San Francisco 49ers‘ safety Donte Whitner remains a staunch supporter of his defense–and rightfully so. On NFL AM, the eighth-year pro told the network that “We feel like we’re the best defense in the NFL.” He added that they have a dominant front seven and arguably the best pair of inside linebackers in the league.
Skeptics will point out that their secondary got torched by the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs. But Whitner defended his teammates, stating that their play depends on the performance of the front seven. His confidence in the guys up front makes him a believer that they’ll “be pretty good.”
Looking at the numbers and their accomplishments, it’s hard to argue against him. The 49ers remained a top-five defensive unit over the past two seasons while consistently being able to stop the run. With another year together, the defense should not miss a beat.
However, the loss of safety Dashon Goldson could have a negative impact on the secondary. He was a hard hitter and had a nose for the ball. But if newly-acquired veterans Nnamdi Asomugha and Glenn Dorsey play close to their potential, a case could be made that this unit will be even better in 2013. Assuming the 49ers add a playmaker to fill Goldson’s shoes along with a nose tackle in the draft, there would be little reason to doubt Whitner’s assessments.
Aside from the 49ers, who else can make a case for sporting the best defense?
Perhaps the division rival Seattle Seahawks have something to say. They have a talented secondary led by cornerback Richard Sherman, and their defensive line knows how to generate pressure. Bobby Wagner is also an up-and-coming linebacker, as he was tied for second in tackles last season (111).
If the 49ers have a slight edge over Seattle’s defense, it’s their run defense. Last year, San Francisco allowed 94.2 rushing yards per game, while the Seahawks gave up 103.1 yards per game.
Other defenses on the rise include the Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos. They have premier pass rushers and skill at various positions, but they don’t have the top-to-bottom talent that either the 49ers or Seahawks possess.
Overall, I would have to agree with Whitner. Even though his defense got exposed in the postseason, they’re still elite and the front office shored up some of their weaknesses during the offseason.
Five months from now, Whitner gets an opportunity to test his word.