Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch both spoke to the media Thursday and discussed star linebacker, Fred Warner. Through the first half of the season, many believe Warner has disappointed.
Warner is on pace to have more tackles than he did in 2020. He also has six tackles for loss this season compared to eight all of 2020. He’s even missing fewer tackles,, as evidenced by his broken tackle rate of 3.8% compared to 6.7% in 2020.
So, what gives? Warner isn’t making anywhere near the number of plays in the passing game. When I say that, I don’t mean pass breakups. Warner has two PBUs compared to his four all of last season. This year, Warner has given up seven receptions on 11 targets for 66 yards. That 63% completion percentage is up 11% from a season ago. As is his 6.0 yards per target allowed. Warner gave up 4.6 last year.
It felt as though Warner was one of the best pass rushers on the team a season ago. However, heHowever, he hasn’t had a sack or QB knockdown in 15 pass rushes this season. Last year, Warner knocked the quarterback down seven times and pressured him 22 times. Compare that to his four pressures this season.
Warner makes plays you can’t account for in the box score. That hasn’t changed. He’ll take away a receiver and force the quarterback to go another way. I’ve seen him jam a tight end or not let a wideout cross his face in the red zone,, which forced an incomplete pass.
Still, the tangible impact has lacked. Interceptions are rarely sustainable in the NFL. But Warner hasn’t had an interception, sack, or game-changing play through nine games. That’s what the 49ers paid him to do.
Shanahan asked how he would assess Warner’s season:
“Everyone knows we gave Fred a new contract and he’s learned every single bit of it. I think Fred can play at a higher level. I think he agrees with that also. Everyone on our defense can and everyone on our offense can. Everyone sees our record, what it is. We need coaches, players, everybody to play to the best of their ability. And Fred’s one of our best players and one of our leaders.
And I know no one’s working on it more than him. It’s not more important to anyone than him and Fred will play better and that helps the 10 guys around him. When the 10 guys around him play better, Fred will play a lot better also, so it all goes hand in hand.”
That messaging was a bit different than Lynch’s on KNBR Thursday evening. Lynch was a bit more...blunt:
Fred’s not having the season so far that he expects or we expect. You know, sometimes, I think you get a big contract and you have a lot going on in your mind. You probably try and do a little too much. He probably needs to try and zero in and just focus on his job.
And so, yes, leadership and all that. But, at some point, you have to get your job done. That’s a big part of it. There’s a lot of factors that go into it. Ultimately, we all justs have to be better. I think everyone needs to take a hard look at themelves.
I know I have. And say, ‘what can I do to make this team better.’ Then I think leadership starts to assert itself. Because yes, I do believe we have those guys in our locker room.
I’m struggling to understand what Lynch’s angle is here and why the 49ers have gone out of their way to publicly criticize their players.
Warner’s impact plays haven’t been there this season, but to say he’s been pressing or he has to “focus on his job” feels like an overreaction. I recall Warner getting a pass read on a run against Arizona which took himself out of the play and was one of the reasons Dre Kirkpatrick was 1-on-1 with Eno Benjamin on that touchdown run.
Outside of that, you begin to nitpick Warner’s game. I’m curious to see how he responds. If Shanahan and Lynch are saying this to the media and on the radio, you have to imagine they are even more aggressive towards Warner face to face.
This could go in a few different directions. Let’s hope Warner responds in a way the 49ers brass hopes.