing players running out of bounds before they had a chance to put a lick on them. I think what we have before us is a Hall of Fame defense that will be talked about when it's all said and done; much like the '85 Bears or '00 Ravens level of notoriety.
But the 49ers have a relevant history of great hitters. NFL Network's Top Ten Most Feared Tacklers has not only two 49ers, but two in the top five all-time. Hardy Brown and Ronnie Lott are #5 and #4, respectively, with Dick Butkus at #1 (I'm not arguing). Right now, I think the Niners have enough hard hitting guys on the defense to create a top 3 or 5 of their own.
Our candidates after the jump.
1. Patrick Willis, LB
It's likely that Willis runs away with this, as we've seen him bring the wood season after season. He might not only be the hardest hitter on the 49ers, but in the entire league. It seems every year Willis registers a monster hit to highlight the season: see Brad Smith, Reggie Bush, Brett Favre and this poor sap from LSU.
2. NaVorro Bowman, LB
I think Bowman deserves a fair chance here; he hasn't had as much time as some of the other guys to register the big hits but people can barely tell him and Willis apart, so I think that's saying something. And he brought it in Willis' absence.
3. Aldon Smith, LB
Aldon is a "I'm gonna sneak up on ya, and deliver a crushing blow to an un-tense body" kind of hitter, which in turn makes the quarterback look like a rag doll. Not to mention, his journey to the quarterback is always exciting.
4. Dashon Goldson, FS
I think Goldson's the sleeper here. This man is an outrageous hitter, having delivered a number of punishing hits in 2011. Also see Goldson's hit during the Eagles game in week 4.
5. Donte Whitner, SS
When this guy hits, I'm simply at a loss for words. He knocked out Pierre Thomas in the playoffs on third down-red zone situation, which was a huge deal for the Niners early in the game. He's a missile.
6. Justin Smith, DT
You got to love Justin Smith; he's got the heart of a lion. He's the veteran blue collar cowboy that is simply so powerful. This guy doesn't get a lot of hitting highlights but he's relentless, and he's capable of laying guys out.
Who are the top 3 most feared tacklers for the 49ers right now?
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(Writers Note: If you were wondering about the title, this is something I've heard Patrick Willis say on more than one occasion. The quote is his.)