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49ers 53-Man Roster Analysis/Breakdown: The Defense

On Saturday, we took a look at the San Francisco 49ers' 53-man roster, or at least, we took at look at the offense. That post can be found here, and the general gist is that the 49ers have more running backs and wide receivers than they know what to do with. So much so, that A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James, the 49ers' first- and second-round picks, may not even be active each week.

And now we come to the defense. San Francisco's defense was the best in the NFL a season ago, and don't let anybody else to you differently. Justin Smith dominated as usual, NaVorro Bowman came into his own, and new additions Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner really stepped it up in the secondary. There are so many studs on this defense it's crazy.

That being said, there's been some changes, and we'll talk about each position below.

Defensive Linemen (6): Justin Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, Ray McDonald, Ricky Jean Francois, Will Tukuafu, Ian Williams

DeMarcus Dobbs is listed as a tight end because Jim Harbaugh is too stubborn to eat up more roster space on offense, so he's not listed here. Still, he might be above Tukuafu on the actual defensive depth chart. That's a lot of defensive linemen for a 3-4 team, especially given the insane versatility of Jean Francois. Still, the 49ers are well-equipped here. Nobody can doubt that.

Outside Linebackers (3): Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks, Parys Haralson

That's a shockingly low number of outside linebackers, but the 49ers will make do. Haralson is a little banged up so there's still the question of whether or not the 49ers will make a move to bring in a fourth, but for now, they've got three players who are starting caliber. Aldon will be looking to stand up a bit more this year.

Inside Linebackers (4): Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman, Larry Grant, Tavares Gooden

Not only do the 49ers have the best group of inside linebackers in the league, they have the No. 1 and No. 2 players at the position in Willis and Bowman. Grant also might be the best inside linebacker not named a starter, and he was retained as a restricted free agent this season. Last year, this included Blake Costanzo, but he was primarily a special teamer. No changes here.

Cornerbacks (5): Carlos Rogers, Tarell Brown, Chris Culliver, Perrish Cox, Tramaine Brock

Rogers went to the Pro Bowl a season ago and hopefully he can continue his career resurgence with a couple good years. He's getting up there in age though, so that's a worry. Still, Culliver is hoping for more playing time in his second year and Cox continues to seek redemption after a very strong preseason. He might force his way onto the field more and more this season if he can live up to his pre-draft hype at all.

Safeties (5): Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner, C.J. Spillman, Trenton Robinson, Darcel McBath

San Francisco showed confidence in Spillman when they handed him a multi-year contract. Thought until recently to be a special teams player and nothing more, Spillman will be counted on as the primary backup at the strong safety position and perhaps even both at this point. San Francisco doesn't hand out multi-year deals to special teams players. Robinson is still developing as a late-round pick and McBath is the surprise inclusion on the roster with a very strong camp.

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