Sakamoto: 49ers Defense To Employ 15 Man-Rotation Under Jim O’Neil


15 or 16. That’s the magic number of players San Francisco 49ers DC Jim O’Neil envisions employing week in and week out.

“Right now I’m focused on finding who are the 11 [starters]. And then if we have 15 or 16 guys, we’re going to find ways to get them on the field,” O’Neil said during his introductory press conference [Wednesday].

An aggressive defensive coordinator who loves to apply pressure from all sides, it remains to be seen how O’Neil will utilize the talent at hand. However, one thing is for sure. Those players on the field better be relentless, accountable and productive.

Three words that appear to be the foundation for an O’Neil operated defense – those three words painted a clearer picture on who I believe will be the Week 1 starters. A 15 or 16-man rotation. Who makes my cut? Find out below:

Projected Starters:

DE DeForest Buckner

NT Ian Williams

DE Quinton Dial

OLB Ahmad Brooks

ILB NaVorro Bowman

ILB Gerald Hodges (currently 3-man race)

OLB Aaron Lynch

CB Jimmie Ward

CB Tramaine Brock

FS Eric Reid

SS Antoine Bethea  


12th DE Arik Armstead

13th SS Jaquiski Tartt

14th CB Dontae Johnson

15th OLB Eli Harold

16th NT Mike Purcell

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.