Rating The 49ers: Linebackers
Let's continue with our review of the 49ers position by position.
I've covered the Coaching and QB, the running backs, offensive line and receivers, and the defensive line.
Now it's time to hit up the linebacking corps.
A few short years ago, this was a wasteland for the team. Julian Peterson and Andre Carter left via free agency, and Derek Smith retired. However, in short order, they've retooled the middle of their defense to great success.
The star, of course, is Patrick Willis, not only the teams best defensive player but the best linebacker in football after just three years in the league. The entire defense runs through him and he should be a fixture on the team for the rest of his career.
Takeo Spikes had a great season and has turned out to be a nice free agent signing. He doesn't play all three downs, and is at the tail-end of his career but should provide another solid year or so. He's also a very inspiring player and a leader in the locker room. We like spikes.
Manny Lawson has showed promise for years and has started to finally deliver, somewhat, on that promise. He tied with Justin Smith for 2nd on the team with 6.0 sacks, and his speed is especially notable when running sideline to sideline. He is an odd size for his position, both a bit taller and leaner than most who play there. He's neither the athlete nor the insane lunatic that Charles Haley was, though that seems to still be the hope. I like Lawson, and he's shown enough to make him a good part of the team.
The last linebacker is, at least on the depth chart, Parys Haralson though he was outplayed and outshined by Ahmad Brooks who led the team with 6.5 sacks. Brooks was a talented college player who seems to have run a little wild for a few years and has been a specific project of Coach Mike Singletary. That seems to have been well worth it, and Brooks could be a very important part of the defense in 2010.
Overall, this is a strength of the team, combining a great second line of defense against the run while adding great pass coverage and pressure on the QB. If the 49ers find another young LB to replace Spikes or provide depth elsewhere, it can only improve.