The San Francisco 49ers defense was historically bad in 2016, ranking dead last in several categories. In 2018, many are hoping that the defense can step things up after it’s hot/cold tendencies in 2017. Things are improving, but they have a long way to go.
But back to improvement. The 2016 team seemed to let anyone run all over of them even after contact occured. Not so much in 2017. Pro Football focus tweeted out another stat, one of yards per catch after contact initiated. In 2017, the 49ers are only a smidgen behind the Chicago Bears.
The Bears defense didn't allow many yards after contact last season! pic.twitter.com/7hirvqw0e6— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 2, 2018
This reminds me a bit of the Vic Fangio-ran 49ers defenses a few years back, which he now runs in Chicago (the number one YPC after contact allowed). The 49ers defenses back then were no strangers to letting wide receivers catch the ball, but those pass-catchers would pay dearly for it with a massive hit and not get very far often.
Last year, the 49ers secondary had its issues, namely with Rashard Robinson commiting more penalties than pass breakups it felt like, but it had some stars like Ahkello Witherspoon emerging as possible threats. As the season rounded out, players like Adrian Colbert laid massive hits on would-be pass catchers, ringing true the same mantra; “Catch the ball if you want, but prepared to get flattened.”
Given the margin between the 49ers and the Bears, they may be starting to get some of their identity back: receivers can certainly catch the ball, but they aren’t going to break out something that results in a touchdown very often.
In any case, it’s nice to see some improvement.