At the NFL scouting combine last week, San Francisco 49ers coach Mike Nolan was asked about his using a 3-4 style of defense or a 4-3 style.
"We’re about the best players, and whether that’s a 3-4 or 4-3, I really have no preference," Nolan said. "When teams
look at us and break us down, they’ll see, I don’t know if it’s a straight 50-50 but it’s pretty
close to a 60-40 split of 4-3, 3-4 in what we do. We draft one way, and that’s to get the best
player, and so if that lends its way to 3-4, 4-3, I’m not really particular about it. I do find
that 3-4, if you start there, is much more friendly, because if you’re just a 4-3 team, it’s
very difficult to play the other way."
But the signing of defensive end Justin Smith late Friday nigth might be an indication that the 49ers will be playing more 4-3 defense. Smith is more of a standard 4-3 end, not a 3-4 end. And you don't pay a player $20 million in guarantees on a six-year deal to be an occupying end, which is what they are in the 4-3.
"It's clear they're going to more 4-3," one NFC West coach said. "Smith isn't a 3-4 defensive end."
Smith is a try-hard player who had just two sacks last season, yet cashes in big here because there is a want for defensive ends. The 49ers have been big players in the market already, but despite spending big, one has to wonder how much improving they've done.