The San Francisco 49ers used two first-round picks in the NFL Draft to address their defense and made a number of other offseason moves. But what are the biggest remaining defensive questions facing the Niners in 2017?
The San Francisco 49ers defense couldn’t get much worse than it was in 2016.
A year removed from a historically bad defense that set franchise highs in total yards, rushing yards and points allowed in a single season, the Niners have turned to general manager John Lynch and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh to turn a major page.
Lynch worked some free-agent magic to bring aboard defenders Earl Mitchell, K’Waun Williams and Malcolm Smith.
San Francisco 49ers
The GM then landed two first-round talents by the way of defensive end Solomon Thomas and linebacker Reuben Foster.
Other pickups, such as cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (Round 3) and nose tackle D.J. Jones (Round 6) will look to turn what was a primary 49ers weakness into a possible strength.
Paired with returning veterans like linebacker NaVorro Bowman, defensive linemen DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, cornerback Rashard Robinson and safeties Jimmie Ward and Eric Reid, the Niners defense may actually be, you know, pretty good this season.
What a thought.
But that doesn’t mean this unit is perfect or will be anything close to dominant in 2017.
True, Saleh’s hybrid 4-3 defense is easier to master than the ones issued by former coordinators Jim O’Neil or Eric Mangini. But there still is a learning curve.
And that learning curve prompts questions. Here are the five biggest.