49ers’ 2014 sack leader

Last season, the 49ers had co-sack-leaders — Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. Each finished the regular season with 8.5 sacks. Justin Smith had 6.5 sacks — third-most on the 49ers. NaVorro Bowman had 5 sacks — fourth-most on the team.

Which player do you think will lead the 49ers in sacks in 2014?

I think it will be Aldon Smith, even though he probably will be suspended for some games.

This article has 56 Comments

  1. If if Aldon’s suspended for half the season he still has the talent, skill and speed to lead the team in sacks. He could miss eight games and still easily get 10 sacks.

    1. I think the team may be interested in a trade with Miami for Dion Jordan. It would be a young upgrade that won’t require a first round pick, but more likely 2 seconds.

      1. @Matt,

        You “think” the 49ers are interested in trading for Jordan? Wow!

        Did you get this tidbit from 1 of your Sources?

  2. Tank Carradine. Ok, that’s a little bit of wishful thinking, but you get my point.

  3. Corey Lemonier. This guy is going to have a break out year. I’m predicting 9 sacks

  4. “Tank” would seem like the choice at least on paper. But I wouldn’t write off Tony-Jared-Eddie as my sleeper.

    Carradine has yet to face NFL players and offensive schemes aimed at nullifying him.
    TJE has NFL experience in that area and may get the lions share at DE early in the season with Tank brought in occasionally and eventually garnering more playing time.

    Wilhoite may have 4-6 sacks before giving way to Aldon or Bowman when they return.
    Bowman may out as long as Crabtree was last year, and Aldon will likely be out 4-8 games depending on his July 25th sentencing trial outcome.

    TC will have some very interesting situations at DE:
    1. How far along is Carradine
    2. Has Lawrence Okoye made enough progress to warrant another year of development
    3. Can Aaron Lynch make such an impression in TC as to find a spot for him
    4. Will TJE’ limited NFL experience make him the lead player for the DE starters position
    Can’t wait to see how it all shakes out!

    1. I think TJE makes the team because he seemed to me to be just as good as Dobbs but will cost less. RayMac and Cowboy are the starters, but I see a continued increase in the DL rotation that really helped keep everybody fresh at the end of last season. My surprise DL move is Dorsey being traded at the end of camp. I’m hoping Williams, Dial, and TJE show enough at NG to move Dorsey and save a net 2M on the cap.

      I think Lynch has a chance to hang around to start the season (especially if Aldon’s suspension is longer than 4 games), but absent injuries he would be relased and hopefully stashed on the PS once Aldon returns.

      What I’d love to see is instead of a “sack leader”, the Niners have a “front 4/5” rotation where everyone applies pressure and gets sacks.

      1. With all that depth at D-line and uncertainty at linebacker, I like the idea of departing from 3-4 (“4-3 Under”) to go true 4-3.

        MLB – Brooks
        OLB – Willis, Borland/Wilhoit
        DE – Justin, Tank
        DT – Williams and Dorsey

        For D line depth…
        DE – Skuta, Lynch
        DT – Dial, TJE, Dobbs, Okoye

        The D-line depth would rival the Seiferts 4-3’s that squished Marino in the Super Bowl.

        Fangio is a 3-4 guy so it won’t happen, but one can dream.

        1. Shush! It’s a holiday and I don’t want to get Grant started on the 3-4/4-3 debate. It hurts my head! : )

          But I am curious why you would move the 2-time 2nd team all-pro OLB inside? If you really wanted to play a 4-3 wouldn’t Wilhoite be the ‘Mike’ (like Plumber in ’94), Willis the ‘Will’ (like Norton) and Brooks the ‘Sam’ (like Woodall). In ’84 the Niners still played a base 3-4.

        2. So take something that works extremely well with one of the best defenses the 49ers ever had and play them all out of position? Sounds like a great idea.

          1. Now there’s a late-May blog topic. Rank the 49er defenses all time. Here’s my start:

            1. 1984
            2. 1981
            3. 2011? 1988/89? 1994?

          2. True 4-3 might very well be a terrible idea (definitely a bad idea with Aldon and Bowman available).

            The challenge… find a way to mitigate the loss of two of the leagues top 10 best defensive players, while taking advantage of the great defensive line depth and talent.

            Brooks did well subbing at MLB a few times last year. Dorsey has done well vs single gap. Justin has 4-3 experience. Tank seems ideal for 4-3. if Lynch gets his noodle straight and returns to his Notre Dame weight he’d be fine at 4-3. Some consider Borland more sited to a 4-3.

            Once the superstar linebackers return, its back to Fangio’s good old 3-4 (or “4-3 Under”).

    2. I’m confused AES – when you say DE do you mean in the 3 man front or 4 man front? If 3 man, who is he replacing? If 4 man, why? He’s more of a run stuffer than pass rusher, he’d be more suited to playing DT in the 4 man front.

