2011 49ers Grades: Ray McDonald

On July 29, 2011, the San Francisco 49ers announced they had signed defensive end Ray McDonald to a five year contract extension worth $20 million. As one of the 49ers first significant moves following the lockout, folks seemed pretty satisfied with the move.

Of course, none of us fully knew what to expect. Prior to this season, McDonald had been a rotational player who focused primarily on passing downs. As the 2011 season started, the biggest questions were how he would hold up as an every down player and how he would handle himself defending the rush.

Although I have always been a Ray McDonald fan, I can admit that I was a little surprised by how easily he transitioned into the every down role. He remained strong in the pass rush and he did a great job defending the run on early downs. I didn't know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised by how strong his all-around game was in 2011.

The one drawback was his issues with hamstring injuries. He had to deal with them a couple times and it seemed to slow him down for stretches. He's got the offseason to get them 100% and hopefully they will not be a nagging issue moving forward. There is nothing to indicate they will be, but it is still something that will stick in the back of my head for now.

As the 49ers move into 2012, McDonald will remain a pivotal part of the defense. While Justin Smith deservedly got a ton of praise, McDonald had a pretty fantastic year himself. On a defensive unit that was built around the strength of the combined unit, McDonald was a key part of that group and will remain so moving forward. In the meantime, do you see areas where he can improve his game? Obviously we'd like him to stay healthy the entire season, but other than that, anything?

Some of the highlights from Ray McDonald's 2011 season:

  • Recorded career highs in tackles (93), sacks (5.5), and FFs (2).
  • Recorded 8 total tackles (6 solo) vs. Sea. (9/11) and his 6th career sack (QB Tarvaris Jackson) for a 2-yard loss.
  • Registered his seventh career sack vs. Dal. (9/18), marking the first time he recorded sacks in multiple weeks since 9/13/09 at Arizona and 9/20/09 vs. Seattle
  • Tallied 6 tackles and a half sack at Phi. (10/2) in come-from-behind 49ers 24-23 victory.
  • Assisted on a sack with DT Justin Smith at Det. (10/16 - QB Matthew Stafford) with 1:02 left in the 4th qtr. Also posted 5 tackles and a career-high 2 PDs.
  • Notched a career-high 9 tackles at Bal. (11/24), including 2 QB pressures and 1 TFL.
  • Registered his first career FF after taking down Rams QB A.J. Feeley in the 2nd qtr. vs. StL (12/4), marking his 4th sack of the season and 9th of his career. Tied the team-high with 7 stops on the day.
  • Helped limit the Rams to just 31 yards rushing without allowing a rushing first down vs. StL (12/4). This marked the first time the 49ers defense did not allow a rushing first down since 11/29/10 at Arizona
  • Teamed up with LB Aldon Smith for a sack on QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Pit. (12/19). On the play, McDonald registered his 2nd FF of the season, while DT Justin Smith picked up the ball, which led to a TD on the ensuing drive.
  • Registered 2.5 sacks vs. NYG (1/22) in the NFC Championship Game, which ranked t-2nd in franchise history for the most sacks by one player in a postseason game.
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