Question: Matt, You keep mentioning a weak pass rush because the DL are all DT's. Wrong. The 3-man line is not supposed to get sacks. The basic point about a 3-4 is that the offense doesn't know who the 4th pass rusher will be or where he'll come from. A 3-4 is designed to use run-stuffing linemen, which are relatively easy to find, and make stars out of the defensive skill positions. Remember that LT was an OLB in a 3-4, and so was Charles Haley when he was here. Porter and Merriman are, too.
-- Rich, San Ramon
Answer: I agree with you about the basic concepts of a 3-4 defense. The problem is that the 49ers aren't running a 3-4 all the time. They began Sunday's game with four down linemen -- Melvin Oliver, Bryant Young, Anthony Adams and Marques Douglas.
Oliver and Douglas are both stout guys who hold up nicely against the run, but they are not particularly adept at getting after the quarterback. In other words, they're built more like defensive tackles. It would seem to me that if you play half the game in a 4-3 defense (which the 49ers did Sunday) you would want traditional defensive ends that can rush the passer.
Question: I see that you have also noticed the log jam of dts playing de. Are the Niners going to look for a free agent/draft pick next year or is this Nolan's plans for his 3-4 with lineman taking up blockers so lbs can blitz?
-- Alex, Shingle Springs
Answer: Nolan would prefer to run the 3-4 defense because he and d-coordinator Billy Davis can be more creative with it than with a 4-3. The issue this year is that the team doesn't have the personnel to run it the way Nolan envisions.
As Rich noted in the previous e-mail, the 3-4 is designed to allow the linebackers to make the big plays. So I would imagine that if Nolan were to use a high draft pick on the front seven, it would be at linebacker. Perhaps he and Scot McCloughan are considering using one of their many fourth-round picks in April on a more traditional 3-4 defensive end such in the mold of the Cowboys' Chris Canty (6-7, 300 pounds), Greg Ellis (6-6, 270 pounds) and Marcus Spears (6-4, 298 pounds).
Question: Obviously the offense looks great so far. Come week 17, what type of stats do you see for our big 4 (Smith, Gore, Bryant, Davis). Thanks.
-- David A Spohn, Roseville
Answer: So many things will happen between now and Dec. 31 that it's not prudent to make predictions. Ok, I'll make one -- Frank the Tank will be among the Top 7 running backs by the end of the season. If he stays healthy ... and the 49ers don't fall behind early in games ... and if he doesn't fall victim to over use ... and teams don't start putting eight men in the box ... and ... and ...