49ers strongest in division at linebacker

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. gives the San Francisco 49ers high marks at linebacker even beyond perennial Pro Bowl choice Patrick Willis.

His Insider take on Takeo Spikes: "Spikes played extremely well last season and doesn't seem to be slowing down. He gets it done against the run and pass and also provides leadership. Next to Willis, Spikes' contributions often go unnoticed -- and that is a shame."

Williamson's piece includes a 615-word take on the 49ers at the position, including his expectations for rookie Navorro Bowman. Williamson also explains why he thinks Ahmad Brooks and Manny Lawson could enjoy breakout seasons. His take on Spikes interested me because my perception was that Spikes wore down last season. Overall, though, Spikes started 15 games, his highest total since 2004, and his 4.0 sacks matched his total for the previous four seasons.

The Seattle Seahawks once had the best linebackers in the division. The potential is there for Seattle to again stake claim to supremacy at the position, but veteran middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu must regain his health. Aaron Curry must emerge in his second NFL season. Leroy Hill must overcome the injuries and off-field troubles that have derailed him recently. It all starts with Tatupu, the only Seattle defensive player known to make those around him appreciably better.