      While Aldon is out I would expect either Lemonier or Carradine to play as the DE opposite Brooks in the 4 man front. And I’d be both surprised and disappointed if Carradine isn’t ahead of TJE as the backup DE to Justin in the 3 man front. That’s why they drafted him, that’s why he was a 2nd round pick despite a knee injury. He should be fully recovered now, and he’s already had a year to learn the D. He has no excuses for not winning that job.

      1. I’d be happy if Carradine were an effective interior pass rusher this season. I’m ok (not thrilled, just ok) if he’s still not ready to be a base 3-4 DE. And technically, TJE came in for RayMac, Dobbs came in for Cowboy. I’d also like to see Dorsey kick out to DT/DE occasionally if we are going to keep him. I don’t want to see anyone in the front 4/5 playing more than about 70% of the snaps in a game, and I’d prefer it were no more than 60%. Even without Aldon, 2-time 2nd team all-pro Brooks needs more rest. The Niners DL/OLB rotation should be frightening before Aldon returns and devastating after he returns.

        1. If Carradine isn’t ready to be the backup DE/DT behind Justin then he is coming along slower than hoped, so I’d be a bit disappointed.

          Yep, TJE played more the 5-tech DE and some NT/ DT, from memory. He didn’t come in as the 3-tech that I recall, as he’s more of a run-stuffer than a pass rusher.

      2. Scooter,
        I’m looking at Carradine playing in place of Aldon (who will likely face suspension). He may have the physical strength and speed to provide a good pass rush from Aldon’ position outside position.

        Carradine’ only weakness playing in place of Aldon may prove to be his lack of experience playing LB which requires more responsibilities.

        1. There is a small possibility that Tank will play RDE in some 4-man fronts, but no way he plays OLB in the base package. The replacement for Aldon is Skuta/Lemonier/Lynch/Breslin. No way Carradine plays 3-4 OLB.

          1. Exactly Sacto. They didn’t have Tank bulk up to around 290lbs to play OLB. He’ll be a DE/ 3-tech in the base formation, backing up Justin Smith, and a DT in 4-man fronts like Cowboy is. He may get some snaps outside at DE in the 4-man front, but that position is usually reserved for more of a speed rusher. At 290 lbs Tank will be more of a power rusher from the inside.

            1. All I want is for Fangio to scrap that awful 3-2-6 defense (unless its an end of half/game hail mary situation) he used at the end of last season that almost lost the Atlanta game and did lose the Seattle game (3rd and 22). If he wants to drop 8 into coverage at least do it with someone lined up in a 4 man front and then dropping into a zone (like Brooks in NO in 2012) so the QB has something to think about.

              The big question for me is will he use a 4-1-6 true dime package in passing situations with Bowman out. I can see his reluctance to take one of Bowman/Willis off the field, but without Bowman, there is no reason to have 2 ILB on the field at all times like he has the last 3 years. I don’t think anyone else in the league does that like the Niners do.

            2. I guess another possibility is Wilhoite/Boreland in base and Moody in nickel. I don’t care how instinctive Boreland is, I don’t think he’s fast enough to be effective in pure passing situations. This is where I’d like to see Fangio (and Donatell) get creative with how they use their young and mostly unproven secondary talent.

      3. I wondered why the 49ers suited up Tank last year. If they had him NFI all year, they would have him for a 5th season under his rookie contract.

        Then I read (forget where) a 49er staffer saying Tank “was like a bull in a china shop” in practices last season. I’m expecting alot of minutes for Tank with some of that “bull in a china shop” disruptive play .

  5. 4 game suspension Aldon Smith is the sack leader.
    8 game suspension Aldon Smith possibly the sack leader.

    Tank depending on how he is used. Not if he’s in Justin or RayMac’s spot 100% of the time.

    Lynch will either be a terror and draft steal of the decade, or off the team. His talents are unmistakeable. He almost matches Aldon’s length and bend-ability, and he has better off the snap explosion. But… if he’s a super-jerk he’s off the squad.

    Lemonier will be streaky. Some OTs he will blow bye with his great first step. But if the first step is countered he becomes a non-factor. At best he will be a Brooks type OLB. (which is still pretty good)

    Borland won’t lead the team in sacks, but he will get a few surprise blitz and hustle sacks in.

    1. As for Brooks, being 2nd team all-pro for the last two years is more than “pretty good”.

      1. I see Lemonier being a solid all around OLB that stops run, drops into coverage well and pressure the QB. His best asset will be versatility.

        1. I agree there. I think the way to maintain Brooks’ effectiveness as he ages is liberal substitution, and Lemonier is the answer there. If our 2013 front 7 draftees (Lemonier, Dial, Carradine) can play, this defense would be frightening with you and I playing CB.

