Injuries spoiled Dee Ford’s first season with the San Francisco 49ers as he was banged up before the regular season kicked off. When Ford was on the field, the 49ers pressure rate was an absurd 38%. That would have been the highest rate in the last 20 years. Would that number have been sustainable all year? Who knows. What we do know is that a healthy Ford takes this defense to its peak level.
I’ve seen plenty of writers outside of San Francisco say Ford was more of a luxury, and the Niners didn’t need Ford. I disagree. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said this about Ford:
When you’ve got a guy like Dee Ford who possesses the speed he does off the edge, it creates so much space for the guys inside. Whenever you’ve got a guy outside that can create the space where you get a true one-on-one where they can’t get a hand on you, there’s no makeshift double-team. It just makes everybody on the defensive line better. It kind of unlocks everything. He’s a major asset.
Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Nick Bosa all said Ford was the leader and teacher of the line. Whether it’s on or off the field, Ford made an impact in 2019.
Age: 29 (birthday is on March 19)
Experience: Five accrued seasons
Weight: 252 pounds
In the second year of his five-year, Ford is in the second year, $85 million contract that he signed in March of 2019. Ford’s cap number in 2020 will be $15.9 million. The way Ford’s contract is structured makes 2020 the final season in which San Francisco faces a serious cap hit. If Ford is released post-June 1 in 2021, the Niners will save $16 million against the cap while only having $1.6 million in dead money. There is a lot of pressure on Ford to perform this season.
What to expect in 2020
History suggests Ford will stay healthy and have a career year. Ford’s pass-rushing productivity—a PFF stat that measures pressure created on a per snap basis that’s weighted toward sacks—was higher than Nic Bosa’s last year and third-highest in the NFL. Ford was at his best rushing from the left side, where all of his sacks and all but one of his pressures came from. Ford proved to be as dangerous when rushing from the inside or out, allowing the 49ers to create mismatches that make this front unfair.
I’m not going to say Ford is going to be as dominant as he was in 2018, but when he’s healthy, he’s been one of the best pass rushers in the NFL. Ford was never fully healthy last year, and we still saw how effective he was. Another year of mentoring Armstead and Bosa will also be great for those two. There aren’t many critiques for Ford on the football field. Football Outsiders has a stat called “defeats,” which is one of the following:
- A tackle that results in a loss of yardage, including sacks.
- Any play that results in a turnover, including tipped passes, which are then intercepted.
- Any tackle or tipped pass that leads to a stop on third or fourth down.
Ford had 10 defeats in 232 snaps. Buckner had 17 defeats in 824 snaps. Ford is the real deal, and I hope we get to see him for 19 games this season.