If this question were to be answered prior to 2010? I'd have said Patrick Willis. While both have improved since, I think the answer.. still very close... but I'd say Justin Smith. When Justin first arrived back in 2008, I'll be honest... I wasn't so sure he'd fit right in as a 3-4 DE. Many of times, he would lack discipline in attacking the QB and give up his run assignments. He needed time to bulk up more to anchor the run game also. He sure did level out on all aspects of his game as the years progressed, and now, he's obviously just off-the-charts valuable to us.
Nothing against Sir Willis either. Both are incredible players... both belong in the top 10 of all defensive players.
I would pick by position--MLB over DL. Willis covers a lot of ground, is important in pass coverage and against the run. But for sheer powering over guys? I do not know nor would I care to pick...both are 9ers!!
Originally posted by Evilgenius:
I'm not that torn. I've never seen Justin have a bad game and usually he's having a ridiculous impact. How many other DL have you seen teams devote 3 OL to block like the Cards have done to Justin in the past? The answer is very very few. IE: The Reggie White's of the world.
I've seen Patrick have off games where he gets caught up in junk and takes himself out of position. The Chiefs game where Charles and Jones seemed to eat yardage at will against us was one of those games in particular. He just wasn't entirely on point and was a pretty big reason they were getting some of those chunk yards (by being out of position and getting sucked up into the blocking). To his credit I haven't seen him make too many more mistakes like that since then.
While Patrick might make few mistakes and is possibly the best tackler in the league, I never see Justin make mistakes and he's just as good a tackler at his respective position.
to willis defense MLB is a more complicated position
When Willis was out we gave up our first rushing td and 100 yard RB. You guys are dimishing Willis play because the coaching staff has him doing things that just aren't that common for LBs, like covering premier TEs and WRs in the slot. Willis is and was the primary reason our team was so dominant against the run for years (Without Bowman) and just like Justin, he's the primary focuse for offenses. They send Dlineman after him (fact). Without Willis we couldn't run the defense we run because there is no-one (not even Bowman) that has the talent to do what he does. Grant filled in nicely, but we didn't have to play any high powered Os with good TEs.
I conceed that Smith had a better year, but it was by far his best. Willis had a down year because of injury and scheme. Overall however, Willis has been the more dominant Niner.
Edit: I think Cowboy was always a very good player, but not a "great player" like he showed last year. I'm sure he also benefited from Aldon Smiths ability, while a guy like Bowman actually hurts Willis' stats.
[ Edited by Oakland-Niner on Jun 17, 2012 at 8:17 AM ]
Since we were arguing about this on the top 100 list, it makes sense to put it here.
I love both players but Patrick 'beast' Willis is the best player on the 49ers. Justin Smith may have had a better year last year, but Willis has been an ALL PRO ever since he has been in this league. I believe cause we have lucked out with Bowman people will diminish his importance to this team. He is the face of our defense and the best MLB in the league hands down.
Justin Smith is the best defensive player in the NFL. Not just last year, either. The guy has been our best player for the past 3 years, but only received proper credit last year. Patrick Willis is always going to win a poll like this (even though it's only slightly at the moment) because he is a 49er draftee and people have been making him out to be god around here ever since he arrived. Willis is the best MLB in football, but Justin Smith is the best overall defender in the league.
Don't forget what happened the one and only time Justin Smith missed playing time - our defense crumbled. Willis has missed more time and the defense has almost always performed in a similar fashion to when he is in (see: last year).
Smith, no question. In fact, Willis probably had the 5th best season at WILL by a 3-4 LB. Maybe had the 3rd or 4th best season as a Niner player last year on his own team. That said, it's splitting hairs. He's effing awesome and still has some holes room for improvement (pass rushing, coverage, blew a few plays last year, RZ coverage, etc.).
The great thing about these two guys is that they are probably the best at their positions in the NFL...not too shoddy to have them both on the same team. Then there are other players who are just a step behind these two in value--Bowman and Aldon (too soon to say?) are among the best at their positions. Don't know what to say about the DBs--scheme? or talent? They excelled in Fangio's D last year, more so than any other year. And then you have to consider the 9ers front seven may be the best in the NFL. What a wonderful time to be a niner fan!
Edit: This reminds me so much of the defenses of the 80s with Haley/Dean, Lott, Wright, M. Carter--all among the best at their positions. And then the coaches: Walsh, Seifert and Holmgren...very comparable to todays unit.
I think Willis is the better player. We never heard about Smith being one of the top players in the game before last year because Aldon Smith wasn't wreaking havoc on the league yet. Smith has a great motor, but he is not a great athlete. Willis has a great Motor, and is the best tackler in the league. He is also the fastest LB in the league in game. He was used in coverage more last season, and bowman started playing really well too, so maybe some people thought he had an off year.
Smith is very very good, but Willis is going ot go down as one of the best ever assuming he continues his production.
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