  6. The sack leader will be one of the OLB/DEs, one of Aldon or Brooks. Probably Aldon, even though he’ll likely be suspended some games, as he’s the only true sack master on the team. Brooks has a tendency to have a few big stat games a year, but is generally more about getting pressure than actually getting to the QB. He’ll be good for his usual 6 – 9 sacks this year. Lemonier will no doubt see more time this year while Aldon is suspended, but he’s more of a relentless grafter than a dynamic pass rusher. He’ll get some sacks through effort and strength, but I think he’ll always be a guy that pushes the pocket more than gets to the QB. Skuta is more of a run-down player than pass rusher, so don’t expect much from him in that department. Aaron Lynch may be a darkhorse if he shows some natural pass rush talent in camp, but doubt he sees the field much this year.

    Justin Smith, Carradine, McDonald and the rest of the DL will chime in with some sacks, but they aren’t the guys that will lead the team in sacks. The ILBs will have a few sacks too, but Bowman is the best of the bunch at getting to the QB and he’ll be out for most of the year, so don’t see any of those guys contributing more than 3 maybe 4 sacks individually.

  7. I agree with you Grant, I think it will be Aldon Smith as well. He probably will get suspended for x amount of games, but he’s an elite pass rusher. He was still able to co-lead the team with 8.5 sacks last season despite only playing 8 games, which shows you how good he is when on the field.

    Grant, what’s you’re outlook for some of the young guys (Lemonier and Carradine)?

  8. Lemonier reminds of a young Richard Dent. Solid against the run and can also get to the passer.
    I think if given a chance he could be 2nd or 3rd in sacks.

  9. I think Wilhoite might end up with a couple sacks.. but
    he’ll probably shine on QB hurries … more so, though..

    He’s one I’ll be keeping an eye on

  10. I think aldon will still lead it followed by Lemonier. Brooks looks prone for a great year also. Tank will be a monster in the Nickie and is also my sleeper pick

    1. Yep, what he was asking about was fine, and the 49ers deserve to have their standards scrutinised over this. He just didn’t need to deliver the questions the way he did.

      1. Yep, because any writer worth his salt would just stop asking questions when they realize that the person they are interviewing is blowing smoke with their answers.

        Harbaugh didn’t like the question, and the way that it was asked so instead of just answering it he decided to go the personal route about Kawakami needing to practice it in the mirror.

        The line of questioning is a simple one to answer if your not trying to spin it. Harbaugh tried to spin it, and Kawakami did a good job of pushing for a real answer. If Harbaugh didn’t like it, tough.

        1. Where did I say he should have stopped asking the questions? I clearly stated I agree with asking the questions, and the 49ers should be brought to task over how they’ve handled the Aldon matter. TK simply didn’t need to ask them in a snide manner.

          1. Snide? Guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. I don’t think that asking what the standard is, and if there is actually a standard is snide given everything that has gone on with Smith over the last 18 months.

            1. How many times does a question need to be ask while the respondent does not budge to not answer?
              It was unprofessional of that reporter to keep digging a hole that had no bottom. Awkward, classless, and annoying. I know you want an answer but if it’s not happening, it’s not happening.

            2. Asking what the standard is and if there is a standard is fine. Adding the quip about “is it 10 felonies” wasn’t necessary and was a snide comment.

              I said previously I didn’t feel it was necessary to ram home the “above reproach” comment either. To clarify, the topic itself was fine, but given the 10 felonies quip it seemed to me the “Do you want your players to be above reproach legally?” question was also just another quip. His follow up question of “are all of your players above reproach right now?” was the right question to be asking after his lead in about Jim’s comments from last year about being above reproach, he didn’t need to go the smart alec route first.

              So yes, TK was being snide during that press conference.

              1. Again, we’ll have to agree to disagree on if he was snide or not.

                Getting Harbaugh to clarify that the above reproach comment extended past only the PED’s takes away one of the excuses given by the biggest Harbaugh apologists because now it is out there that it in fact does.

              2. Were some people suggesting the “above reproach” comment didn’t extend to legal matters? I must have missed that, but fair enough, if people were asking that question I guess it did indeed need to be clarified.

                I can’t see how above reproach wouldn’t extend to legal matters, that would have been a pretty long bow to be drawing!

              3. There have been a number of comments here stating that it was only with regards to PED’s along with Kawakami’s blog. Kawakami even states that in his question, though it was left out of the transcript.

          2. There is no doubt Kawakami’s tone and line of questioning was antagonistic which is why he’s taking so much grief from the twitterverse.

            My question is what exactly has really changed in Smith’s situation from last year? Sure he plead no contest to the charges, but these charges have been in the works for two years and this was a foregone conclusion, so what exactly does Kawakami think they are going to do? The only change that has transpired between his rehab and now is the Airport incident which looks like a misdemeanor at best, so the reality is Smith’s situation really hasn’t changed that dramatically from where it was at the end of the season. I’m guessing that is why Harbaugh was incredulous to the questions about it. They’ve probably known Smith was going to plea bargain this out considering the fact the weapons were illegal in California. There is nothing new here for them to consider other than the fact Smith might get some jail time, which is unlikely.

