By Brady Henderson
We’re four months away from the Seahawks and 49ers beginning to settle the matter during a Week 2 meeting at CenturyLink Field.
In the meantime, we’ll have to settle for debate among scouts, analysts and talk-show hosts about which NFC West rival has assembled the best team. That’s what “Brock and Danny” did Thursday when they were joined by Mike Sando of ESPN.com for a position-by-position look at each roster.
The 49ers’ Aldon Smith was second in the NFL last season with 19.5 sacks. (AP)
Their discussion on each team’s defensive line deserves a closer look.
First, a disclaimer: It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison as the teams have different defensive fronts. Aldon Smith is an outside linebacker but sometimes plays with his hand in the dirt in San Francisco’s 3-4 defense, so he’s considered a defensive lineman for the purposes of this conversation.
Aldon Smith and Justin Smith have wreaked havoc while working in tandem along San Francisco’s defensive line, but a triceps injury limited Justin Smith late last season and even kept him out of a Week 16 loss to Seattle. The 49ers used a second-round pick on Tank Carradine after adding Glenn Dorsey in free agency, moves that Sando thinks could reflect a desire to mix more players into their defensive-line rotation after relying on a smaller number of players in recent years, possibly causing them to wear down as the season progressed.
Justin Smith will be 34 next season. Sando thinks his health is one of the only question marks with San Francisco’s defensive line.
“If Justin Smith’s healthy going into camp, I may give the 49ers an edge as far as what we know it’s going to be,” he said.
The Seahawks added to their defensive line through free agency and the draft to a much greater extent, addressing a position that struggled last season to generate a consistent pass rush and at times had trouble stopping the run. Seattle signed Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel before drafting Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams.
While Sando likes those additions, he expressed some uncertainty about Red Bryant returning to form following a foot injury and whether any of Seattle’s options at defensive tackle can replace Alan Branch without significant dropoff.
“I think you could make the case for the overall depth and rotation and flexibility and versatility of the Seahawks,” Sando said, “but you could make a case then that when you line up on any one given play that the 49ers may be as good or better.”
Brock Huard and Danny O’Neil share their thoughts in the video below.
You can listen to Thursday’s show here.