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49ers inside linebackers: Better, worse, or same in 2016?

A position by position look at the San Francisco 49ers’ roster, and whether the team is better, worse, or the same as the 2015 roster. Today, we look at the 49ers inside linebackers.

The San Francisco 49ers face a lot of questions surrounding their roster in 2016, and it will take some time to figure out where this team stands. The team was fairly quiet in free agency, but did plenty of work in the 2016 NFL Draft. Additionally, they will welcome back some injured players, and look to further develop young talent from the past few drafts.

With that in mind, I thought we would take a look at each position, compare it to various points last year, and consider whether the unit is better, worse, or the same compared to last year. The table includes the current group of players, and then a list of players on the 90-man roster for the first preseason game, the players on the Week 1 53-man roster, and the players on the Week 17 53-man roster. The idea is to compare this year with last year across the board. The roster changes from August to December, so I’m including three separate markers just to provide an overall view of the position last year.

We started with the quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, offensive line, defensive line, and outside linebackers. Today, we move on to the inside linebackers.

Current 2015 preseason 2015 - Week 1 2015 - Week 17
NaVorro Bowman NaVorro Bowman NaVorro Bowman NaVorro Bowman
Gerald Hodges Michael Wilhoite Michael Wilhoite Gerald Hodges
Michael Wilhoite Nick Moody Shayne Skov Shayne Skov
Ray-Ray Armstrong Shayne Skov Nick Bellore Nick Bellore
Shayne Skov Nick Bellore Ray-Ray Armstrong
Nick Bellore Desmond Bishop Michael Wilhoite (IR)
Wynton McManis Philip Wheeler
Steve Beauharnais

A lot of us expected some kind of addition to the depth chart. Myles Jack was mentioned quite a bit, but the 49ers elected to pass on adding to the position outside of UDFA Wynton McManis. The big changes from a year ago are Gerald Hodges and Ray-Ray Armstrong. The 49ers acquired Hodges via trade last October, and Armstrong via waivers last November. Defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil said the competition to play next to NaVorro Bowman is a three-way competition between Hodges, Armstrong, and Michael Wilhoite.

You’ll be stunned to hear that I think the 49ers ILBs are improved from last year. It’s a similar group compared to the end of last season, but the big difference is Hodges and Armstrong get a full offseason to learn Jim O’Neil’s defense. It might all be a big bust next to Bowman, but I’d say for the time being the group is in a better position than last year.