Lock: NaVorro Bowman, Ahmad Brooks, Eli Harold
Looking Good: Gerald Hodges, Michael Wilhoite, Tank Carradine
Strong Bubble: Ray-Ray Armstrong, Corey Lemonier, Michael Wilhoite
Weak Bubble: Nick Bellore, Jason Fanaika, Wynton McManis, Marcus Rush, Shayne Skov
Pass-rushing linebacker Aaron Lynch isn’t on here, since he’ll be suspended the first four games of 2016 and won’t cost the Niners a roster spot during that time.
All-Pro NaVorro Bowman isn’t going anywhere, and Lynch’s suspension ensures veteran outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks’ job isn’t in danger at the start of the season. This situation also means underachieving linebacker Corey Lemonier is likely safe. For now.
Former defensive end Tank Carradine is an interesting commodity after dropping weight and switching to EDGE.
Based on what I saw versus Houston, Carradine’s pass rush looks vastly improved. But he still has problems disengaging from the run block and will need some work here. The Niners should give Carradine a good chunk of the season to determine whether or not this experiment worked.
The inside linebacker opening next to Bowman got a little more interesting. Gerald Hodges probably wins here, but fellow ILB Ray-Ray Armstrong had some nice moments in the game.
This play, courtesy of Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus, shows Armstrong (No. 54) working well against Houston’s offensive line:
Oh, and PFF (h/t David Fucillo of Niners Nation) gave Armstrong the best grade for San Francisco’s defensive efforts.
Next: Defensive Line