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One area where Nick Bosa can improve as a rookie

Bosa is the favorite for defensive rookie of the year, but where can he get better at on the field?

Oregon State v Ohio State

It’s naive to think each of the San Francisco 49ers rookies are going to hit the ground running without any bumps in the road. The defense will be much-improved, and Nick Bosa will have a lot to do with that. You can say the same for the offense. The versatility, speed, and athleticism are improved now that Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd are on the roster. With that said, I wanted to go over one weakness for each of the first three draft picks. These examples can be something to keep an eye on during training camp and the preseason. Today, we’ll go over Bosa.

Can a strength turn into a weakness?

When you watch Bosa play, you have to nitpick for weaknesses. He’s not a flawless prospect, but he was comfortably the best edge prospect in the draft for a reason. The Bosa critiques are usually related to big brother Joey. You’ve also probably heard Bosa struggles with “longer, athletic tackles” because he “doesn’t have the natural athletic ability.”

Bosa is so technically sound that his arms being a third of an inch shorter than average won’t affect him. Yes, that’s sarcasm.

To me, one of his strengths gets Bosa in trouble. Bosa wins at the line of scrimmage so quickly that he tends to run himself out of plays. I wouldn’t say it’s a play recognition issue. Maybe an eye discipline issue? You’ll see Bosa with his eyes in the backfield, and that leads to opening up cut back lanes, or him out of place on misdirection runs. Then there are times when Bosa seems to be caught off guard by pulling lineman.

Four plays

The play below was one of the first meaningful pass-rushes for Bosa against Oklahoma in 2017. The Sooner game is what everyone pointed to suggesting Bosa struggles with tackles that have length and athleticism. The play came on a third and long—where he lined up against current Baltimore Raven Orlando Brown.

If you ever needed one play to convince yourself that Bosa will be fine against the tackles that have length, that’s the one.

The very first play of the Penn State game from 2017 is an excellent example of Bosa running up the field.

That play could have had a lot more damage. Ideally, he has have a feel for the pulling linemen and blow them up. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see if Bosa has a feel for the different blocking schemes he’ll see at the next level.

We saw one play with a tackle with length. Here’s Mason Cole, who was known as one of the more athletic offensive linemen coming out of the draft. Watch how quick Bosa looks:

Okay, back to what might hold Bosa back.

Bosa will see a lot more misdirection than he did in college. Keep an eye out to see how he handles those types of plays. During the TCU game, there were a few examples of them running jet sweeps at Bosa, and he was late to recognize what was happening, and that led to a couple of gains that should have been even bigger for TCU.

If Bosa gets rolling as a pass rusher, he can expect to see different schemes thrown at him. From pulling guards trying to block him, to teams using different play-action/draw plays to slow him down. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see how his awareness develops.