San Francisco 49ers: 5 biggest holes on the team’s roster

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images /
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San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images /

3. Linebacker

Starters: Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander
Competition: Dre Greenlaw, Malcolm Smith, Elijah Lee

This is where things take a turn. The two safety spots have concerns primarily with their depth. If injuries weren’t a concern, most fans would feel very confident about the talent at those positions.

At linebacker, though, depth and injuries remain a concern, but even if they weren’t there are legitimate questions about the talent.

Fred Warner was one of the best defensive rookies last season. He accrued 124 tackles and flashed above-average coverage skills. However, his performance trended downward as the season wore on.

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Granted, Warner had virtually no talent around him. San Francisco’s brass tried to address that this offseason, signing Kwon Alexander to a four-year, $54 million contract. The reviews on that move remain mixed.

Alexander has all the tools to be an All-Pro linebacker but never put it together with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. On top of that, Alexander is working back from a torn-ACL that cost him much of the 2018 season.

Yet, neither Warner nor Alexander is the biggest question in the 49ers linebacking unit. Warner is slotted as the starter at the MIKE position and Alexander at the WILL. Instead, the SAM linebacker spot remains a complete unknown.

Malcolm Smith was one of Shanahan’s first big signings with the 49ers. It has easily been one of the worst. Many around the league questioned the investment given Smith’s history of inconsistent play.

However, due to injuries, he’s only played in 12 games for the 49ers over the past two seasons and made just five starts.

Elijah Lee remains the team’s backup linebacker, but few believe he has the potential to be a solid starter. Fifth-round pick Dre Greenlaw has been one of the most impressive players in camp. But, what are reasonable expectations for a fifth-round pick?

Given their dearth of options at the position though, it won’t be long until he gets a shot. Whether he’s ready or not.