The heart of the defense lies in the linebacker position. When all are healthy, they are the most talented group on the field at any given time.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the inside linebacker position.
When training camp begins there will be a battle to see who will take the place of injured NaVorro Bowman. It is uncertain who will play along side Patrick Willis in week one, as Bowman will begin the season on PUP list.
The linebacker position took a big blow when they lost a great leader and player in Bowman during the NFC Championship Game last season. A lot of pressure now falls on Willis to lead this defense along side a young player in either Michael Wilhoite or Chris Borland.
Wilhoite is the front runner to take the position of Bowman for the time being as he has three years of experience, but do not count out the rookie Borland out of Wisconsin. He is a very talented young player and can learn a lot from the veteran squad.
The outside linebacker situation is not as tricky as the inside linebacker, but Aldon Smith does cause a lot of disturbance with his off the field issues. If he focuses on the game of football when he is on the field, there should be no problem with his ability to be considered one of the best players in football.
The other outside linebacker, who had arguably his best season ever, is Ahmad Brooks. Last year he recorded 60 total tackles, while also sacking an opposing quarterback 8.5 times.
These two players lead the way for the outside linebackers and the backups can provide just as much talent.
Corey Lemonier and Dank Skuta are the likely backups to both Smith and Brooks. Skuta may have more experience that Lemonier, but if Lemonier can prove his talent throughout training camp he could possibly jump Skuta.
This linebacker core is a solid unit and they should be just as talented as they have been throughout the past few seasons.