If you were attempting to rank the top 100 players in the National Football League, it would be hard to not list just about every member of the San Francisco 49ers defense among the group.
Following a 2011 season in which the 49ers allowed three rushing touchdowns (t-5th for fewest allowed in NFL history since the league went to a 16-game schedule in 1978), the 49ers defense seemingly left a lasting impression on every member of the national and local football media.
The defense also produced a 14-game stretch of not allowing a rushing touchdown to start the season, good for the longest single-season streak of its kind in league history. And of course, how could you look past the defense’s 36-game stretch of not allowing an individual 100-yard rusher from Nov. 29, 2009 all the way until Dec. 19, 2011? That mark tied for the longest streak in league history since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
Count CBS Sports columnist Pete Prisco in the group of writers thoroughly impressed by such performances. In a recent column, Prisco offered his top 100 players in the league based on his opinions formed from film review and conversations with NFL scouts. Prisco put six 49ers on the list, including five members of the league’s best rush defense and second-best scoring defense.
Five-time Pro Bowl linebacker Patrick Willis checks in first at spot No. 13, followed by fellow All-Pro Justin Smith at spot No. 14. Prisco described Willis as a “tackling machine” and said it’s “an-all day battle for whover is lined up across” Smith.
Prisco lists all-time 49ers rushing leader Frank Gore at spot No. 66, noting that Gore is “one of the tough inside runners in the league.
Third-year linebacker NaVorro Bowman made the list at spot No. 72. “He emerged last year as a force,” wrote Prisco on San Francisco’s tackling leader in 2011.
Rounding out the 49ers contingent are defensive tackle Ray McDonald (No. 85) and outside linebacker Aldon Smith (No. 98). Prisco believes McDonald is slightly overshadowed because of the team’s complete defense, but noted the fifth-year lineman, “plays hard, makes a lot of plays and is starting to get the attention.” On Smith, Prisco believes the second-year pass-rusher has a chance for “so much more” production following a 14-sack rookie campaign.
More defensive headlines and the latest team news can be found after the jump.
Matt Barrows of The Sacramento Bee checks in with sixth-round pick Trenton Robinson, who’s entering the 49ers defensive backfield with a chip on his shoulder. While the Michigan State safety’s 5-foot-9, 193-pound stature might have caused him to slip in the draft, the 2011 All-Big Ten performer will make the most of his opportunity with the 49ers. Barrows: “Robinson says he plays as if he’s 6-10: “It’s in me. Off the field I’m fun and all that stuff. But on the field, you’ve got to have another guy. You can’t be out on the field being nice. It’s a rough, physical game. And I know that and I love that. … Just nasty. You’ve got to be out there, you’ve got to hit and do all the stuff you can’t do when you’re walking around.”
Sports Illustrated polled 121 NBA players on which athletes from other sports would be able to play professional basketball and 49ers tight end Vernon Davis made the list at No. 11.
Clifton Brown of SportingNews.com lists Randy Moss as one of his 10 players set to bounce back in the upcoming 2012 season.
Lastly, 49ers.com checked in with quarterback Alex Smith and second-year lineman Daniel Kilgore following Thursday’s recent Football School session in Santa Clara. Smith has enjoyed offseason workouts with the 49ers coaching staff, while Kilgore has made the most of his opportunities to line up at center this offseason.
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Tackle Anthony Davis applauds Joe Staley for making The Top 100 Players of 2012 list.
Tags: Aldon Smith, Alex Smith, Anthony Davis, Daniel Kilgore, Frank Gore, Joe Staley, Justin Smith, Navorro Bowman, Patrick Willis, Randy Moss, Ray McDonald, Trenton Robinson, Vernon Davis
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