            Kawakami wrote a story when the Airport mess happened suggesting his inside source was telling him the team would not pick up the 5th year option, and Smith’s future was in question. What has transpired has made Kawakami look like he has no competent source, and I’m guessing that he feels a need to repair his rep a bit which led to the 3rd degree the other day.

            I’m all for tough questions and wanting to get past the generic boring answers, but Tim K went too far this time with the attitude, and he’s getting an overwhelmingly negative response because of it.

            1. Yep, that’s my take too rocket. The approach he took to asking the questions came across poorly, which is causing much of the backlash, not the fact that he pursued that line of questioning (though there does appear to be some that are also upset with that too).

  11. Harbaugh doesn’t owe Kawakami any answers when it comes to
    something the Niners are handling “in-house” ..

    The way Tim kept needling The Harbs on something he clearly wasn’t
    gonna answer… was at the most… classless… and at the very
    least … unprofessional …

    I mean … this isn’t Watergate … its Pro Football …

    The answer to ALL TK’s questions will clearly be answered.. SOON !

    (As soon as all the legal problems are done with and the repercussions
    by Goodell are announced)

    Any reporter worth his salt would know this … and I’m sure Kawakami
    knew this as well …

    He’s had a number of incidents in the past where only an assault charge
    has kept him from getting smacked upside the head …

    After this altercation, Tim devoted an entire column to justifying
    his position … and he did it in a gloating manner !

    He clearly (at least to me) .. revealed his agenda
    of attempting to make a national name for himself …
    But going the Perry Stone route will only end up badly for him..

    He’s not a reporter … he’s a hack !

    Tim Kawakami should be banned from 49ers HQ

    1. Kawakami already is known nationally and is an award winning writer. That’s not the agenda.

      1. Correct, Kawakami is known nationally. For being an idiot. He wrote an article outlining his “insider” take on Aldon’s present and future relationship with the Niners and the certainty that the Niners would not pick up Aldon’s 5th year option. He also proclaimed the Niners were so frustrated with Aldon that he wouldn’t even play in 2014. Everything he said from his supposed in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of the Niner organization turned out to be pure speculation and flat out wrong. He came out of that entire debacle looking foolish and he’s bitter about it. It certainly appears as if he blames the Niners for it. He came across like a petulant child in that interview. I hope Harbaugh gives Kawakami the cold shoulder for the entire tenure of his coaching career with the Niners. Kawakami should stick to covering the Raiders.

        1. I agree with you on Kawakami being out of sorts over his source being incorrect, but he’s not an idiot and actually is a very good writer. Like Lowell he pushes the negative angle often, but he is also somebody who writes about the positive side too and gives credit where it’s due. Kawakami is actually one of the fairest writers out there imo.

  12. kawakami is an jack… and sacks will be Aldon with 7 and willis 5, brooks 7,lemonier 8, Justin 7

  13. Going to go with my original gut feel as I read this question and go with A. Brooks with 8. I’ve been a huge fan of his for a long time, well before some other local press reporters (not Grant) were carrying the 49ers wood by saying he was likely to be cut for cap reasons, when in fact he signed a nice fat extension. He holds the point like few since Dave Wilcox, and he’s always had a knack at getting to the QB. Hope Aldon comes back for as many games as possible, tho.

    1. Fesnyc, I would be pumped if your prediction of Ahmad Brooks as the 49er’s sack leader plays out. I’m rooting for him to have a huge year too. I was gifted a custom ordered $300 Ahmad Brooks game jersey by my family for my birthday at the end of the 2012 season. I was only able to attend, and wear the jersey for, one game last season, but it was the Carolina game and although we lost, Brooks had a huge game!
      five tackles, 3 sacks,4 QB hits and a pass deflection. Brooks made Cam Newton miserable all day and if Vance caught that sure TD pass, Brooks would have been NFC defensive player of the week for that week. I’m hoping to break out the jersey again this season in Levi and hope it works it’s majic on A. Brooks again.

  14. Jack, topics like fnrschiae tagging Anthony Spencer are great because it allows us an IQ test of various media types.Paying Anthony Spencer $8.8 million dollars is Al Davis levels of stupid. It’s something that wouldn’t even be considered for a second by a good GM. So it allows us to see which of our media types have two brain cells to rub together and which have no clue how to construct a team in the salary cap era.Thankfully, you passed the simple test by correctly ascertaining that an average OLB isn’t worth elite money. Congratulations. Bob Sturm, Rainer Sabin, and Kegbearer failed. Let me know if you’ve noticed any other NFC East writers we need to add to the dunce list.

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