San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh opened up his media availability by announcing that Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner would make their preseason debut on Saturday against the Kansas City Chiefs. The difference between these two this year compared to the two linebackers who saw the majority of snaps in 2018 for the Niners defense, is night and day.
Warner was always a smart player. During training camp, everything about his game is better, and it’s apparent to anyone who had watched him play last year—faster, more physical, and making an impact. Alexander’s athleticism is a big difference there. Being able to get to plays that an Elijah Lee couldn’t a year ago. Even if he isn’t able to finish, the ability to make the running back cutback will limit plenty of big plays that happened a year ago.
Knowing that the defense as a whole will look different in 2019, what are your expectations for the linebacking group? Not just these two, but for when Malcolm Smith and Dre Greenlaw are on the field, and whoever else makes the roster. I believe with speed and athleticism at linebacker comes turnovers. That could be by way of batted passes, in coverage, or even tackles for losses that lead to punts. I expect to see a stark difference in the open field tackling this year as well. That was a problem last year, and if the defense is going to be for real, the tackling must improve. So far in the preseason, so good.
What are you expecting?