This defensive line for the 49ers starts and ends with Justin Smith. While Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman receive all the pub, and deservingly so I might add, Smith serves as the true backbone on this defense.
However, I don't doubt the abilities of Ahmad Brooks, who quietly had a solid season last year, or Ray McDonald. Both guys are great players in their own rights.
Aldon Smith on the other hand will have his work cut out for him in the upcoming season. With all the talk of his disappearance toward the end of last season and into the playoffs, he'll have a chip on his shoulder.
As many have reiterated before, Aldon Smith seemed to struggle with the absence or ineffectiveness of Justin Smith. Injuries played a role in both players disappointing end to the season, but I fully expect the Smith brothers to return to dominance next season.
However, the most concerning issue for the 49ers' line is at nose tackle/nose guard. The 49ers lost both Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean-Francois in free agency.
Sopoaga didn't play much, so his loss shouldn't hurt them, but the 49ers did lose a promising lineman in Jean-Francois.
The Glenn Dorsey signing was a good pickup for the price; however, he may be a more natural fit at end in the 49ers' base 3-4 scheme.
This leaves either Ian Williams, who recently re-signed with the 49ers, or another player either through the draft or free agency.
The 49ers need a presence up the middle. This line struggled containing runs up the middle, and in a division with Marshawn Lynch, finding a nimble behemoth at the nose could go a long way for this defense.
Another issue could be in pass-rushing downs. The 49ers could use another designated pass-rusher or two. Parys Haralson, who was on injured reserve last season, should help in this department; however, I see Baalke adding a veteran presence or two to the mix.