2009 All-NFC West Defense

The 49ers and Cardinals have tried variations of the 3-4 defense in recent seasons.

Those who helped settle on the 2009 All-Defense Team for the NFC West had to consider philosophy as well. (Check here for the All-Offense team).

Finding four worthy defensive linemen was easier than finding four worthy linebackers. Finding even a third worthy linebacker after Patrick Willis and Karlos Dansby proved a little tricky. I reached out to a couple NFL personnel people to help get a clearer picture. The Cardinals' Gerald Hayes then emerged as the third linebacker.

Going with four linemen allowed the 49ers' Justin Smith and the Cardinals' Calais Campbell to both earn spots. Leaving one off for a fourth linebacker wouldn't have seemed right.

"Campbell or Smith is a tough one," brentyson wrote when I opened up the subject for discussion on the blog last week. "I think Smith might be the most consistent through the season, but both are studs play by play, down by down. I think next season we will really see Campbell break out -- unfortunately for us Niner fans."

The decision to go with Hayes left 49ers situational pass-rusher Ahmad Brooks on the outside. Brooks finished the season strong. He wasn't a consistent force all season, though. I'll save a spot for him on the 2010 team if he picks up where he left off this season.

Brooks might have a tough time, though, because Rams rookie James Laurinaitis looks like a very good player in the making. I would give Laurinaitis a good shot at earning a spot on the all-division team next season. A case can be made that he belonged this season after starting all 16 games and finishing with two interceptions, 2.0 sacks and a forced fumble.

The situation at linebacker figures to change next season. Dansby could leave in free agency. The Seahawks' Lofa Tatupu will be coming back from injury, while Aaron Curry could emerge in his second season. Leroy Hill also has talent.

The choice at free safety was potentially difficult. The 49ers' Dashon Goldson prevailed over the Cardinals' Antrel Rolle in discussions with NFL personnel people and on the blog.

"I would take Goldson over Rolle," arvi_mu wrote. "Hard to say as a Cards fan, but I still have nightmares about the Monday night game (with Goldson enjoying a breakout game against Arizona)."

2009 All-NFC West Team: Defense