In the span of three years, DeForest Buckner has emerged as the San Francisco 49ers best defensive player, and a guy that seems like an all-around good guy to root for. On Monday, we got another reason.
The 49ers cleared out the locker room Monday morning, and players had a chance to chat with the media before they departed for the offseason. Left tackle Joe Staley offered arguably the highest praise possible for Buckner when he compared his desire to get better and his work ethic to future Hall of Famer Frank Gore.
High praise: Joe Staley today compared DeForest Buckner to Frank. (No last name needed).— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) December 31, 2018
"He has the same kind of hunger and desire to get better that I saw with Frank, the way that he works on the practice field. He's one of the hardest workers (and) a super competitor."#49ers
Over the course of three seasons, Buckner has become a presence on the 49ers defense line. As a rookie, he had 35 stops and 49 quarterback pressures — including six sacks, 14 hits, and 28 hurries. In 2017, he had 31 stops and while his sack total went down to three, he had 52 total pressures, including 29 hurries. This season, he had 55 pressures that resulted in 12 sacks, 33 hurries and nine hits. Add in 37 stops and it was a monster year for Buckner.
Now, imagine if the 49ers upgrade the edge rusher position? Teams will likely still double-team him, but I suspect we’ll see it a little bit less. It will open up more opportunities not only for Buckner, but for Solomon Thomas, Arik Armstead, and others on the line.
But for now, just thinking about what Buckner did and the drive that Staley described has me incredibly excited for 2019.