The San Francisco 49ers currently sit at 0-4, but over the course of four games, the defense has emerged as a serious threat. There is still inconsistency in the pass rush and among the cornerbacks, but we are seeing progress on that side of the ball.
Second year defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is showing as much growth as anybody on the defensive side of the ball. He showed some solid signs last year, but we saw inconsistency due to technique issues and lack of experience. In 2017, he is starting to put it all together.
On Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals, Buckner snagged his first sack of the year, and put together another dominant performance. He had six pressures on the day, including two hurries, three hits, and a sack. He had a second sack in overtime, but an offensive holding penalty nullified it. He also had a batted pass, and made two defensive stops in the run game.
The performance earned Buckner Pro Football Focus’ “game ball” for the game. It marked his second game ball in three weeks, and more than likely he will end up on PFF’s team of the week.
Buckner only has the one sack to his credit, but he’s been an absolute force on the defensive line. He entered the game leading all interior defensive lineman in QB pressures, and it should continue next week against a shaky Indianapolis Colts offensive line. Jacoby Brissett is more mobile than Carson Palmer (most anybody is more mobile than Palmer!), but Buckner will at least be getting a chance to force him out of the pocket with some regularity.
The 49ers pass rush has been inconsistent this season, but seeing them dominate against bad offensive lines is important. Sure, the Cardinals and Seahawks lines are atrocious, but if the 49ers can’t even dominate in those matchups, then there’s a serious problem. The unit has work to do, but we’re seeing serious improvement.