The San Francisco 49ers currently lead the NFL in missed tackles. Fred Warner and Reuben Foster had a combined ten missed tackles on Sunday, and while big plays were a problem as well, the missed tackles have been the biggest problem to date.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh met with the media on Thursday, and got a chance to address the tackling issues. He sees a problem in execution, but also something that the coaches need to do a better job communicating what they want.
“It’s very clear when you look at the tape, we’re lunging and ducking our heads at the point of attack. When you teach tackling, everything that we talk about, is that you’ve got to run your body through their body, get a body on a body, step on their toes, wrap up, keep your feet moving, drive for five, and get ‘em to the ground. So, when you look at all our missed tackles, it’s more people lunging, head down, grasping and launching at feet trying to make arm tackles, and that’s not what we teach — obviously. But somewhere along the line, there’s a disconnect, so as coaches, we’ve got to do a better job getting that message across. And so again, this week, trying to emphasize step on their toes, get your body on a body, and wrap up — and hopefully that translates into a tackling performance on Sunday.”
Working on basic fundamentals during the NFL season is not an easy task. The players are busy learning and installing their weekly game-plan, while doing extensive film work in preparation. The team has a padded practice during the week where they have a tackling circuit, and Saleh said this week they introduced the circuit into a non-padded practice.
“Yesterday — and you guys will see it out there today — we have tackling circuits every padded practice. Have been for the last year and a half. And yesterday was the first day we had the tackling circuit without pads. Just to bring emphasis to tracking and stepping on toes, all the things we’re trying to emphasize. Today will be about running our body through people, thudding, wrapping up, keeping your feet moving through contact, not getting dead leg. So, again, going through that tackling circuit, then transferring it over to team run and team pass when we do have pads on, to ensure that we are doing everything we can to prepare to tackle on Sunday.”
Will we see any changes this Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers? I wish I could say yes, but it’s impossible to know. We’ve broken down the film, and now heard from the defensive coordinator. The 49ers defense has shown at times that it can shut things down. We saw it for much of the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs. We need to see this more consistently, especially with growing concerns about the offense with Jimmy Garoppolo’s torn ACL.