We’re past the midseason mark and still have some football left. It’s time to look at all the 49ers units and discuss what we like and don’t like out of them for 2018.
The 49ers linebackers was thought to be solidified with the drafting of Fred Warner. Taken in the 3rd round of the 2018 NFL draft, Warner was thought to provide a lethal tandem with Reuben Foster in Robert Saleh’s 4-3 defense.
Just one problem: Foster was going to serve a suspension to start the season. That left Warner earning playing time while Elijah Lee, Malcolm Smith, Brock Coyle and others fought it out. Even Warner wasn’t a sure thing, but made his presence known in Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings with his forced fumble and stout tackling. From there the question began to change from who would start opposite Foster to what the duo of Foster and Warner would look like once cleared to play.
And things were a bit disappointing when Foster returned. Foster hasn’t been absolutely awful, but definitely a step behind his awesome rookie campaign, being ranked in the bottom 10 of Pro Football Focus’ linebacker rankings. Is it the shoulder bothering him? Or is it the new technique he plays with that is keeping him on the field more and injured less (and Foster still finds a way to make visits to the medical tent to say hello). In some aspects Lee has been outplaying Foster—not what you want with your first round pick from 2017.
Warner on the other hand continues to grow into his role as a professional. The coaching staff has him running the microphone and communicating calls to the defense for better or worse. Warner himself is being fed to the wolves in this regard with the hopes that he can learn by his mistakes and lock the job down.
If Foster can return to form, this linebacking duo could be one of the league’s best, but right now the 49ers linebackers (Lee, Smith, and others) have had troubles tackling ball carriers and being depended on in crucial situations. The linebacking group should have taken a big jump this year with Foster’s second year and improved technique, but all it has shown is more improvement is needed, and it starts with tackling.
What are your impressions of the linebackers at midseason?