The San Francisco 49ers are making a switch in defense, moving from a 3-4 of the recent past to a 4-3 under defense. Roles will change, and given that the 49ers have spent three straight first round picks on defensive lineman, there are plenty of questions about who will fit where.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has some sources in the 49ers organization, and he had a chance to get some insight into what the defense might look like. He broke it down in his latest scouting notebook. The starting base defense could look something like this, according to Miller:
Fooch’s update: Miller’s article was edited to reflect Armstead/Mitchell replacing Lynch/Armstead.
LEO: Arik Armstead
3T: Solomon Thomas
1T: Earl Mitchell
5T: DeForest Buckner
WILL: Reuben Foster
MIKE: NaVorro Bowman
SAM: Ahmad Brooks
LCB: Keith Reaser
FS: Jimmie Ward
SS: Eric Reid
RCB: Rashard Robinson
NICKEL: K’Waun Williams
The most interesting thing about this is the lack of Malcolm Smith. The 49ers gave him a $7 million signing bonus, and he would seemingly be in line for some playing time. He won’t be “given” anything, but I would be surprised if he was not in on base downs. He struggles in coverage, so one option could be having Smith, Bowman, Brooks on in the base 4-3, and then Foster and Bowman as the linebackers in the nickel. The 49ers will likely spend more time in sub-packages than their base defense, which could mean Foster ends up playing more than Smith.
The defensive line could very well be the least settled. We’ve heard plenty about the 49ers looking to emulate the Seahawks defense. One area where I think most any team would want to emulate the Seahawks is in defensive line rotation. The 49ers have added considerable depth to the line with the signing of Earl Mitchell and the drafting of Solomon Thomas. Add that to DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Quinton Dial, Aaron Lynch, and Chris Jones, and we could see plenty of rotation along the line. I would not be surprised if there was a constant shuffling with no repetitive starting lineup along the line.
There is plenty that can and will change between now and training camp, let along now and Week 1 of the regular season. Where do you think we could see some notable differences in that lineup?