When new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio took the job in San Francisco, the bar was raised in expectations immediately. He coached with Dom Capers years ago and will run a similar defense. The defense that Niners fans should expect will be a lot more aggressive than years past, with much more blitzes and schemes that will put opposing offenses at a disadvantage; very similar to the defenses ran in Green Bay and Pittsburgh.
Fangio assembled one of the best linebacking corps to step on the gridiron in the 1980s while with the New Orleans Saints. This set of players inherited the name, "Dome Patrol". It consisted of Rickey Jackson, Sam Mills, Vaughan Johnson and Pat Swilling. These four linebackers were the only set of linebackers in history of the NFL to make it to the Pro Bowl and start the game in the same year.
Fangio's forte, to say the least, is at the linebacker position.
The 49ers should have a very solid set of linebackers in the upcoming year. Although, it is still uncertain who exactly will be the starting corps (outside of Patrick Willis), you can count on a lot of action out of Fangio's schemes.
Linebackers at this point in the season consist of: Antwan Applewhite, Navorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Blake Costanzo, Thaddeus Gibson, Larry Grant, Parys Haralson, Alex Joseph, Keaton Kristick, Scott McKillop, Kenny Rowe, Monte Simmons, Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis.
Out of the 14 linebackers mentioned, there is probably only enough room for eight of them.
Rest assured that Fangio will take the cream of the crop out of all those listed despite their past. It's safe to think that out of those players Patrick Willis, Aldon Smith and Navorro Bowman will all have spots. Outside of that, Parys Haralson and Ahmad Brooks may have spots as well. That leaves only three open spots for the nine remaining.
Perhaps the most buzz thus far in the preseason has been swirling around what Aldon Smith has done on the field in standing up so far. No doubt, fans will be watching him closely in the preseason. Teammate Joe Staley recently said that the young linebacker's arms are very long and that usually long-armed guys do not possess the most power, but that it is not the case with Smith. Staley elaborated to say that at one point in drills, he could not even get his hands on the rookie.
Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker have been very impressed with Smith's rapid advancement in coverage as well.
On the surface, it seems as though things are on the up-and-up. It would not totally shock me to see a 49ers linebacker break double-digit sacks this season. Because once the starters are named, they will be the starters barring injury. It will not change from week-to-week like it tended to do with the previous regime.