June is the quietest month of the NFL calendar. We’ll be lucky to see any football action this month. If we do, it’ll be minicamp at the end of the month. A lot has changed with the San Francisco 49ers over the past year. The defense got a makeover with the additions of two stud edge rushers. They lost their best player but replaced him with a first-round pick. That side of the ball received an injection of athleticism, and 2019 was one of the best defense years of any team in recent memory.
The offensive line gained experience, but not in the way they had hoped, thanks to injury. The 49ers went into the season thinking Tevin Coleman and Matt Breida would carry them at running back, but it was Raheem Mostert who stole the show. During training camp, it looked like Trent Taylor would lead the team in receptions, and Jalen Hurd would right behind him, but both were lost for the season before San Francisco traveled to Tampa Bay Week 1. So much has changed on this team that it’s going to be tough to narrow down your answer.
What have you changed your mind on the most over the last year regarding the 49ers?
Some of your thoughts about the Niners over the past season have been reinforced. If you were out on Ahkello Witherspoon before the season started, then his injury and the way his season ended only furthered your original thoughts on ‘Spoon. While injuries are still a concern, perhaps you weren’t sold on Jimmie Ward’s talent at safety. Can he generate more turnovers? Of course. But there is no denying the impact Ward had when he was on the field. You can say the same for Jaquiski Tartt as well.
For me, the answer is defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. The 2019 version of the 49ers defense was so much more prepared than the 2018 defense; it’s not comparable. The talent helps a ton, but you could easily see Saleh’s group was ready. They slowed Lamar Jackson down, completely shut down Aaron Rodgers. At the time, the Browns had just put up 40 points against Baltimore. They didn’t reach the end zone at Levi’s Stadium. Saleh’s adjustments and counters were impressive as well.
The experience helped, as we didn’t see the same mental mistakes that we saw toward the end of 2018 in the secondary. What I appreciated about the Niners defense was offenses had to work for everything they got. Aside from a few scores here and there, nothing came easy. When you that happens, you become a great defense, which is precisely what San Francisco did.