The San Francisco 49ers were arguably the worst team in the league a season ago and most worryingly, the defense struggled big time. It was always going to be a slog on the offensive side of the ball, but with young talent on defense there was some hope they could scrape by.
They absolutely did not scrape by. They were the worst when it came to the run defense. The run defense was so horrible we’re not going to discuss it today. Instead, we’re going to talk about the secondary.
Over the last few seasons, the 49ers have been decent in the secondary despite huge question marks at the cornerback position. Tramaine Brock has definitely fallen down to Earth and Antoine Bethea is looking his age. Eric Reid struggled for reasons I can’t explain and there are a slew of younger guys who want to break out but can’t.
Pro Football Focus went ahead and ranked the secondaries in the NFL recently and they elected to place the 49ers at No. 21. That could honestly be a whole lot worse, and I was expecting worse. They gave some grades to individual players, which you can find at the link above but that I won’t list because the number “81.4” means absolutely nothing to you.
They said that Brock was the best defensive back for the 49ers, and they say opposing quarterbacks completed 50 percent of their passes into Brock’s coverage. That’s the second-lowest rate allowed by a cornerback with at least 500 snaps played, they say. Jimmie Ward and Reid were “average” in coverage when they were on the field. Bethea’s performance dropped relative to his “career standards,” but they sis say he recorded the sixth-most defensive stops among safeties.
I like the stats they give, because they have actual value to them. I didn’t know Brock actually graded out that well in general (he did allow six touchdowns, however) and I’m glad the numbers show that Bethea was better than many gave him credit for, as I’ve gone to bat for him a lot over the years.