As the 49ers continue to explore their options for linebacker Aldon Smith, the possibility that he won’t be available for part or all of 2014 coupled with the likelihood linebacker NaVorro Bowman won’t be available for roughly half the season raises an interesting question.
Should the 49ers switch from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3?
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee delves into the question. He points out that, with Bowman and Smith out of action, the defensive line becomes more of a strength. Which in turn suggests that more of them should be on the field more often.
Patrick Willis would move to the middle, and Ahmad Brooks would play on the outside. The 49ers then would have to find another starting outside linebacker.
As Barrows points out, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio always has used the 3-4 defense. So it would be a dramatic shift for Fangio.
But good coaching entails taking the players a guy has and coming up with the best possible schemes. If, given the torn ACL suffered in January by Bowman and the ongoing off-field struggles of Smith, the linebackers are worse and the defensive line is better, the better scheme could be a 4-3.
The draft could change that, of course. For now, it’s a question worth at least exploring.