The San Francisco 49ers are getting into training camp and we’re beginning to see some traits and identity emerge from both sides of the ball. On the defensive side, we’re seeing some swagger and identity that was only hinted on in 2017. That identity? Attack the ball.
And defensive coordinator Robert Saleh isn’t satisfied with just breaking passes up if the defender can get the ball. In fact, he thought it as something entirely when he talked about the defense following Sunday’s practice. The 49ers secondary has had a couple easy picks dropped by the secondary. Sure it’s a pass break up, but when the question was brought up today about those would-be interceptions, Saleh saw it a bit differently:
“We talked about it yesterday. One of our three principles of our style of play is attacking the ball. There’s a difference between being a good and great defense. Good defenses play pass breakup and tackle football. Other defenses get the ball and score. When you do get those opportunities, you’ve got to come down with it. They’re getting it, they understand it, they’re not dropping them on purpose. But, there’s a mindfulness and a relentlessness to take the ball. When the opportunity actually gives it to you, you’ve got to come down with it. That message hasn’t changed. We actually talked about it yesterday. It happened a couple times yesterday...In our room, they’re not PBUs, they’re missed opportunities. So, you don’t get the little points for our gold digger award.”
The only interceptions the 49ers secondary walked away with since putting on the pads were the two on Sunday. Rookie D.J. Reed notched one of the two from C.J. Beathard , and the other was from Antone Exum Jr. On Saturday, the first day in pads, the 49ers secondary turned in a goose egg in the interception department, the only one documented as having a chance was by Greg Mabin.
I think the near-interception on Saturday is a good example of no points being awarded and Saleh probably isn’t pleased with that particular missed opportunity.
Saleh has called sacks the “most overrated stat,” preferring to look at the pass rush as quarterback pressures as a whole. It’s about making the quarterback feel uncomfortable, even if it does not always result in a sack. If the 49ers can get into the backfield as much as possible, they can probably force some erratic throws and capitalize on what Saleh is preaching.
Using this approach, if the 49ers can walk away with a lot more interceptions while racking up a few sacks, that’s one I’m fine with!