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PFF grades: The five-highest graded players on defense for the 49ers

Bosa and Greenlaw led the way for the defense

NFL: SEP 13 Cardinals at 49ers Photo by Bob Kupbens/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Earlier on Monday, we went over PFF’s best and worst-graded 49ers from Week 1. Now, let’s take a look at the defense.

1. Nick Bosa - 84.7

What I’m getting away from this year is referencing “pressures.” I’ve long felt like pressures have minimal effect on the outcome of a play, and this study by my buddy Steven Ruiz backs up the eye test. If you watched Sunday, I’m not sure how you can come away with the takeaway that pressures matter. Quarterbacks that have any ounce of mobility can step around the pressure and still deliver an accurate throw. Too often, a “pressure” results in a first down for the offense. It’s a hard stance, and probably comes off ignorant, but unless you’re hitting the QB, the offense isn’t impacted.

As for Bosa, he finished with one QB hit but had a forced fumble and five-run stops. Bosa was active during the first game of the season.

2. Dre Greenlaw - 84.2

Dre Greenlaw looked like Dre Greenlaw. He made a heady play to get his hands up and knock a pass down in the throwing lane. Greenlaw also had a run stop. He allowed two receptions for a total of four yards. Greenlaw did have a penalty, but it was a fine debut for the second-year linebacker.

3. Javon Kinlaw - 81.4 4.

Kinlaw threw the center to the side on one play, made a tackle at the line of scrimmage on the next, and then beat his man on the next play. Of course, as soon as I tweeted that Kinlaw was pancaked. I can’t wait to rewatch the game to see who was winning on the line besides Bosa, because it didn’t seem like anyone was. Kinlaw played well in his first game. It was good to see him overpower interior lineman.

4. Fred Warner - 77.5

Warner missed a tackle that led to a first down, but he looked the same aside from that. Warner had an early pas breakup and ended up only allowing 12 yards in coverage on three targets. Add in four stops, and it was another day at the office for All-Pro Fred. One area that was lacking was Warner, the pass rusher. He didn’t get through the line on six pass rushes. That wasn’t the case last year.

5. Richard Sherman - 68.8

Another issue I have with PFF: Sherman was targeted twice. He allowed one reception for nine yards. He was beaten in coverage on a few other throws, but they either weren’t thrown or, on the other target, Sherm was beaten. I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s hard to put stock into these grades if they do not reflect every play. I don’t think Sherman played poorly. I thought he did a great job forcing a holding penalty on DeAndre Hopkins after beating his block. Sherman also had a run stop.

Five-lowest graded players

5. Dee Ford - 59.1

4. Arik Armstead - 57.8

1. Solomon Thomas - 44.9

These were the 49ers “starters,” essentially, knowing Arizona would spread the defense out. Neither player had a QB hit or a sack. We’ll see how much winning they did when I recap the game on Wednesday. For as much as the front office invested in the defensive line, a couple of coverage sacks aren’t going to cut it. Yes, Kyler Murray is a great athlete, but they have to win. That’s how this defense is built. The pressure up front makes life easier for the back-seven. That didn’t happen on Sunday, and we saw the domino effect.

3. K’Waun Williams - 57.1

2. Jimmie Ward 46.5

PFF charged the long pass to Hopkins on third down that was a blown coverage to Ward. It looked like one side of the field was playing zone coverage while the other was in man. Sherman admitted as much after the game. I thought it was on Williams, but I’m not sure it matters. If you take away the 33-yarder, Ward still allowed five receptions on five targets for 43 yards. Ward also had a missed tackle. Williams had a holding penalty that extended the drive, and Arizona turned those into points. Was this a holding call?