New 49ers defensive coordinator Jim O'Neil has made it clear that he is looking to have his best 11 players out on the field as often as possible. It makes it hard to do that because sometimes the best players play the same position. Antoine Bethea and Jaquiski Tartt can be considered in the top 11, but it will be hard to get them into the lineup.
In the base defense, Ian Williams will likely start at NT with Arik Armstead and Quinton Dial at the ends. Joining NaVorro Bowman will likely be Gerald Hodges. On the outside LB positions will be Aaron Lynch and Ahmad Brooks. In the secondary, Jimmie Ward and Tramaine Brock will start at CB with Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid at safety.
In other packages, the 49ers would likely bring in Tartt and Dontae Johnson. Tartt could be used as a hybrid LB on passing downs like he was used last season. He can cover in the passing game and he has enough physically to stop the run as well. Johnson would replace Jimmie Ward on the outside and Ward slide into the slot. The 11 best defenders may change through the offseason. The rookies haven't worked out with the 1st or 2nd teams yet, so they could make a run into the 11 best category.
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