Offense can win games. Defense wins championships.
Over the past several years we have seen a resurgence of teams running a 3-4 defense. For those of you that don't know what this is, it is when a team lines up in a defensive set with 3 down lineman and 4 linebackers. Typically, you have a nose tackle flanked by 2 defensive ends. 2 inside linebackers line up behind the linemen and 2 outside linebackers line up outside the tackles. There are variations but this is the "base" 3-4.
You always here about the linebackers in this scheme. Primarily, because the pass rushers are the guys that get all the sacks. In the 3-4, linebackers tend to be the ones that get the most sacks...and the glory. Now the key to making this defense work smoothly is the defensive line. The only reason why the linebackers are able to rack up sacks and tackles is because the big guys up front occupy space and keep the blockers off the linebackers. The idea is to have the NT and/or a DE each tie up multiple blockers.
By now, you're probably wondering "what's the point of all this? Many of you reading already know what the 3-4 defense is. To start, I'm a 49er fan (OK...get all the laughs out of the way right now). Coach MIke Nolan is a defensive specialist. he did an outstanding job with the Baltimore Raven's defense as defensive coordinator. So I am at a loss as to why the 49er's defense has never ranked better than 25th in the 3 years Nolan has been with the team. The point is, you need to have exceptional talent on the D-line to make the 3-4 defense work.
Nolan has done a good job of supplying the defense with flashy talent at the linebacker position - Patrick Willis, and some potential talent - Manny Lawson, Donterrius Thomas, Brandon Moore, Tully Banta-Cain. All these guys have the potential to breakout with 6-8 and maybe double digit sack seasons. But unless more attention is paid to the D-line, the sack potential will never come to fruition.
Let's take some examples from the rest of the NFL.
All the above top 10 defenses of 2007 have either a NT or DE from the 1st round or are Pro Bowl caliber players. These teams have willing invested into the D-line to make their 3-4 defenses successful. Even the Cleveland Browns made a strong play in the off season and acquired Shaun Rogers and Corey Williams. The Jets added DT Kris Jenkins.
Let's take a look at the 49ers
DE Ray McDonald (3rd rd pick)
Come on Nolan. Let's get some help in the draft early. If Kentwan Balmer is available, then take him.