Like everyone else here, I am interested to see how the players we already have on our roster fit into our new 43 defense. I have put together a chart showing last year’s starting rosters of the Seahawks, Jaguars, and Falcons so we can quickly compare the size of the players at each of these positions. I know size doesn’t always matter, it is more about the way they play the game, but it still helps us to better visualize the prototypical player at each position.
We used Seattle because it was Carroll who molded this defense into the version we want to copy. We included the Jaguars because Gus Bradley and our new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh implemented this defense in Jacksonville after being involved with it in Seattle. Atlanta is included because they used this defense under head coach Dan Quinn, while Shanahan was their offensive coordinator.
Virtually every team in the NFL spends more time in their sub-packages than in their most basic defense. For example, Jeremy Lane plays significantly more than a third linebacker. But for the purposes of this analysis, we are focusing just on the base look. Additionally, these do not reflect likely changes coming this offseason due to free agency.
I have included my own position by position analysis. In no way do I claim to be an expert. Please feel free to correct me anywhere you think I may be wrong. This is meant to be a learning exercise for all of us. Please be respectful of others that may not agree or do not have your expertise on the subject.
Matt Barrows recently wrote a brief explanation of each position, and how the 49ers might fit in. It is a good read.
Seahawks base defense
|Will WSLB||KJ Wright||6'4||246|
|Mike MLB||Bobby Wagner||6'0||241|
|Sam SSLB||Mike Morgan||6'3||235|
Falcons base defense
|Will WSLB||De'Vondre Campbell||6'4||232|
|Mike MLB||Deione Jones||6'1||222|
|Sam SSLB||Vic Beasley||6'3||246|
Jaguars base defense
|Will WSLB||Telvin Smith||6'3||218|
|Mike MLB||Paul Posluszny||6'2||238|
|Sam SSLB||Dan Skuta||6'2||251|
San Francisco 49ers
49ers base defense
|Will WSLB||Ray-Ray Armstrong||6'3||220|
|Mike MLB||Navorro Bowman||6'0||242|
|Sam SSLB||Ahmad Brooks||6'3||259|
We currently have three players on our roster that might be able to play the Leo position. Aaron Lynch (6’5”, 249) might be the best prospect but last season he had problems with a drug related suspension, being overweight and out of shape, and injuries, and who knows what shape he might show up in this year. I personally think he is much better playing on the left side so I would put him at the Sam. We also have Eli Harold (6’3”, 265) and Tank Carradine (6’4”, 267) but I don’t think either of these players played particularly well last season. We really need to upgrade this position either by the draft or free agency and I personally would not mind if we spent either a high draft pick or large sums of money on a free agent.
Our new defense uses two of these. One that lines up as a nose tackle and one that plays the three gap. The closest player we have to a nose tackle on our present roster is Quinton Dial. At 6’ 5”, I would hardly call him a nose tackle. I would think we are going to add a couple of nose tackles to our roster.
Going by what we have heard from John Lynch, it looks like we are going to try to use either DeForest Buckner or Arik Armstead as our starting three gap defensive tackle. We also have Quinton Dial and Ronald Blair (6’4”) that might be able to play this position. I would think we would be bringing in another shorter, stouter run stuffer to fill in at this position and to backup our nose tackle.
Left Defensive End
DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead are our two top choices for this position. The question is, which one will be playing defensive end and which one will be playing defensive tackle. We also currently also have Quinton Dial, Ronald Blair, and Zach Moore on the roster.
Both Ahmad Brooks and Aaron Lynch have played this position in the past. Lynch could slot in but given his weight and injury issues along with last year’s suspension it would not surprise me if the 49ers brought someone else into camp to compete for the position. I personally think Brooks will be a salary cap hit but I could be wrong.
The Will position is usually filled with the team’s best coverage linebacker. Ray Ray Armstrong is a natural at this positions but I wonder how well Jaquiski Tartt would do? He is a little bit stouter than Armstrong. I think he would add good competition and depth.
This is obviously Bowman’s position. Even if he isn’t ready by the start of the season, I would think he will be starting by some point in September. I would think the natural person to back him up at this position would be Gerald Hodges. As bad as our team was in run defense last season, Hodges still managed to rate as one of the best linebackers in the league against the run. However, Hodges has yet to be signed.
We have three good returning corners from last season in Tramaine Brock, Jimmie Ward, and Rashard Robinson (6’1”, 176). We also have Will Redmond (6’0”, 190) who has yet to get on the field along with Keith Reaser (5’10”, 190), and Dontae Johnson, (6’2”,195). The 49ers signed K’Waun Williams earlier this week to compete for nickel and dime work. I personally think we need to draft a big press corner in the middle rounds if we start depending on press coverage the way Seattle does. Even if Robinson and Ward were to work out as our outside press corners, we still need to have plenty of depth when we are playing in press.
Eric Reid was our starting free safety last season but he seemed like he had a problem with range and coverage. A lot of people, including myself, think he should move to free safety. Some people think Ward would be the perfect candidate to replace him. In Seattle’s defense, the cornerbacks are mainly in press and are asked to play extremely aggressive, therefore it is a must that our free safety have a lot of range since he will be backing up the corners like a deep center fielder. I personally have been excited about the possibility of getting ball hawking Malik Hooker in the draft but he would require the number two pick and we could be going in a lot of different directions with that pick.
We used Antoine Bethea as our strong safety last year. While I don’t think he was as terrible as most people made him out to be, I think he has lost a step and probably should be a roster cut. We could replace him with a player through free agency or the draft but I think we already have Reid who should do well as a strong safety. Even if we move Tartt to the Will position, we could still use him as a backup to Reid. One way or the other, we still need more depth at the safety position.