No. 4: Inside Linebacker
Likely Candidates for the Position: Michael Wilhote, Gerald Hodges and Ray-Ray Armstrong
No one will question the starter for San Francisco’s inside linebacker position — NaVorro Bowman.
But the No. 2 job is anything but clear at this point. Last year, the 49ers tabbed perennial backup Michael Wilhoite to hold the line, and he managed to finish second on the season in tackles (62).
Wilhoite, however, posted a minus-16.5 overall grade last year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and left the Niners with plenty of burning questions about the interior of their defensive front seven.
So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise the 49ers are employing a three-way competition to start alongside Bowman.
As of now, Wilhoite, Gerald Hodges and Ray-Ray Armstrong are the linebackers tabbed by defensive coordinator Jim O’Neil to battle it out for the No. 2 spot.
“It’s all about evaluation right now,” Hodges said, via Tyler Emerick of 49ers.com. “It’s early in the offseason, but when it comes down to it, the best people are going to be on the field.”
Hodges, whom the 49ers acquired via a trade with the Minnesota Vikings last year, probably wins out this bout. And the Niners will need him to perform well enough, especially if it takes pressure off Bowman.
Predicted Winner: Gerald Hodges
Next: No. 3: Right Tackle